Thomas Sowell

No issue has been more saturated with dishonesty than the issue of racial quotas and preferences, which is now being examined by the Supreme Court of the United States. Many defenders of affirmative action are not even honest enough to admit that they are talking about quotas and preferences, even though everyone knows that that is what affirmative action amounts to in practice.

Despite all the gushing about the mystical benefits of "diversity" in higher education, a recent study by respected academic scholars found that "college diversity programs fail to raise standards" and that "a majority of faculty members and administrators recognize this when speaking anonymously."

This study by Stanley Rothman, Seymour Martin Lipset, and Neil Nevitte found that "of those who think that preferences have some impact on academic standards those believing it negative exceed those believing it positive by 15 to 1."

Poll after poll over the years has shown that most faculty members and most students are opposed to double standards in college admissions. Yet professors who will come out publicly and say what they say privately in these polls are as rare as hen's teeth.

Such two-faced talk is pervasive in academia and elsewhere. A few years ago, in Berkeley, there was a big fight over whether a faculty vote on affirmative action would be by secret ballot or open vote. Both sides knew that the result of a secret ballot would be the direct opposite of the result in a public vote at a faculty meeting.

When any policy can only be defended by lies and duplicity, there is something fundamentally wrong with that policy. Virtually every argument in favor of affirmative action is demonstrably false. It is the grand fraud of our time.

The need for "role models" of the same race or sex is a key dogma behind affirmative action in hiring black or female professors. But a recent study titled "Increasing Faculty Diversity" found "no empirical evidence to support the belief that same-sex, same-ethnicity role models are any more effective than white male role models."

The related notion that a certain "critical mass" of black students is needed on a given campus, in order that these students can feel comfortable enough to do their best, has become dogma without a speck of evidence being offered or asked for. Such evidence as there is points in the opposite direction.

Without affirmative action, its advocates claim, few black students would be able to get into college. In reality, there are today more black students in the University of California system and in the University of Texas system than there were before these systems ended affirmative action.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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