Friday, August 03, 2018

Elite colleges come to Harvard’s defense in affirmative action case

Many of the nation’s most selective universities came to Harvard’s defense on Monday against a lawsuit that attacks its use of race in admissions, underscoring the potential that the case could upend diversity efforts across higher education.

While Harvard’s admissions policies may be at the center of the affirmative action lawsuit brought by Students for Fair Admissions, colleges and universities made it clear in court filings that Harvard’s race-conscious practices are far from unusual and urged the court to uphold them.

Sixteen institutions including George Washington University, Dartmouth College, Stanford University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology argued that if the court prevented the use of race as a factor in admissions it would be “an extraordinary infringement on universities’ academic freedom.”

“The litigation against Harvard has the potential to undermine the ability of educational institutions to engage in careful, fair, and holistic admissions practices, and we felt it was very important to stand with our peers in support of the principle of diversity in admissions,” said Joel Malina, Cornell’s vice president for university relations, in a statement.

The universities argued that race-conscious admissions are crucial to fulfilling their academic missions and ensuring students are exposed to classmates of diverse backgrounds.

Universities across the country have their admissions lists, rejection lists, and waitlists, but Harvard’s end-of-the-admissions-line Z list is a place of both purgatory and privilege.

Students for Fair Admissions has alleged that Harvard’s admissions practices discriminate by limiting the number of Asian-American students it admits — a contention Harvard has denied.

“One of two things is true,” Students for Fair Admissions said in a statement on Monday. “Either Harvard is systematically discriminating against Asian-American applicants or the undeniable harm they suffer in the admissions process is all just a big coincidence.”

Individual universities, trade groups representing college leaders, Harvard alumni and student organizations, and current and former Harvard students were among many groups that filed legal briefs on Monday in US District Court in support of Harvard.

Conservative scholarly groups, economists, and Asian-American students rejected by Harvard in recent months filed documents backing Students for Fair Admissions.

The amicus briefs from a wide swath of outside groups offer a window into how the case, which is scheduled for trial in Boston in October, has become the latest battleground over affirmative action in university admissions. Experts anticipate it will eventually reach the Supreme Court.

Harvard’s holistic approach to considering race among many other qualities in admissions has been widely adopted throughout higher education, according to court filings by the American Council on Education, a trade group that represents university leaders.

A study by the group found that 76 percent of member institutions use the holistic approach to admissions, according to the council’s court filings.

But Harvard has a “steep uphill battle” to prove its case and the university’s evidence is “hanging on by a thread,” Students for Fair Admissions, which represents several Asian-American students, responded Monday in court documents.

Students for Fair Admissions said its review of Harvard’s admissions records and documents suggests discrimination against Asian-Americans. Its expert, Duke University economist Peter Arcidiacono, found that Asian-American applicants across the academic spectrum received lower ratings on their personal traits from the university’s admissions officers than their peers. The organization also pointed to a preliminary report by Harvard’s own Office of Institutional Research in 2013 that showed Asian-Americans faced a penalty in the admissions process. Harvard has said that report was incomplete and has accused the group of presenting “a deliberately misleading narrative.”

Edward Blum, president of Students for Fair Admissions, has been involved in other anti-affirmative-action cases and most recently backed a challenge to race-based admissions at the University of Texas that centered on a white student. In that case, the Supreme Court determined that colleges could use race as one of many factors in admissions.

The American Council on Education suggested in court documents the lawsuit “is nothing more than a first step in a backdoor attempt to achieve the sweeping relief sought — and denied” in the Texas case.

Several more Asian-American students have joined Students for Fair Admissions and its case in recent months, court filings show.

But many Harvard student organizations have come to the university’s defense. Having significant numbers of minorities at Harvard offers under-represented students support and gives classmates a better understanding of diverse experiences, according to court documents filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund on behalf of 21 student and alumni organizations.

Catherine Ho, co-president of the Harvard Asian American Women’s Association, is concerned that admissions officers show bias against Asian-American applicants. But eliminating race-conscious admission is not the answer, she said.


U.K.: School inspection chief accuses minority groups of 'entitlement' in hijab row

Amanda Spielman says school leaders must resist pressure on issues such as the headscarf

The head of Ofsted has again stepped into the debate over the wearing of the hijab by primary school pupils, accusing minority groups with a “sense of religious or cultural entitlement” of attempting to exert an outsize influence on school policy.

In a speech on Monday evening, Amanda Spielman urged school leaders to resist pressure on issues such as what children should wear or what is taught to pupils.

She highlighted a “worrying” trend in schools where headteachers were being lobbied by groups seeking to influence school policy “whether or not members of that group constitute the majority of a school’s intake”.

The importance of teaching British values in schools has become a familiar theme in the 18 months since Spielman . In her latest intervention, she urged headteachers to step up their efforts so children learn about democracy and civil society, rather than leaving a vacuum that can be filled by extremist groups.

Spielman has previously attracted criticism for her comments about the wearing of the headscarf by Muslim girls as young as five. Last year, she announced Ofsted inspectors had been told to  wearing a hijab, warning that expecting pupils to wear the headscarf “could be interpreted as sexualisation of young girls”.

She also came under fire for her intervention in the case of St Stephen’s, a state primary school in east London, where the  pupils from wearing the hijab in class after an outcry from parents and others. Spielman vociferously argued it was up to headteachers to set uniform rules.

In her speech to the Policy Exchange thinktank in London, she said for some children “school may be the only time in their lives that they spend time every day with people from outside their immediate ethnic or religious group, or at least where the values of people outside their own group can be explained and openly discussed”.

She said: “Islamist extremists, particularly fuelled by the online propaganda of Daesh [Islamic State] and others, prey on a sense of isolation and alienation in some minority communities.”

Earlier this year, teachers at the annual conference of the National Education Union accused Spielman of  to girls wearing the hijab and said her remarks had gone beyond the remit of the schools’ watchdog.

In her latest foray, the chief inspector of schools in England took a defiant stance, insisting that Ofsted had a vital role in making sure that schools promote British values and vowing to continue to call out poor practice.

“For many people, the things I have been talking about today are too sensitive and too difficult for them to want to risk giving offence. They are easy things to skirt, yet the risk of doing so is great,” she said. “If we leave these topics to the likes of the English Defence League and British National party on the one hand and Islamists on the other, then the mission of integration will fail.”

She said too many pupils were being taught British values such as tolerance and democracy in a “piecemeal” fashion, with wall displays and assemblies. Instead they should be taught as part of a strong academic curriculum that would help pupils identify “fake news and siren voices”.

In a long and detailed speech, the chief inspector said the problems were confined to a small number of state schools, as well as some independent schools and unregistered provision.

She denied that Ofsted was biased against faith schools and said Muslim state schools were almost three times as likely to be judged outstanding by Ofsted than the national average, and Jewish and Christian state schools were more likely to be good or outstanding than their secular counterparts.

She also flagged up the dangers of the far right in response to a growing disenchantment with the status quo. “That disenchantment can so easily be exploited by extremists, who promise a better tomorrow by scapegoating and blaming minorities today. This is why it is right that the Prevent duty also focuses on tackling the growth of the far right.”

Responding to the speech, the Muslim Council of Britain expressed concern about a “top-down, mono-nationalist and establishment British values approach” which put the “moral onus on ethnic minorities for the supposed failures of integration”.

The MCB called on Spielman to tackle Islamophobia in schools with the same sort of gusto as she advocated British values and added: “The hijab is a religious right, and just as no one should be obligated to wear, nor must people alienate and vilify those who choose to adopt this practice.”

Mary Bousted, the National Education Union joint general secretary, accused Ofsted of being out of touch with schools on the issues of values. “The speech does nothing to help schools develop a culturally inclusive curriculum.

“Ofsted seem oblivious to the levels of racism faced by BME children and teenagers, and faced by BME professionals in education. Schools work tirelessly to support children to develop positive values – to both think for themselves and act for others. Ofsted should be supporting this work instead of making it harder.”


Australia: Young women are quite safe at university, and should be told that


"There is officially no rape crisis on our campuses." That was the headline of the news story that ran in The Australian exactly a year ago after the Australian Human Rights Commission released the results of a million--dollar survey into sexual assault and harassment.

It was disappointing news for feminist activists who had con-ducted a long campaign arguing that campuses were unsafe for young women.

Yet they managed to influence media coverage to disguise the reassuring survey results showing only 0.8 per cent of students claimed to have been sex-ually assaulted in the previous year, even using a broad definition that included being "tricked into sexual acts against their will" and incidents during travel to and from campus.

All they came up with was a high incidence of low-level harassment - mainly -involving staring and sexual jokes or comments.

Hardly a rape crisis - yet my news story was the sole mainstream report to promote the positive news. Such is the grip of these social justice warriors that stories everywhere presented the survey results as disturbing evidence of women under attack.

Vice-chancellors around the country promised new measures to address violence on campus, neatly fudging the evidence to present the worst possible picture. Writing in Guardian Australia, Lenore Taylor -denounced my news story, repeating Madeleine Albright's famous barb about "the special place in hell for women who don't help other women".

These bullying tactics have succeeded remarkably well in browbeating the university sector into an emperor's-new-clothes state of denial about our remarkably safe campuses. The survey results were ignored, reassuring evidence buried. The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research found universities to be about 100 times safer than the general community.

Instead we have witnessed an Orwellian display of doublespeak and deception over the issue. The campaign pretending young women are at risk of rape on -campus continues unabated. Last month Universities Australia -announced new "tools for dealing with sexual assault and harassment" that it hoped would lead to an increase in disclosures.

Reports on these new tools -detailed -numerous measures for encouraging more rape disclosures while neatly avoiding any mention of -actual AHRC findings. It was all strangely reminiscent of Tim Soutphom-ma-sane's efforts to solicit complaints about the -fam-ous Bill Leak cartoon just -before Leak died in March last year.

Later this month I was supposed to be speaking at a La Trobe Liberal Club student event, discussing whether universities really faced a rape crisis. Early this week university administrators told the club the talk could not take place because the topic didn't "align with the values of the university and the strong campaign they've been running against sexual violence on campus".

During subsequent discussion with the administrators I was told they were concerned about providing support and counselling for students who might be upset by my talk. Yesterday the university backed down in response to questions I'd posed asking it to justify shutting down -debate over the issue and to provide evidence to support its campus rape campaign. It belatedly agreed to allow the event to take place. However, it warned there might be security costs for the organisers. The Liberal Club is hoping the -August 14 event still may happen but many details need to be settled with the university.

La Trobe, like universities around the country, has introduced new sexual assault services, training for staff and students in dealing with sexual assault and harassment and sexual consent courses for all students. A BendigoAdvertiser article in April quoted La Trobe spokesman Tim Mitchell pledging still more -action, feebly adding "the university's campuses and residences were overwhelmingly safe places to be".

"End Rape on Campus" was the slogan for yesterday's national rally against sexual violence at universities funded by the Nat-ional Union of Students' women's -department, using compulsory student union fees.

Tanya Plibersek joined the media clamour -promoting this event with her article -titled "The time for decisive action on campus assault is now", noting the anniversary of the release of the AHRC survey data. "This disturbing -report found there are too many sexual assaults happening, too many going unreported and -nowhere near enough is being done to prevent and punish this abhorrent behaviour," she wrote. Her misleading tirade failed to -report the tiny sexual assault -numbers found in the survey, -instead claiming 145 reported rapes at -universities over the past five years.

Ironically, the justification for the expensive AHRC survey was the -dubious nature of such reports that were never subject to proper investigation.

Facts do not cease to exist -because they are ignored, wrote Aldous Huxley. There's a Stasiland quality to this conspiracy -between most mainstream media and universities as they kowtow to feminists and deny the truth about our safe university cam-puses - demonising young men in the process. Lying to young women about their safety is a sorry start to higher education for our bright young women.


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