Ted Kennedy’s selective truth seeking

Stuart Taylor in the National Journal tells us that Ted Kennedy has proposed legislation under which universities that take federal money must disclose detailed statistics on the economic status and race of the alumni relatives they admit. The purpose is to dramatize that affluent whites (most likely including Kennedy himself, until he was kicked out of college for cheating) are the main beneficiaries of “legacy” preferences, and thereby to pressure universities to end such preferences.
Taylor thinks this a “fine idea.” But he proposes an amendment — require publicly funded universities to disclose detailed data about all of their preferential admissions programs. This, he says, “would shed light on who benefits and who does not, on the nature and magnitude of preferences, and on how much they compromise academic standards.” Specifically, it would “expose the stunning magnitude of the racial preferences — which are far greater than the legacy preferences — used by all (or almost all) selective institutions.” For example, “Most Americans don’t realize that the racial preferences at the University of Michigan Law School, upheld by the Supreme Court last June in Grutter v. Bollinger, are worth more than 1 full point of college GPA — catapulting black and Hispanic applicants with just-below-B averages over otherwise similar whites and Asians with straight A’s. Or that the average SAT scores of the preferentially admitted black students at most elite colleges are 150 to 200 points below the average white and Asian scores. Or that this SAT gap understates the academic gap, because black students do less well in college, on average, than do white and Asian classmates with the same SAT scores. Or that most recipients of racial preferences, unlike most legacies, end up in the bottom third of their classes and have far higher dropout rates than other groups. Or that, according to a study of 28 highly selective colleges by two leading supporters of preferences, some 85 percent of preferentially admitted minorities are from middle- and upper-class families.”
Taylor’s full disclosure “amendment” has one fatal flaw, however — it will never be enacted. Why? Because, as Taylor points out, “racial preferences have lived on lies and on concealment of how ‘affirmative action’ actually works.” Full public disclosure would create overwhelming public pressure to end or drastically modify the present regime, and that is something that Democrats will always resist and that Republicans will always lack the stomach to fight for.


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