John Leo

The study also undermines two arguments common among "diversity" backers: that discrimination on campus holds down minority achievement and that minorities need mentors and role models from their own racial or ethnic groups. The study says minorities who complained about bias got marks no lower than minorities who reported no discrimination. Faculty encouragement of minorities obviously helps, the study said, but the race or ethnicity of the helpful faculty members made little or no difference.

Stephen Cole, principal author of the book and a sociologist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, says there is "no quick fix," either for the shortage of minority professors or for the problem of minority students who arrive at selective schools with the deficit of poor educational preparation.

The study concentrated on college seniors in arts and sciences on 34 campuses, including the Ivy League, big-name liberal arts colleges, state universities and historically black colleges. Grade point averages of A or A-minus were achieved by 19 percent of blacks, 27 percent of Hispanics, 40 percent of Asians and 43 percent of whites. Since students with higher grades are most likely to want to become doctors and professors, higher marks for blacks and Hispanics would translate into many more minority professors.

The study is likely to be attacked on this point -- that the way to get more minority professors (and doctors) is to urge black and Hispanic students not to reach for the best colleges, but to be content with mid-range institutions where they are likely to get higher marks. This can easily be portrayed as a back-of-the-bus argument.

But a core finding is that preferential admissions work by creating many disastrous mismatches between students and colleges. Of minorities in the study who got the highest SAT scores (over 1300), only 12 percent attending elite liberal arts colleges had GPAs of A-minus or better. At the state universities (good ones, too) 44 percent of high-scoring minorities had averages of A-minus or better.

Preferential admissions keep drawing many insufficiently prepared blacks and Hispanics onto selective campuses where their chances of succeeding drop dramatically. In what sense is this a progressive idea?

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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