What if the NBA had quotas?

Posted: Dec 14, 2006 12:01 AM
What if the NBA had quotas?

Imagine the following press release:

In a closed-door meeting, the owners voted to limit the number of black players, in order to increase attendance from non-black customers. The NBA now consists of over 80 percent black players, which creates a non-diverse and less enlightening experience for the predominately non-black fan. Thus, in order to continue basketball's popularity, the NBA determines player diversity a necessity to maintain the game's prosperity.

-- NBA commissioner David Stern.

Before you could say "Michael Richards," in swoop the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, as well as the other usual suspect "black leaders." Marching, screaming, stomping and howling will precede enough lawsuits to keep the entire American and National Bar Associations fully employed for the next decade.

Yet when it comes to colleges and universities admitting Asian-American students, this is, in effect, exactly what is happening. Because of the superior performance of Asian students on high school grades and pre-college aptitude tests, many colleges and universities, through unannounced policies, place these "minority students" at the back of the line.

California, in 1996, outlawed race-based preferences. After this new law, the percentage of Asian students enrolled at the elite, competitive campus of UC Berkeley increased from 34.6 percent to 42 percent by fall 2006. Similarly, the state of Washington outlawed preferences in 1998, and Asian enrollment at the University of Washington increased from 22.1 percent to 25.4 percent by 2004. Michigan recently passed laws outlawing the use of race in government hiring, contracting and admission into public colleges and universities. Expect an increase in the Asian student body at the University of Michigan.

Question: Why do Asian students and their parents put up with it?

Jian Li does not intend to. Li, a permanent U.S. resident, immigrated to America from China at the age of 4. He graduated at the top 1 percent of his high school class. On his SATs, he received a perfect 2400, and totaled 2390 (10 points less than perfection) on his SAT II subject tests in math and science. Yet Li received rejections from Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania and MIT. Li is not alone. Attorney Don Joe from Asian-American Politics, an enrollment-tracking Internet site -- says he receives complaints "from Asian-American parents about how their children have excellent grades and scores but are being rejected by the most selective colleges. It appears to be an open secret."

Li filed a complaint with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, with the matter currently under review. On his college applications, Li left blank his country of origin and his race, although he did put down his citizenship and listed Chinese as his first language spoken and the language spoken at home. Inquires about his race, said Li, "[S]eemed very irrelevant to me, if not offensive."

Why did he sue? Li said he wants to "send a message to the admissions committee to be more cognizant of possible bias, and that the way they're conducting admissions is not equitable."

A study of the University of Michigan's 2005 applicants by the Center for Equal Opportunity documented the hit that white and Asian students take because of race-based preferences. In an apparent desire to increase the number of blacks and Hispanics, the school admitted Asian applicants with a median SAT score of 1400 (out of a possible 1600 for the test in use at that time). This made the Asian median 50 points higher than the median for admitted white students; 140 points higher than Hispanics; and 240 points higher than blacks. Of Asian students with 1240 on the SAT and a high school GPA of 3.2 in 2005, only 10 percent got into Michigan. But 14 percent of whites with those stats were admitted, as were 88 percent of Hispanics and 92 percent of blacks.

What's more, the "boost" given to Hispanic and Latino students by racial preferences often backfires. Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and a black attorney, said, "Would college administrators continue to mouth platitudes about affirmative action if their students knew that preferential admissions cause black law students to flunk out at two-and-a-half times the rate of whites? Or that black law students are six times less likely to pass the bar? Or that half of black law students never become lawyers?"

What took Asians so long to figure this out and file more lawsuits?

Perhaps Asians remain unaware of the damage these policies do to their own admission possibilities. Perhaps they consider themselves a discriminated minority, and thus support programs to "offset" the negative effects of their perceived opposition. Or perhaps they feel that despite the negative effect of race-based preferences on their own possibilities of admission, they feel sympathetic toward to the "need" to "help" blacks and Hispanics. Who knows?

In any case, 17-year-old freshman Jian Li now attends Yale. Not a bad foundation for a future. Just ask Yale law school grad and former President Bill Clinton, who, by the way, supports race-based preferences.

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