Race-based preferences in Ivy admissions aren’t about diversity

Last night, I reported that white Americans make up only 18 percent of those offered admission to Princeton’s class of 2025, and that males make up less than 9 percent of that group. As I noted here, however, the actual numbers appear to be 28 percent and 14 percent, respectively — still shockingly low and suggestive of race discrimination, in my opinion.

I haven’t seen the numbers for other Ivy League colleges, but I suspect they don’t differ much from Princeton’s. According to a college guidance counselor (speaking off the record), Ivy League admissions officers compete with each other for the distinction of having the highest percentage of “students of color.” He adds that “it has gotten worse every year,” which is what one would expect from such a competition.

The original rationale for preferring non-white applicants was “diversity,” and this is the basis on which such preferences have been upheld by courts under certain circumstances. It’s clear, however, that Princeton’s admission results have nothing to do with diversity.

Princeton can achieve racial and ethnic diversity without a class in which 68 percent of its American members identify as “persons of color” (a far greater representation than exists in the general population of American students). It doesn’t need to go nearly that far to gain whatever benefits accrue from having a goodly number of students with different racial and ethnic heritages.

What, then, is the real reason why Princeton has cut back so sharply on admitting whites? According to the college counselor referred to above, some Ivy league admissions officers admit that their efforts are about payback, not diversity. Their stated view is that whites have long been “privileged” in America and that now nonwhites should be favored as reparations for our unjust history and culture.

I don’t doubt this explanation. As noted, the desire for “diversity” can’t explain Princeton’s numbers. And we know that Princeton as an institution subscribes to the “white privilege” narrative — to the point of confessing that, under its current president, Princeton has been systemically racist.

Arguably, race-based preferences should be considered unlawful even when based on a plausible diversity rationale. When, as here, the preferences are essentially punitive — reparations for sins of the past not committed by those who suffer from the preferences — they are clearly illegal.

Let’s hope that Princeton is sued for discriminating against white applicants and applicants of any other racial or ethnic group it disfavors.