Sander comes to Middlebury

I mentioned the then forthcoming appearance of Professor Richard Sander to speak at Middlebury College in “Darkeness at Penn, take 2” (discussing the Amy Wax affair). Sander is professor of law at the UCLA School of Law. He became interested in the subject of “affirmative action” when he joined the UCLA faculty. Professor Sander is the coauthor (with Stuart Taylor, Jr.) of Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It. In his preface, Professor Sander refers to “the culture of secrecy and double-talk” with which the subject of the book is enshrouded.

Professor Sander’s appearance at Middlebury went off without a hitch, though substantial security arrangements appear to have been required. The Middlebury student newspaper reported on Professor Sander’s appearance at the same time as it editorialized against it. Middlebury public relations posted an excellent account of the event.

Middlebury students also held a “counter-event” simultaneously with Professor Sander’s appearance. “They sat in a circle in the middle of Crossroads Café, eating pizza and snacks, and using their shared displeasure with Sander’s presence on campus as a platform to discuss the future of alternative protests at Middlebury.” They didn’t need to hear what he had to say to know that his appearance “dehumanized” them.

Professor Sander spoke at the invitation of the school’s hardy band of College Republicans. What’s the over/under on the size of the group? I say eight. Here I want to express my admiration for Jigar Bhakta, the leader of the Middlebury College Republicans. He welcomed Professor Sander to campus. He posted the video of the event here on YouTube (video below). He has marched to the beat of his own drummer in an environment of highly regimented thought.

Professor Sander spoke without a note from a Power Point display that is not captured in the video, occasionally wandering away from the lectern and microphone. The audio is completely lost on those occasions. He is also too tall for the placement of the microphone, rendering the audio a little difficult to hear during his opening remarks. I nevertheless found the video to be of interest. As I frequently write here when someone like Professor Sander speaks, he knows what he is talking about. At around 30:00 Professor Sander speaks from personal experience about the “chilling of the debate” on the subject. At around 35:00 he briefly discusses the Wax affair (she is also defamed in a question later).

Professor Sander’s opening remarks conclude at about 38:00. They are followed by a discussion period moderated by Professor (economics) Caitlyn Myers. She opens her remarks with a summary of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s condemnation of the sorts of analysis undertaken by Sander. She quotes Coates’s monument to bad prose and junk thought, Between the World and Me (I wrote about it in “An updated racial hustle”). Professor Myers’s questions improve from there, but I take it that she represents the consciousness of the Middlebury community.

The first question from a student in the audience comes at around 1:10:00. It is a good one from an impressive student, as are the questions that follow. The last question comes from a Middlebury admissions officer.

Quotable quote (Sander at about 18:00): “The mismatch issue started for me as an effort to try to reform the use of preferences in a way that would improve minority outcomes. After being involved with this for 13 years now it’s come to have a second important meaning to me, which is that it is a remarkable example of the difficulties free academic discourse poses for important research.”

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