25 November 2015

A Campus Protests About Nothing: Racial grievances used to lever quotas and money

Stephen Kershnar
Missouri and Yale: Race-Based Takings
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
November 21, 2015

The academic world is focused on recent protests at University of Missouri and Yale University.

At the University of Missouri, black students and their allies claimed the administration was racially insensitive. This led to protests, a threatened boycott by the football team, and a single student going on a hunger strike, which in turn led to the resignation of the chancellor of the university and the president of the University of Missouri system. The movement was led by a group (Concerned Student 1950) that demanded quotas (10% of faculty and staff must be black), mandatory diversity training, and fewer black students flunking out or leaving.

At Yale University, a protest over two married professors’ mild replies to the university’s sensitivity hectoring on Halloween costumes led to students angrily confronting one of them over his strong support of free speech. In response to the confrontation and related protests, Yale decided to buy off the protesters. It promised to spend $50 million to hire more black and Hispanic faculty, implement mandatory diversity training for supervising professors and staff, increase financial aid to low income students (they already pay little to no tuition), and put more money into its racial and ethnic cultural centers.  

Other universities are being hit with similar protests. An elite and traditionally Jewish University (Brandeis University) has been hit with protests demanding, you guessed it, quotas (10% of faculty and staff and 15% of students must be black), mandatory diversity training, and increasing funding for black student organizations and programs. Similar protests and pressured resignations have occurred at Princeton, Dartmouth, and Claremont-McKenna College.

The overall pattern is stunning. First, even if all the alleged acts of race hatred at Missouri did occur, they are so few and minor as to not warrant much attention, let alone a panicked response, by top-level administrators running massive universities (their budgets and resources are sometimes in the billions).  

Second, many, if not all, of the high profile acts of race hatred probably didn’t happen. Over the years, many of the high profile acts of alleged race hatred, and probably most, have turned out to be hoaxes. By this I mean that the perpetrator was black, Hispanic, or a liberal white trying to make a statement rather than an expression of white hatred.

As Ashley Thorne writing for the National Association of Scholars points out, there have been a series of documented campus hoax crimes in recent years, such as those at Trinity International University (2005), George Washington University (2007), the University of Virginia (2007), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2011), Central Connecticut State University (2012), University of Wisconsin at Parkside (2012), Montclair State University (2012), and Vassar College (2013). Overreactions and hoaxes have also occurred at elite institutions, such as Bowdoin, Dartmouth, Princeton, and Williams.

Third, some of the protests have been accompanied by thuggery. Witness, for example, the shoving and physical intimidation of reporters at the University of Missouri and the violence that broke out at Dartmouth. The toleration of thuggery to intimidate faculty and students and lever the administration is an ominous sign.  

Fourth, the hypocrisy is troubling. As Victor Davis Hanson in National Review points out, the black Missouri football threatened to boycott games based racial underrepresentation when blacks were 50% of the team, roughly four times their percentage of the population. Apparently, overrepresentation of blacks in football is not an issue but overrepresentation of whites and Asians in theoretical physics is.

The real issue, though, is the attempt to use dubious racial grievances to replace white and Asian students and faculty (and especially Jews at elite institutions) with blacks.  

It is uncontroversial that, on average, black (and Hispanic) students at elite institutions have significantly less academic ability than their white and Asian counterparts. Consider, for example, University of Michigan. In 2005, University of San Diego law professor Gail Heriot reports that the average black student had SATs roughly 200 points lower than the average white student and 250 points lower than the average Asian. Were a white or Asian student to have the scores of the average black student, he would have a 1% chance (if white) and 0% (if Asian) of being accepted. This matters because IQ scores correlate with SATs and are a strong predictor of academic and job performance. Having (on average) lower scores predictably leads to black students having worse grades, lower graduation rates, and switching from rigorous majors (for example, hard sciences) to easier ones.   

UCLA law professor Richard Sander and others have shown that ratcheting up black students into schools in which their competition outclasses them hurts them. It leads to their failing or dropping out more often than they would were they to attend schools in which they were better matched with their peers. It also leads to their being unable to pass professional entrance exams (for example, medical boards and the bar) more often than would occur if they were better matched.  

For example, Sander showed that the average black law student was in the bottom 10% of his class. This is entirely unsurprising given that they had an academic index score more than two standard deviations below their average white competitor. How would you do in a race in which your best times going into the race were well below those of most of the other runners? Is it any wonder, then, that black students get discouraged and firms and clients are wary of black lawyers and doctors?

The lowered standards also lead to executives, engineers, doctors, and lawyers who perform worse than would a white or Asian who would otherwise have received the educational slot. This leads to worse decisions in these fields and thereby hams consumers and employers. For example, putting a subpar teacher in the classroom, on average, harms decades of students. The same is true for subpar executives and doctors. The ratcheting effect also leads to wasted resources as black law and medical students flunk the entrance exams with disturbing frequency and sometimes never end up passing, thereby wasting the resources that went into educating them.

Perhaps the harm is outweighed by the benefits that come about through role-modelling, diverse ideas, or improved interracial relations, but I am unaware of any study that shows these benefits outweigh the costs. In addition, it is implausible that this is true. No one thinks that the New England Patriots would do better if they replaced black and Hispanic players with less meritorious Jews or Asians. There is little reason to think that boardrooms or operating rooms are different.

The protesters are trying to use racial grievances, dubious and in any case infrequent, to implement quotas and to shift money, educational spots, and jobs from whites and Asians to Blacks. This is not good for the country or academia and probably not even good for blacks. 

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