Proponents of affirmative action were quick to claim victory last summer when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that colleges could continue to consider race in their admissions policy in order to promote "diversity," but they may soon be singing a different tune. A number of schools have already abandoned some race-based programs, and others may be about to follow suit. Why the sudden about-face? Because many of these programs are blatantly illegal -- permitting students from only certain racial groups to participate, while keeping out everyone else. The schools have been getting away with these practices for years, but that's about to change.
The Center for Equal Opportunity, which I head, has begun challenging racially exclusive programs at dozens of colleges and universities. By the end of this year, we will have notified 100 colleges -- some of the most prestigious in the nation, including Princeton, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Virginia -- that they may be operating programs that run afoul of the Supreme Court's ruling.
Some schools have racially exclusive scholarship programs. Others have established outreach programs or special summer sessions open only to members of specified racial or ethnic groups. But in every case, these schools have been running programs in which some students need not apply simply because of the color of their skin.
As a result of the Center's challenges, most of the institutions have decided that they should open up these programs to students of all races. But some schools dug in their heels, so we filed formal complaints with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which investigates allegations of racial discrimination.
MIT, for example, has run a racially exclusive summer program for high school students that excludes whites and Asians -- indeed anyone who is not African American, Hispanic or Native American. The purpose of the program is to encourage students who might not otherwise do so to pursue a science education. The child of an unemployed, white factory worker could not get into the program, however. Nor could any Asian students, no matter how much personal adversity they might have to overcome in order to gain admittance to MIT.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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