Google is under fire for the way it recruits engineers from colleges. According to the Washington Post:
For years, Google’s recruiting department used a college ranking system to set budgets and priorities for hiring new engineers. Some schools such as Stanford University and MIT were predictably in the “elite” category, while state schools or institutions that churn out thousands of engineering grads annually, such as Georgia Tech, were assigned to “tier 1” or “tier 2.”
But one category of higher education was missing from Google’s ranking system, according to several current and former Google employees involved in recruitment, despite the company’s pledges to promote racial diversity — historically Black colleges and universities, also known as HBCUs. That framework meant that those schools were at a lower priority for hiring, even though Google had said in 2014 that it wanted to partner with HBCUs as a way to recruit more minority talent.
In lieu of a tier, Google’s University Programs recruiting division, responsible for forging partnerships with universities, labeled these colleges “long tail” schools, in reference to the fact that it could take a long time before they would produce a large number of graduates qualified to work at Google, according to the Google employees.
If Google is in hot water, that’s fine with me. However, it did nothing wrong by prioritizing its recruiting based on the academic quality of colleges. Google’s policy would be problematic only if HBCUs were producing prospective engineers who, as a group, are comparable in quality to those produced by schools like Georgia Tech and the “state” schools in tiers 1 and 2.
The Post provides no reason to believe that the HBCUs have been doing so. Indeed, the Post’s article provides evidence they have not been.
According to the Post, Google has tried for years to recruit HBCU students capable of working for the tech giant. It found, however, that “HBCU computer science students struggle with the most basic of coding, algorithms and data structures.” In response, again according to the Post, Google partnered with Howard University, to address the problem at that one school, at least, but with mixed success at best.
The struggle to generate good engineering candidates at HBCUS isn’t surprising, given the race-based admissions policies of non-HBCUs. We know that elite schools are admitting Black applicants with good but not great credentials. With the pool of these applicants diminished, schools at the next level are forced, if they want to meet their racial quotas, to accept mediocre Black applicants. Schools one level down from that must accept borderline Black applicants to achieve “diversity” at the desired level.
Where does this leave HBCUs? A few very well-credentialed Black applicants might choose to attend HBCUs due to family history or feelings of racial solidarity. But by and large, HBCUs are left to select from a pool of applicants with credentials insufficient to warrant admission to good non-HBCUs even with the benefit of racial preferences. Absent racial preferences, the pool of Black applicants from which HBCUs could select would be more impressive.
To make matters worse, the Black applicants who are admitted to high quality schools despite having less than top credentials tend to drop out of challenging programs like engineering because they are “mismatched” with their colleges. They opt instead for less rigorous programs in the humanities. Blacks do this at twice the rate Whites do.
Thus, race preferences in admissions tend both to shrink the pool of quality Black engineering prospects and to render HBCUs less of a good source for engineering prospects than they should be. Google wasn’t wrong to believe it would take a long time before HBCUs would produce a large number of graduates qualified to work at Google. The race-based preferences of non-HBCUs virtually guarantee this outcome.
The Post laments that Google’s approach to recruiting was “replicated across the industry as competitors copied [it].” Did they adopt the policy because Google employed it or because it made sense? Probably the latter. If Google’s competitors thought Google had shortchanged a source of quality recruits, it’s likely that at least one of them would have exploited that source to gain a competitive advantage.
Blacks with the potential to work as engineers in companies like Google are being shortchanged — but not by Google. They are shortchanged, as a group, by their family structure, by the poor quality of the public schools they attend, by a culture that discourages studying because it is “white” and, these days, even disparages mathematics for the same dopey reason.
And, as we have seen, they are shortchanged by race-based preferences that are counter-productive, if the goal of the preferences is to help Blacks succeed and flourish in rigorous fields of endeavor.