On June 29, 2023, SCOTUS rejected the use of affirmative action in college admissions, ruling in favor of the Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) association who had filed their suit against Harvard in 2014 (original petition link)
As the case wound its way through courts, both sides brought along well known experts to support their side of the argument. An interest sidebar in the case was the debate between Peter Arcidiacono and Glenn Loury (and others) around the suitability of including the so-called “personal ratings” in the Harvard college admissions process. For a good short summary of the case progress through lower courts, see the Book of Knowledge (source)
Ron Unz has an interesting summary with numerous links to provide context (source). The article includes links to admissions statistics links to top tier US universities covering 1980-2000s. Here is the money shot graph Unz authored circa 2014 to explain the basis for the case in simple visual terms.
Predictably, the Big Guy did not disappoint - “Not a normal court” he said, when asked to comment on the SCOTUS decision. Hours later, WH spinmeisters started the arduous climb to walk it back.
Interestingly, the majority opinion in the 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger case involving the University of Michigan affirmative action case had Justice O’Connor writing
“The Court expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today"
Hanania had a piece (link) with the subhead “The lives of DEI bureaucrats have just gotten a lot harder”.
My take that DEI bureaucrats are thinking “challenge accepted”. I fear that those that celebrate the SCOTUS decision now and underestimating the “death by a thousand paper cuts” process that determined activists will continue.
A general characteristic of our modern times is the consistent post-modernist redefinition of most terms to mean not what they used to mean. From vaccines and women, to diversity and adversity, words only mean what our betters want them to mean. Which is, almost by definition, not what you or I think they mean.
And if the paragraph above seems like it does not make much sense, that’s precisely the intention - rope-a-dope your discussion partner into confusion, where s/he no longer knows whether up is down or vice versa.
For this, I mainly blame George Lakoff
On a separate note, of course the Big Guy has to weigh in on what college should consider in their admissions process, because that’s where all the gibs are to be got (source)
Both of the decisions today were win-win for the Dems, even though they lost. (Just like Dobbs, which lost us the midterms.) As Harold Ford said today on The Five, the Supreme Court will be on the ballot in 2024.
I’m trying to figger out why this is, and I think it’s cuz these are 2 questions which, in a sane society, never woulda gotten as far as the highest court in the land.
Should American taxpayers have to pay off the voluntarily incurred indebtedness of other taxpayers?
Can an American be compelled, by speech or symbolic speech, to endorse any ideology?
To both, the short answer is no and the long answer is HELL, NO!
Just the fact that the court had to entertain these questions, the fact that money and attorney time were expended to get them this far, is indicative of the de-rationalization of our society. AND of the number of people who are going to react to these decisions by screaming at the sky (and then voting Dem).
Bygone’s fave expression is “Come ON, man!” And I hafta admit it’s mine too. Does anybody remember John MacEnroe the tennis player: “You cannot be SERIOUS!!!” That’s what I feel like saying a few hundred times a day. Seriously, come ON……
This is based upon a report done by Peter Arcidiacono [PDF, 168 pages], an economics professor at Duke University, who modeled admissions to Harvard if applicants were randomly selected from the top deciles, from 1 to 9, based upon academic index (standardised test scores, grade point average, etc.) as opposed to the actual composition of the freshman class. The chart above shows the results for random selection from only the top academic decile. The actual composition of the Harvard freshman class for the year he studied was:
Suppose freshmen were chosen at random from the top nine deciles—that is, excluding only the bottom 10% based upon academic scores. Then you’d get a class of:
This makes the extent of the thumb on the scale starkly evident.
Asians in the top academic decile have an admission rate of 9.36% compared to 49.45% for blacks in the same decile. Note that the baseline dataset excludes Harvard legacies and athletes, so the differences in admission rates cannot be attributed to relative skill in college basketball.
Harvard’s email conveniently omits Roberts’ next sentence, which appears to anticipate the exploitation of the “adversity” loophole. From page 39 of the opinion:
But, despite the dissent’s assertion to the contrary, universities may not simply establish through application essays or other means the regime we hold unlawful today. (A dissenting opinion is generally not the best source of legal advice on how to comply with the majority opinion.)
I have no doubt the universities will persist in their crusade for diversity, inclusion, and equity (DIE) regardless of the law. Sooner or later, these efforts will be met with competition from meritocratic, and therefore higher-quality, institutions. How long until wealthy Western families begin sending their children abroad to attend elite Chinese schools?
There’s an assumption in all of the debate over “equity” vs. “meritocracy” in admission to élite colleges which seems to be rarely questioned and, in the age of rampant insanity on those self-same campuses, ought to be, I think.
The real benefit of a Harvard education is that you don’t have to be intimidated or impressed by anyone with a Harvard education.
— Thomas Sowell
OK, but what are the real benefits, or phrased inversely, what is being denied when one is not admitted to Harvard or one of the other institutions which inflate the value of their credentials by restricting supply?
One way to measure this might be the median lifetime earnings of those who graduate from those universities compared to graduates of less selective state universities. (You want to use the median [half of the sample below, half above] as opposed to the mean [arithmetic average of earnings] because the latter will be perturbed by outliers in the sample.) Unfortunately, lifetime earnings are difficult to compute and obtain and are a many-decades-long lagging indicator, so instead let’s look at the median salary of graduates some number of years after graduation, which at least removes bias due to hiring preferences of high-paying employers.
In the first listing, the median Harvard graduate earns US$ 87,200 six years after graduation, which is higher than most of the non-specialised competition, but it’s not that high: graduates of Stevens Institute of Technology, which accepts 43.56% of applicants (compared to 5.58% for Harvard) earn US$ 82,800, and Rensselaer Polytechnic grads (acceptance rate 44%) earn US$ 81,700.
From the standpoint of earnings, it isn’t clear being denied admission to Harvard or one of the other Ivies is a life-crippling hardship, especially when one considers the cost of attending these institutions. More difficult to evaluate is whether graduates are better equipped to think, create, and adapt to a rapidly-changing world. Given abundant evidence of rampant intellectual corruption and curricular bankruptcy in these institutions, assuming there is value delivered beyond the prestige of the credential and the networking opportunities for students seems highly dubious.
Ah, but what Charles Murray showed in one of his books was that if you mapped the location zip codes of the graduates of the Ivies, you got an intense cluster right around Washington, D.C.There are smaller clusters in NYC and San Francisco, but the big majority are in DC. There they are both the pols and the technos/bureaucrats. THEY are the modern “ruling elite” that the old Protestant Right Coast elites once were.
Indeed, one can map not only the top tier schools residences but the next layer down - who surround the top tier locations. Fascinating book, as Murray’s usually are.
Yes. It reminds me of a visit to Italy a few years ago. In viewing the marvelous old buildings etc., I kept thinking that the entire country was living upon the artifacts of the past, which are decaying over time. Similarly with Harvard-type credentials. They are decaying over time, as experience will inevitably show graduates to be mediocre - at best.
That can be said about ALL of Europe. I find my interest in visiting Europe, the socially “in” thing, to be totally lacking. I have over the course of my life been all over Europe although can’t really claim to have seen it all. Never-the-less, I have seen enough. I believe there are so many places in America that I have still left to see, that supporting the economies of trashy European nations shouldn’t be on my horizon. So I resist going there and instead plan trips here in this country.
As for “elite Chinese schools”, I have my doubts there are, or will be, any. The Chinese have shown a huge ability to not think out of the box but IN the box. Elite schools aren’t “elite” if they don’t support and develop that characteristic. IMM Harvard hasn’t been that in a long, long time. It has just taken a long time for that to finally shine through. The Chinese will turn out technically capable students, but not innovative ones. If that’s what the “elites” want, have at them; it will only lead to their sooner fall - and if we are to remain a free nation, their fall must happen.
I graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1964, and Harvard College in 1968. I can honestly say my true education happened at Exeter, while Harvard was mostly marking time and getting the “sheepskin”. Not much truly useful came of my time at Harvard, while Exeter taught me how to marshall my thoughts into cohesive arguments and to stand on what I believed. I will not forget getting an A- on an English exam as an upper, where the English professor wrote on my exam paper, “I do not agree with you but you did an excellent job of defending your position.” That kind of intellectual honesty just didn’t exist at Harvard when I was there and one can hardly expect it suddenly “found it” afterwards. Instead, sadly, even Exeter has fallen in standards from when I was there. If one were honest, Harvard holds nothing special today but being historically one of the oldest colleges in the country. That and $2 will get you a cup of coffee in most places.
True, but they’re our schools. No, with a few exceptions, there are not a lot of innovative schools here today. However, there are some - and they tend to be in the technical/scientific field. We still turn out good scientists and engineers.
OTOH our humanities departments have long ago abandoned “humans”.
What is interesting is that most of the institutions whose graduates earn the highest salaries after six years in the job market are those that teach actual knowledge, whether specialised such those needed in positions of responsibility in pharmacy or merchant marine, or more generalised such as the curriculum of a science and engineering college.
Now, some advocates of liberal arts curricula look with disdain at science and engineering as “mere training”, while what they teach is “education” that enables students to “learn to think”. Well, maybe that was once the case, but there is precious little evidence that today’s liberal arts and “humanities” colleges are producing graduates capable of thinking and abundant examples of their destroying the native ability to apply common sense and basic reasoning to to real-world problem solving, nor that they are transmitting the intellectual and cultural heritage that created the wealth and individual liberty that allowed them to be created.
The problem is that many Con parents still beam with pride when little Johnny or Sally get accepted to Ivies and other “prestigious “ schools so the real innovative ones don’t break out of their niche market.
There is no question that recent Harvard (and other Ivies) administrations have been actively degrading the value of their brand.
Their insistence on not just talking up the diversity and inclusion narrative, but actually implementing it is contradictory with the reality of the value of human capital in terms of realizing the potential of individuals selected for admissions.