Over the weekend, I saw an old friend who is now a prominent and well-placed faculty member at the University of Michigan. Regarding the recent Supreme Court rulings, he told me that (1) the university’s undergraduate officials are still trying to figure out how, under any sensible legal analysis, they could have lost their case while the law school prevailed and (2) meanwhile, they are quicky switching from their objective point-based admissions standards to a system like the law school’s that will produce race-based decisions through a process that satisfies Justice O’Connor.
No surprises there. But my friend also told me that the undergraduate officials are quite unhappy with the ruling, and not just because it is requiring them to hire more admissions staff. Michigan actually liked its point system, and with good reason. Its virtue was that, unlike the vast majority of admissions systems used these days, it produced very few surprises. Too many parents I know in Maryland and Virginia have had their kids rejected by state schools that supposedly prefer in-state applicants, even as more elite (but more expensive) colleges accepted the same kids. But, as I understand it, this rarely happened with Michigan. In fact, one excellent student we know from Northern Virginia was rejected by two state schools (William & Mary and the University of Virginia) but was accepted by Michigan. It’s one thing when private colleges make quirky decisions or when state colleges do so for out-of-state applicants. But I don’t know how a state institution can justify rejecting the children of their taxpayers when those kids exceed the normal standards applied to other in-state kids of the same race.
But now Michigan is told that it must scrap its objective selection system if it wants to continue preferring minority applicants. Thus, one consequence of Justice O’Connor’s foolishness is that the university will end up not only discriminating on the basis of race, but treating white applicants less objectively even when they are competing with other whites. High quality white students will be getting rejection letters that they would not have received if either the Court had banned race-based preferences or had simply rendered an honest decision upholding such preferences.
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