Friday, November 24, 2017

Justice Department investigating Harvard racism

And the pips are squeaking

The US Justice Department said Tuesday that it is investigating Harvard University’s admissions policies and accused the school of refusing to cooperate, ratcheting up a fight that could have implications for affirmative action policies on campuses across the country.

The Justice Department released letters confirming that it had opened a probe into whether Harvard had violated civil rights laws, following up on allegations that it had limited its admissions of Asian-American students. The federal agency threatened to sue Harvard over what it called “delays and challenges” in producing documents related to the investigation.

The Justice Department’s aggressive pursuit of the case, stemming from complaints over two years old, drew applause from conservative opponents of affirmative action, but critics accused Attorney General Jeff Sessions of playing politics.

“This investigation is a welcome development,” said Edward Blum, president of Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit that filed a lawsuit against Harvard in 2014, claiming that the university caps the number of Asian-Americans it admits each year. Blum was previously involved in an affirmative action case against the University of Texas involving a white student.

The Justice Department’s correspondence with Harvard is a warning to universities that the agency plans to spend time and resources scrutinizing the use of race admissions policies, said Vinay Harpalani, a law professor at the Savannah Law School who specializes in affirmative action.

“This is the first step in an attack on affirmative action that is politically motivated,” Harpalani said. “It is designed to appeal [to] white resentment against people of color — a common theme in [President] Trump’s rhetoric and policy.”

Harvard said it will comply with its legal requirements to give the government access to information in the admissions investigation. But the university also has “an obligation to protect the confidentiality of student and applicant files and other highly sensitive records, and we have been seeking to engage the Department of Justice in the best means of doing so,” Harvard said in a statement Tuesday.

While the correspondence is unclear about exactly what documents the Justice Department has requested, it notes that Harvard has already produced much of the information in the 2014 lawsuit. A judge ordered Harvard to submit admissions data by race, grade point average, SAT scores, legacy, and other criteria for the past six years, in that suit, Blum said.

This year, 22.2 percent of all students admitted into Harvard identified as Asian-American, about the same as last year. International students from China, India, and other Asian countries are counted separately, Harvard officials said.

The question about whether Asian-American students are disadvantaged by race-conscious admissions is a longstanding issue, but complex to prove. Most elite universities argue that they use a variety of factors to determine admission .

A 2009 study by a Princeton University sociologist showed that Asian-American students had to score 140 points higher than white students on their SATs, 270 higher than Hispanics, and 450 points higher than African-Americans to gain entrance into elite colleges. But the research did not consider other factors in admissions, such as extracurricular activities, recommendation letters or essays, and counselor letters.

In 2015, after a nine-year investigation into allegations of bias against Asian-American applicants at Princeton University, the US Department of Education cleared the school. Federal officials determined that Asian-Americans had a hard time getting into Princeton, but so did everybody else.

Still, for Asian-American students and families there is a worry that the bar has been set much higher for them to gain admissions into elite schools.

Christina Qiu, a junior at Harvard, said she supports race-conscious admissions policies, but knows the pressures that Asian-Americans feel in the admissions process. She grew up in New Jersey, where Asian students retook the SATs multiple times even after earning a 2,300 out of 2,400 score, in order to beat out other Asian-American students, Qiu said.

Lin Sun, who started an Asian cultural group at Boston Latin High School, said parents often discuss how difficult it is to get their children into Ivy League institutions.

“The question comes up of ‘Why are we held to different standards?’ ” said Sun, whose one son graduated from Harvard and another from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “On the other hand, colleges want to assemble the students the way they hope to achieve the best balance. It’s a complex situation.”

Still, officials with the New Jersey-based Asian American Coalition for Education, which filed a 2015 complaint against Harvard with the both the Justice Department and the Education Department, said the Trump administration’s decision to investigate Harvard admissions is the right step.

For families without the resources to get tutors and help to ensure top test scores, these admissions policies are particularly harmful, said Swan Lee, a spokeswoman for the group and a Brookline resident.

“This is one area that’s been overlooked for a long time,” Lee said. “Colleges should include more transparency in their admissions. What is there to hide?”

Previous affirmative action cases have focused primarily on the admissions of black and white students.

Last year, the US Supreme Court, in a 4-to-3 vote, ruled that college admissions officers could continue to use race as one of several factors in deciding who gets into a school. The ruling does require universities, if they are challenged, to show they had no choice but to use race to create diversity on campus and that other factors alone, such as family income or an advantage to first-generation college students, couldn’t create a similar mix of students.

The Justice Department has given Harvard until Dec. 1 to comply with the document request or may file a lawsuit to force the university’s compliance, according to its letter to the university.

The department could also participate in the existing federal lawsuit by filing in support of Students for Fair Admissions, legal experts said.

Vanita Gupta, who headed the Obama administration’s civil rights division in the Justice Department, said the agency’s involvement raises red flags.

“The Attorney General seems to be on the hunt for a case to bring a significant challenge to affirmative action, despite the fact that the Supreme Court has continuously upheld the lawfulness of race conscious admissions in higher education,” Gupta said in a statement.


Conservative student group called a 'hate speech group' by student government officials

Students hoping to start a conservative group at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point were told by student government officials earlier this month that their club was “dangerous” and promotes racism and hate speech. Only after threatening legal action and garnering support from a state lawmaker did college administrators step in and recognize the Turning Point USA chapter as an official student group.

Al Thompson, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, reviewed the student government’s no vote and superseded the decision by approving the student chapter.

A published statement read:

I asked SGA to reconsider its action on November 16, based on UW - Stevens Point and UW System policies recognizing student organizations, SGA guidelines on viewpoint neutrality and a UW Board of Regents policy on academic expression. In the absence of further SGA action on November 16, I have determined that Turning Point USA meets the requirements to be recognized as a student organization at UW-Stevens Point.

As an institution that values diversity and the freedom to explore all ideas, even unpopular ones, UW - Stevens Point remains committed to a learning environment that respects multiple viewpoints and ensures discourse is civil and our campus is safe for all.

Prior to the student government hearing, where the group was originally denied official status, Emily Strangeld, the TPUSA chapter leader, received threats from fellow students who hoped to intimidate her into shutting down the club.

When Strangeld went before the UWSP Student Government Association to make a case for having the Turning Point USA chapter approved — a process that normally takes five minutes or less — she was questioned for more than 45 minutes. In addition to baseless accusations that the group supports racism and hate speech, student government officials alleged that the group endangers members of the trans and gender fluid community.

Despite having all the required documentation, the TPUSA chapter was originally denied after a closed vote by the SGA following the hearings.

Wisconsin state Sen. Patrick Testin commented on the suppression of conservative views on campus, stating that the “decision stifles the free expression of ideas on campus and is antithetical to the mission of the university.”

That is when campus administrators stepped in.


Colleges Care About Diversity, Except When They Don’t

Walter E. Williams

A common feature of our time is the extent to which many in our nation have become preoccupied with diversity. But true diversity obsession, almost a mania, is found at our institutions of higher learning.

Rather than have a knee-jerk response for or against diversity, I think we should ask just what is diversity and whether it’s a good thing. How do we tell whether a college, a department, or another unit within a college is diverse or not? What exemptions from diversity are permitted?

Seeing as college presidents and provosts are the main diversity pushers, we might start with their vision of diversity. Ask your average college president or provost whether he even bothers promoting political diversity among faculty. I’ll guarantee that if he is honest—and even bothers to answer the question—he will say no.

According to a recent study, professors who are registered Democrats outnumber their Republican counterparts by a 12-1 ratio. In some departments, such as history, Democratic professors outnumber their Republican counterparts by a 33-1 ratio.

The fact is that when college presidents and their diversity coterie talk about diversity, they’re talking mostly about pleasing mixtures of race.

Years ago, they called their agenda affirmative action, racial preferences or racial quotas. Not only did these terms fall out of favor but also voters approved initiatives banning choosing by race.

Courts found some of the choosing by race unconstitutional. That meant that the race people had to repackage their agenda. That repackaging became known as diversity.

Some race people were bold enough to argue that “diversity” produces educational benefits to all students, including white students. Nobody has bothered to scientifically establish what those benefits are. For example, does a racially diverse student body lead to higher scores on graduate admissions tests, such as the GRE, LSAT, and MCAT?

By the way, Israel, Japan, and South Korea are among the world’s least racially diverse nations. In terms of academic achievement, their students run circles around diversity-crazed Americans.

There is one area of college life where administrators demonstrate utter contempt for diversity, and that’s in sports.

It is by no means unusual to watch a Saturday afternoon college basketball game and see that the starting five on both teams are black. White players, not to mention Asian players, are underrepresented.

Similar underrepresentation is practiced in college football. Where you find whites overrepresented in both sports is on the cheerleading squads, which are mostly composed of white women.

If you were to explore this lack of racial diversity in sports with a college president, he might answer, “We look for the best players, and it so happens that blacks dominate.”

I would totally agree but ask him whether the same policy of choosing the best applies to the college’s admissions policy. Of course, the honest answer would be a flat-out no.

The most important issue related to college diversity obsession is what happens to black students. Black parents should not allow their sons and daughters to fall victim to the diversity hustle, even if the diversity hustler is a black official of the college.

Black parents should not allow their sons and daughters to attend a college where they would not be admitted if they were white. A good rule of thumb is not to allow your children to attend a college where their SAT score is 200 or more points below the average of that college.

Keep in mind that students are not qualified or unqualified in any absolute sense. There are more than 4,800 colleges—a college for most anybody.

The bottom-line question for black parents and black people in general is: Which is better, a black student’s being admitted to an elite college and winding up in the bottom of his class or flunking out or being admitted to a less prestigious college and performing just as well as his white peers and graduating? I would opt for the latter.

You might ask, “Williams, but how will the nation’s elite colleges fulfill their racial diversity needs?” My answer is that’s their problem.


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