In 1868, the 14th Amendment guaranteed to all races the equal protection of laws. 135 years later, colleges all over America are urging the Supreme Court to make an exception.
Commenting on the recent University of Michigan affirmative-action case, numerous academic institutions have argued that admissions policies should take race into consideration, primarily because racial diversity improves education.
"The point is so basic, and the agreement of educators so broad, that amici need not argue it at length," a typical amicus brief states.
Of course, Smith College's Stanley Rothman and colleagues found no such consensus in an exhaustive study of 140 American colleges and universities. Rothman wrote in the New York Times that his results "contradict almost every benefit claimed for campus diversity. Students, faculty members and administrators all responded to increased racial diversity by registering increased dissatisfaction with the quality of education and the work ethic of their peers. Students also increasingly complained about discrimination."
In fact, Rothman finds that 85 percent of students reject the use of racial or ethnic "preferences"along with a majority of faculty members and 71 percent of minority students.
Still, the academic elite insists on distinguishing among students on the basis of race. Such is the case at Pomona College, a small liberal arts school in Southern California (from which this writer graduated in 2002). The institution, ranked fifth in the nation among liberal arts colleges, has long used race as a factor in admissions and beyond.
At Pomona, Asian, Black, and Hispanic students are placed in race-based mentoring groups as freshmen "in order to meet their unique needs." Planned activities and regular meetings solidify these groups in the early days of college and continue through the years "to preserve communities of color." Meetings are held where only "students of color" are invited to attend, to discuss issues "particular to their communities." Minority students face tremendous pressure to participate in the groups, and those that do not are routinely castigated as sell-outs to their race. Classes in ethnic studies majors are largely segregated as well.
It's no wonder that many meals are taken at segregated tables in the dining halls, and niche weekend social events cater to race based crowds. And on rare occasions when issues of race come up for discussion in mixed groupspresumably the time when racial diversity would most closely approximate relevant differences in life experienceconventional wisdom is that white students don't possess the necessary perspective to comment.
Pomona has abandoned the honorable American principle that people of different races are not fundamentally different; that color, as the saying goes, is only skin deep.
A contrary world viewthat people of different races are fundamentally different in some ways that only race can account foris espoused by faculty and administrators, and built into the institutions.
Inevitably, classmates begin to treat one another differently according to race.
Consequently, engineering racial diversity at Pomona not only entails unjust discrimination, it also fails to accomplish the one major claim of its opponents: racial interaction. The campus is segregated; public discourse between races is curtailed. True diversityof thought and opinionis forgotten.
"The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience," Pomona tells the Supreme Court in its amicus brief. Pomona's experience suggests that racial preferencesand the antiquated notion that race mattersshould be abandoned immediately.