Supreme Court’s affirmative-action debate puts focus on UC’s shabby history

Oct. 11, 2012

By Chris Reed

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday in Fisher v. the University of Texas, the latest big affirmative-action case to reach SCOTUS. Conservative justices used their questions to establish how intentionally slippery and vague UT officials are in explaining how race is included as a factor in deciding admissions to their first-rate public university. Here’s a mainstream media account that doesn’t capture the verve with which John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy went after the University of Texas’ lawyer.

To students of California politics and academia, what should be especially interesting is how the justices deal with the claim that fuzzy, “holistic” judgments that lead to less-qualified minority students being admitted over much more-qualified white or Asian students are somehow less objectionable than hard quotas. In California, this “holistic” approach to college admissions was long ago revealed as an explicit attempt to game Proposition 209, the 1996 state law which bans racial quotas in state government.

The N.Y. Times figures out the UC ploy

And which journalistic outlet made this point best? The New York Times! Economics columnist David Leonhardt wrote a long piece in the Sunday magazine on Sept. 30, 2007, explaining how the UC system, especially UCLA, used fuzzy talk to advance a clearly racial agenda — one with far more benefits for the kids of affluent blacks and Hispanics than poor Asians (or poor whites).

Here was my take then:

“One of the aspects of the University of California system/affirmative action debate that consistently gets short shrift in media coverage is that in the old quota system, African-American and Latino students with less impressive scholastic records weren’t bumping white students, they were bumping Asian-American students. So Asian-Americans paid the biggest price for a policy that has as its central rationale the need to remedy the dominant white culture’s historic discrimination against minorities. Huh?

“So when I saw the long New York Times magazine article … I wasn’t sure what to expect. Here’s what I got: a 4,800-word article explaining and implicitly praising the possibly illegal ways that UC officials got around Proposition 209 and its ban on racial considerations in admission.

“I understand why some people might think this is a good thing. But I cannot understand why Leonhardt would mention the following pretty much in passing:

“Even as the number of low-income black freshmen [at UCLA] soared this year, the overall number of low-income freshmen fell somewhat. The rise in low-income black students was accompanied by a fall in low-income Asian students — not a decline in well-off students. So under the old quota system, Asian-American students in general paid the price for society’s attempts to atone for white racism. Now under the new surreptitious affirmative-action program, poor Asian-American students are paying the highest price. If this is social justice, count me out.”

The Connerly perspective

Here is part of Ward Connerly’s take on Leonhardt’s telling essay on race and UC:

“‘The most useful lesson to be learned from Leonhardt’s article is that it would be prudent for those on both sides of the race preferences in college admissions debate to work toward some acceptable compromise for the good of our nation. …  We must also understand the national imperative of providing access to low income students and to those who are confronted with disadvantages that impede their ability to lead productive lives and to demonstrate their potential value to American society. It is not in our national interest to have hordes of people standing on the sidelines seething with anger because they cannot obtain a ticket to gain access to a better life in America. That ticket for most of us is higher education. Thus, those of us who believe in academic meritocracy must broaden how we view ‘merit.’ That largely means empowering admissions officers to search for talent from among all students and not just the “A” average, high SAT students. In short, socioeconomic ‘affirmative action,’ in a colorblind admissions process, can be that compromise.”

One factor or the factor?

This crucial detail in how affirmative action, disguised or otherwise, works was a focus of Justice Alito in Wednesday’s questioning:

“JUSTICE ALITO: Well, I thought that the whole purpose of affirmative action was to help students who come from underprivileged backgrounds, but you make a very different argument that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.  The top 10 percent plan admits lots of  African Americans — lots of Hispanics and a fair number of African Americans. But you say, well, it’s — it’s faulty, because it doesn’t admit enough African Americans and Hispanics who come from privileged backgrounds. And you specifically have the example of  the child of successful professionals in Dallas.  Now, that’s your argument? If you have -­you have an applicant whose parents are — let’s say they’re — one of them is a partner in your law firm in Texas, another one is a part — is another corporate lawyer. They have income that puts them in the top 1 percent of earners in the country, and they have -­parents both have graduate degrees. They deserve a leg-up against, let’s say, an Asian or a white applicant whose parents are absolutely average in terms of education and income?”

Like Jews and the Ivy League in the 1930s

Alito tied the University of Texas’ attorney in knots. I suspect the U.S. Supreme Court will end up limiting or killing affirmative action on a 5-3 vote next June (Elena Kagan recused herself). If that is what happens, California’s long, miserable record on affirmative action will have helped drive its demise.

This record goes back well before Prop. 209. By a quarter-century ago, it was apparent that innocent Asian-Americans were the victims of affirmative action in UC admissions, not historically oppressive whites. This is from a September 1987 Los Angeles Times story:

“There may be a parallel between what is happening to Asian-Americans now and what happened to Jews in the 1920s and 1930s at some Ivy League schools. … And, like Jews before them, the members of the new model minority contend that they have begun to bump up against artificial barriers to their advancement.

“Casual inspection of the Berkeley campus … makes any suggestion of anti-Asian bias seem implausible. Asians represent 6.7% of California’s population, but they account for 25.5% of the Berkeley student body. …

“But … the percentage of Asians in the student body might be even higher, the critics contend, if admissions were still based strictly on merit. Since the mid-1970s, both Americans of Asian descent and immigrants from Asia have so outperformed Caucasian, black and Latino students in high schools that universities have manipulated admissions criteria to hold back the Asian influx, say the critics.

“‘As soon as the percentages of Asian students began reaching double digits at some universities, suddenly a red light went on,’ said Ling-Chi Wang, a peppery Chinese-born professor of ethnic studies at Berkeley and one of the university’s severest critics. ‘Since then, Asian-American admissions rates have either stabilized or declined … university officials see the prevalence of Asians as a problem.'”

Affirmative action is a much easier sell when it is built on abstract talk about the historical effects of white racism. But when its reality is punishing another ethnic group in the name of atoning for white racism, it looks shabby — or, to use Chief Justice Roberts’ term, “sordid.”

This ugliness first became clear in California a generation ago.


Write a comment
  1. Ted Steele, CEO
    Ted Steele, CEO 11 October, 2012, 11:04

    We screwed minorities for centuries in this Country– Why are the Republibaggers afraid of a level playing field? Odd.

    Reply this comment
  2. Burrito Bro
    Burrito Bro 11 October, 2012, 12:00

    Wounded Knee. Trail of Tears. Back of the Bus. No Irish Need Apply. Chinese Exploitation…Railroad. Development. Need more?

    Reply this comment
  3. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 11 October, 2012, 12:10

    The 10% rule in TX is going to carry the day. I was suprised when the SCOTUS struck down the 5th Circuit rule a decade ago which prevented RACE from being used at all in the Grutter v Bolinger case. The 5th had held race could never be a facotr-from a UT case ironically- and that admissions must be race neutral. Now we’ve h=come full circle and wil be irght back ot the 5th Circuit rules that applied before 2003/Grutter case.

    Teddy thinks Bill Cosbty’s son and Oprah’s daughter was deprived and desrve specialtretament…………

    Reply this comment
  4. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 11 October, 2012, 12:11

    Wounded Knee. Trail of Tears. Back of the Bus. No Irish Need Apply. Chinese Exploitation…Railroad. Development. Need more?
    No, we need MORE RECENT, not something form a bazillion years ago………………….

    Reply this comment
  5. Burrito Bro
    Burrito Bro 11 October, 2012, 13:04


    You have no shame. Disgusting!

    What about the exploitation of immigrant Latinos in Arizona and California?

    Reply this comment
  6. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 11 October, 2012, 13:41

    I don’t see why you think minority US citizens should be given special treatment, especially privileged minority, because of treatment to immigrant latinos in CA and AZ????

    I agree with the TX 10% rule. Can you tell me why that is not sufficient?????

    Tell me why Im wrong…..and don’t use some ancient example from the ice ages………

    Reply this comment
  7. Ted Steele, CEO
    Ted Steele, CEO 11 October, 2012, 13:53

    Burrito Brah– don’t waste your time arguing legal things with the Poodle– he pretends to have an understanding of concepts and stare decisis but of course does not. So far—- he has been “certain” in 13 legal predictions, lawsuits etc. He is still 0 for 13 ™. A complete waste of space.

    But you may enjoy spinning him up? I do.

    Reply this comment
  8. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 11 October, 2012, 15:07

    Teddy, you still made b/c Prop 30 is LOSING in the polls??????????/


    Reply this comment
  9. Ted Steele, CEO
    Ted Steele, CEO 11 October, 2012, 15:29

    made? LOL— like talking with a doomy monkey!

    Reply this comment
  10. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 11 October, 2012, 15:40

    doomey monkey?? lol…like talking with a progressive surrender monkey 😉

    Reply this comment
  11. Burrito Bro
    Burrito Bro 11 October, 2012, 16:14

    I get the picture….Rex is Rex!

    Reply this comment
  12. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 11 October, 2012, 16:28

    Yeah…right…..and maybe Burritio Boi is a teddy sock puppet 😉

    Reply this comment
  13. PT
    PT 11 October, 2012, 16:33

    Hey Ted: Whose ‘We’?

    Reply this comment
  14. Ted Steele, CEO
    Ted Steele, CEO 11 October, 2012, 20:05

    PT– Don’t worry! He thinks they are all me-vis:”We”.

    PS: It was a pleasure watching VP Biden kick the — of the young “Representative”. OMG that was fun…….Joe Biden rocks!

    Reply this comment
  15. Ted Steele, CEO
    Ted Steele, CEO 11 October, 2012, 21:25

    Hey fellas– On another note, I loved it in the debate when Ryan trotted out that old tea bag line…”we can’t let unelected judges decide abortions”—- I guess he forgot about article 3 of the US Constitution!

    Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Jay, Ben Franklin are all spinning in their graves tonight!

    Reply this comment
  16. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 11 October, 2012, 22:35

    Prop 30- DOA, and that will bring my record to 149-0, teddy will never recover, I own so much real estate inside his tiny head I owe rent 😉

    BTW-when teddy says WE, he means him and the gimmick accounts he comments under……too numerous to list……….he pretends to have an understanding of concepts and stare decisis but of course does not, in fact Teddy doesn’t even know that state law is subordinate to federal law-which is how his pension is getting shut down. And Teddy’s prediction on legal issues and lawsuits-so far he has been “certain” in 63 legal predictions, lawsuits etc. He is still 0 for 63 ™. A complete waste of space.


    Reply this comment
  17. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 12 October, 2012, 00:03

    Good nice POSTING HOG.

    Reply this comment
  18. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 12 October, 2012, 09:07

    Thanks Ted 😉

    Reply this comment
  19. Hondo
    Hondo 12 October, 2012, 09:59

    One of the problems was school busing to achieve racial integration. That took huge amounts of money out of the classrooms and paid it to bus drivers, mechanics and for fuel and buses. Not for books and teachers. Detriot, like Kali has shoved huge amounts of money into the hands of teacher unions. No one can say there wasn’t enough money spent on education. And what did they get for all that money? Some of the worst test scores and huge dropout rates. And now they want more affirmative action instead of better teachers.

    Reply this comment
  20. Ted Steele, The Decider
    Ted Steele, The Decider 12 October, 2012, 18:01

    poor poodle is only smart enuf to cut and paste MY posts! That about says it all!!!!!!!!!

    0 for 13 ™ !

    Reply this comment
  21. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 12 October, 2012, 20:24

    Polls say Prop 30 is behind by 5 points. Remember that-I just mailed in my absentee ballot- and I am sure my votes will lead the way on 30 (no), 32 (yes) and 38 (no).

    Reply this comment
  22. Ted Steele, The Decider
    Ted Steele, The Decider 12 October, 2012, 22:04

    If you win Poodle the Blowhard ™ you;ll be 1 for 14 and I will congratulate you !

    Reply this comment
  23. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 13 October, 2012, 09:31

    “If” I win??? Bwhahahahhaha…. Prop 30 is LOSING, and Props never GAIN going into a measure, they only lose support as time goes on.

    Prop 30 was behind by 5 points on 10-13 according to a recent poll.

    You know I am going to smoke you 11-6 and now you’re just trying to back out of your disastrous predictions.

    Teddy, you will be 0-22 on Nov 6, I will be 141-0 😉

    Reply this comment
  24. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 13 October, 2012, 09:32

    I VOTED. Mailed it in last night. I am sure that Prop 30 will lose, I KNOW Prop 38 will lose, ad I PRAY that Prop 32 wins.

    Reply this comment
  25. Queeg
    Queeg 13 October, 2012, 09:49

    Who cares you voted…this site is not a ego tweet dump!

    Reply this comment
  26. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 13 October, 2012, 13:37

    Teddy-when Prop 30 loses please don’t post here for at least a week.

    Reply this comment
  27. Ted Steele DD
    Ted Steele DD 13 October, 2012, 15:28

    No, that’s IF u in….nad of course IF u do….

    u will be

    wait for it

    1 for 14 ! ™

    Reply this comment
  28. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 13 October, 2012, 21:31

    Teddy, since you are the biggest BS artist and BSer on the web, and won’t take my $100 wager that Prop 30 FAILS spectacularly, then I have a NEW wager-if Prop 30 fails you and your gimmick accounts stay off CWD for a week, up to and INCLUDING November 13, 2012.

    You bottom dwelling surrender monkey 😉

    Reply this comment
  29. Ted Steele, The Decider
    Ted Steele, The Decider 13 October, 2012, 22:00

    Wouldn’t it be nice to stand tall out here on CWD THE most important thing in your tiny life and proudly say……….YES…… I am Poodle and I am 1 for 14 ™ !!

    Seriously— won’t that be nice?

    Good luck!

    Reply this comment
  30. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 13 October, 2012, 22:41

    155-0, 156 -0 on Nov 6.


    Reply this comment
  31. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 13 October, 2012, 22:42

    7 days of no Teddy- if Prop 30 loses, WHERE ARE YOU TEDDY????????????????????//

    Are you runninbg from the Rotti again 🙂

    Reply this comment
  32. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 13 October, 2012, 22:44

    Hey Ted: Whose ‘We’?
    We= Teddy, Queeg and Uhaul, maybe Burrito Boi

    Reply this comment
  33. Ted Steele, The Decider
    Ted Steele, The Decider 14 October, 2012, 09:53

    YES— The Poodle is correct — They are all me—- BUT ——————– He still does not know all of my true identities! I have 4 more out here!

    And—- after the Poodle got the ol boot at the OCR I was forced to use my real name there, where I am a prolific poster of truth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    0 for 13 ™ !

    Reply this comment

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