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Opinion | Stop Asian Americans paying the price for campus diversity

Deep down, I suspect we all know that it is quite possible for students to receive a sterling education at a university where every student is a white person from Colorado. Some graduates think their education was incomplete because there were no children from the Northeast or the South. Any benefit that is helpful at best is not worth establishing an admissions policy.

Yet many say that if we stop evaluating students on race, we will abandon social justice. We, though? I think in the 2020s we should maintain a mission of social justice in admissions, but base it on socioeconomics. Yes, that means middle- and upper-class black and Latino students no longer receive special consideration. But on top of that, we must question the tacit, Jesse Jackson-esque “Yale or Jail” assumption in most discussions of racial preferences, which sometimes suggests that students who don’t get into one of the few tippy-top schools are somehow seriously stuck. Achieving career success.

A 2012 study co-authored by Duke University economist Peter Arcidiacono (who is participating in the lawsuit against Harvard as an expert witness for the plaintiffs) suggests that black students’ grades and test scores often place them in schools where they are not admitted. Those who initially choose to pursue majors in engineering, natural sciences, or economics are less likely to graduate in those majors. Therefore, it means that they will still successfully complete those subjects at a respectable but less competitive school. Other studies have pointed to similar phenomena in law school and medical school.

To be sure, without racial preferences, the number of black and Latino students at selective universities would decrease. However, it does not eclipse. And there’s no tragedy that black and Latino students are in slightly less selective schools than other excellent courses. Theodore Shaw, a UNC School of Law professor and director of UNC’s Center for Civil Rights, warned that removing racial preferences would have “severe” effects on opportunities for black and Latino students. But it appears to significantly hinder students from accessing meaningful education, training, career opportunities and connections at schools other than highly selective schools. The dedicated and talented people who teach and staff such universities are surprised to hear this.

Racial preference in university admissions was an admirable experiment in the era that immediately followed the civil rights advances of the 1960s and ’70s, when a large proportion of black America lived in poverty and legal segregation was a recent memory. But there will always be those who question, with good reason, whether their effort is inferior to the same effort by anyone else in respect of matters of history which they have not experienced. One need not be a fanatic to feel that way.

Racial preferences should now be thought of like chemotherapy, a treatment with side effects that must be applied judiciously. We applied healing past that point and moved toward an almost liturgical concept of diversity that made less sense by the year.

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