The universities claim that they look at other factors in addition to test scores and grades, such as letters of recommendation and essays. But while it is not possible to conduct the same kind of rigorous analysis of these additional factors, it seems highly improbable that students with poorer grades and test scores would write more exemplary essays or receive higher recommendations than students with better academic credentials. On its face, it is clear that university administrators want to boost the number of black and Hispanic students even if it means passing over more highly qualified white and Asian applicants.
What's happening in Ohio's most prestigious public colleges isn't new -- we've now had more than four decades of such preferences. In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in a case involving the University of Michigan Law School that preferences were permissible, so long as they did not actually award specific extra points on the basis of race. But not even the author of the majority opinion, then-Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, seemed comfortable with the practice lasting forever, arguing that she expected it to disappear within 25 years.
The people of Michigan didn't want to wait that long. In 2006, voters in the state adopted by popular initiative an amendment to the state's constitution banning the use of race, ethnicity or gender in awarding state jobs, contracts, or admission to public colleges and universities. Ohio's new governor, John Kasich, should consider following the example of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who outlawed racial preferences in that state's schools in 1999.
If Gov. Kasich and the state legislature are not willing to do so, the people of Ohio might follow the example of voters in California, Michigan, Washington, Arizona, and Nebraska by putting an initiative on the ballot and letting the people decide. Applying different standards to individuals based on color or ancestry is fundamentally wrong. The sooner we get rid of categorizing people by race, the closer we'll be to ending discrimination once and for all.
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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