Thursday, April 24, 2014

SCOTUS rules against 'affirmative' action at US universities

The US Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that states can disregard race as a factor in university admissions, in a fresh blow to a legacy of the 1960s civil rights movement.

The 6-2 ruling upheld the constitutionality of a measure passed by referendum in Michigan that disallowed so-called "affirmative" action in college admissions.

Liberal justice Stephen Breyer voted with the conservative majority, and the fourth member of the court's liberal wing, Justice Elena Kagan, had recused herself.

The ruling was the latest to chip away at a practice used to promote racial and ethnic diversity of university student bodies while countering the effects of racial discrimination.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy argued that the case before the court was "not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved. It is about who may resolve it."

"There is no authority in the constitution of the United States or in this court's precedents for the judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit this policy determination to the voters," he said.

In 2006, Michigan voters approved a measure prohibiting the state's public universities and schools from "discriminating against or granting preferential treatment for any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, colour, ethnicity, or national origin."

Known as Proposition 2, the measure was struck down by an appeals court, and the case reached the Supreme Court.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who credits "affirmative" action for her own rise from her Puerto Rican family's limited circumstances, wrote the dissent, joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Judge Sotomayor argued that the constitution guarantees minorities "meaningful and equal access" to the political process.

"It guarantees that the majority may not win by stacking the political process against minority groups permanently, forcing the minority alone to surmount unique obstacles in pursuit of its goals - here, educational diversity that cannot reasonably be accomplished through race-neutral measures."

By permitting a majority of voters to do just that in Michigan, she contended, "the court ends the debate over race-sensitive admissions policies in Michigan in a manner that contravenes constitutional protections long recognized in our precedents."

The Michigan case comes on the heels of a high court decision last year concerning "affirmative" action at the University of Texas.

In that case, the justices elected not to rule on the constitutionality of using race and ethnicity in admissions, instructing a lower court to take another look at the matter.

"Affirmative" action was first introduced in the early 1960s to combat racial discrimination in government hiring, but has since been the subject of numerous court challenges.


An open letter to the students of Azusa Pacific University

Charles Murray

I was scheduled to speak to you tomorrow. I was going to talk about my new book, “The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead,” and was looking forward to it. But it has been “postponed.” Why? An email from your president, Jon Wallace, to my employer, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), said “Given the lateness of the semester and the full record of Dr. Murray’s scholarship, I realized we needed more time to prepare for a visit and postponed Wednesday’s conversation.”

This, about an appearance that has been planned for months. I also understand from another faculty member that he and the provost were afraid of “hurting our faculty and students of color.”

You’re at college, right? Being at college is supposed to mean thinking for yourselves, right? Okay, then do it. Don’t be satisfied with links to websites that specialize in libeling people. Lose the secondary sources. Explore for yourself the “full range” of my scholarship and find out what it is that I’ve written or said that would hurt your faculty or students of color. It’s not hard. In fact, you can do it without moving from your chair if you’re in front of your computer.

You don’t have to buy my books. Instead, go to my web page at AEI. There you will find the full texts of dozens of articles I’ve written for the last quarter-century. Browse through them. Will you find anything that is controversial? That people disagree with? Yes, because (hang on to your hats) scholarship usually means writing about things on which people disagree.

The task of the scholar is to present a case for his or her position based on evidence and logic. Another task of the scholar is to do so in a way that invites everybody into the discussion rather than demonize those who disagree. Try to find anything under my name that is not written in that spirit. Try to find even a paragraph that is written in anger, takes a cheap shot, or attacks women, African Americans, Latinos, Asians, or anyone else.

But there’s another way to decide whether you would have been safe in my hands if I had spoken at Azusa Pacific. Go to YouTube and search “Charles Murray.” You will get links to dozens of lectures, panel discussions, and television interviews. You can watch Q&A sessions in which I field questions from students like you, including extremely hostile ones. Watch even for a few minutes. Ask yourself if I insult them or lash out. If I do anything except take their questions seriously and answer them accordingly. Ask yourself if I’m anything more dangerous than an earnest and nerdy old guy.

Azusa Pacific’s administration wants to protect you from earnest and nerdy old guys who have opinions that some of your faculty do not share. Ask if this is why you’re getting a college education.


Charles Murray


Meet the Stanford Senior Who Stood Up for Marriage and Against Intolerance

Despite attempts to silence her and like-minded friends, Stanford University senior Judy Romea refused to back down.

Romea, president of a campus group, had hoped to create a civil atmosphere during an all-day conference at Stanford that she helped organize to discuss “marriage, family, and sexual integrity.”  Then the school’s Student Graduate Council defunded the event and slapped her group, the Stanford Anscombe Society, with a hefty “security” fee in an attempt to quash the pro-marriage event.

Romea persevered, though, and led the Stanford Anscombe Society (SAS) to put on a successful conference April 5 called Communicating Values: Marriage, Family & the Media. In an exclusive interview with The Foundry, she discussed what motivated her to push forward while facing uncharitable resistance.

“The whole point of SAS is not to declare political victory when it comes to the issue of same-sex marriage,” Romea said. “That’s a very myopic view. The mission is really to engage each other and show the world what real and valuable relationships are [between] people who agree and disagree.”

Romea, who was born and grew up in Valencia, Calif., founded SAS as a college freshman. The group, named after British philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe, meets weekly to discuss the roles of family, marriage, and sexual integrity in the lives of Stanford students.

Romea says she never expected to be met with hostility by Stanford classmates and student leaders. Instead, she hoped the group would promote a culture of dialogue and tolerance on Stanford’s diverse campus. She hoped to see relationships and conversations thrive.

Romea’s interest in the study of marriage and family began early, she says. A conference held by the Ruth Institute in 2012 first sparked her interest in academic arguments regarding marriage and human sexuality. Even as a high school student, she says, she often talked to friends about the value of stable relationships.

One goal of her group’s conference was to “expose [students] to the intellectual and rational arguments for marriage, as well as [other] tools they have at their disposal with which to communicate their values,” Romea said.

These good intentions apparently didn’t matter to leaders of the Graduate Student Council. Romea, a business major, was buckling down for final exams when the student government group unexpectedly pulled funding for the conference—to her frustration and disappointment.

The student council expressed disapproval with the ideology of the scheduled speakers, several of whom were advocates of marriage as the union of a man and a woman—and oppose redefining marriage. Among them was Ryan T. Anderson, The Heritage Foundation’s William E. Simon fellow, whom the student council claimed March 5 would make some in the campus community “feel threatened.”

To counter the “unsafe space” the student council also said the marriage conference would create, it ordered Romea’s group to provide $5,600 for event security or cancel. After SAS garnered some media attention by publicly demanding the lifting of what Romea called a “tax on free speech,” the university administration “found” sufficient funds to cover security costs.

Romea was struck by the fact that some Stanford students seem to think marriage should be an off-limits topic for her group. The irony to her was that although the lecture forum is designed to be a place where diverse ideas can be expressed, some were disgruntled that invited speakers would oppose the redefinition of marriage. She said:

    "A void in the campus discourse exists regarding marriage, family, and human sexuality. At best, deviations from these values are viewed as strange, while at worst, they’re the result of bigotry and hatred — as we saw with the funding controversy regarding this conference.”

Romea didn’t press ahead alone, though. She attributes the success of the event to the hard work and courage of fellow SAS leaders Elisa Figueroa and James Capps, as well as planning committee members Irene Onyeneho and Josephine Romea (her sister).

Through it all, Romea says, her mother cheered her on. When she thought twice about holding the conference, her mother encouraged her, saying, “Why would you back down when anything that is good requires a lot of sacrifice and a lot of tenacity?” Romea felt her confidence return.

“Standing up for marriage [takes] a commitment to living your life according to your principles,” she said.

Marriage advocates need each other at a time when they are being tarred as bigots or worse, she told The Foundry.

“It’s beautiful to be able to collaborate with other individuals on something like this,” she said, adding: "If the whole controversy has taught me anything, it’s that the fight for marriage and family will be won, not by shouting down the other side, but through teamwork and friendship of the kind demonstrated by the Stanford Anscombe Society’s members and supporters.”


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