Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn reportedly once said, “One man who stopped lying could bring down a tyranny.”
Although admissions policy at American universities is not quite tyranny, it is surrounded by much deceit. In standing up to the deceit, one man has been more important and courageous than all others And if the deceit is ever brought down, that man will deserve most of the credit. His name is Richard Sander.
Born in Washington, D.C., Sander spent most of his childhood in small towns in northwest Indiana. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1978 from Harvard, he–like Barack Obama–began work as a community organizer in South Side Chicago.
Photo: Eric Risberg/AP
In 1983, he entered graduate school at Northwestern University, receiving his law degree in 1988 and a PhD in economics in 1990. In 1989, he joined the faculty at UCLA’s school of law.
After arriving at UCLA, he soon he noticed–and was very pleased by–the racial diversity of its law school. As he wrote in his book, Mismatch:
During my years in graduate school, Chicago and its communities had passed through some dramatic events (some of them memorably recounted in Barack Obama’s memoir, Dreams from My Father), but the university and my overwhelmingly white classmates seemed largely sealed off from the city. UCLA Law School felt very different. Nearly half of the student body, along with many of the faculty, were non-white; student organizational life was vibrant, and many students spent their precious free time engaged with pro bono organizations in Los Angeles neighborhoods. Classroom discussions reflected the diversity of the students, though not in a particularly self-conscious way. Cross-racial interaction was ubiquitous and cross-racial friendships were common. After the racial tensions of Chicago and the sequestration of Northwestern, UCLA seemed too good to be true. Of course, in a sense, it was. Like a hundred fictional travelers to new worlds that seemed at first to be utopias, I was gradually to discover that the law school had some disturbing hidden secrets.
One discovery was that race was closely linked to law school performance. Almost all classes other than seminars used anonymous grading, but after grades were turned in, professors could get a “matching sheet” that linked exam numbers to names. After my very first semester I was struck that my Hispanic, black, and American Indian students were mostly getting Cs in a class in which the median grade was a B-. The pattern repeated the next semester–including even students who had impressed me in class. Puzzled, I asked a senior colleague about the pattern. Oh yes, she replied, shaking her head. The minority students come in with weaker preparation. It was a tough problem.
Partly because of his training in economics and statistics, Sander was soon asked to be a technical adviser to the law school admissions committee. After analyzing its data, he learned that there indeed was a stark difference between the preparation levels of different racial groups. For instance, the law school had created an index that combined information about an applicant’s LSAT score, his undergraduate grades, and the difficulty of his college. Whites were essentially guaranteed acceptance if they had a score of 820 or higher on the index and guaranteed rejection if they had a score of 760 or lower. For African Americans and American Indians, however, the corresponding numbers were 620 and 550. Thus, for a 140-point range (620 to 760), a student would certainly be admitted if he were black yet certainly be rejected if he were white.
Although the gap in preparation was generally unknown to the students, the gap in classroom performance, as Sander discovered, was well known. As he notes:
Once, when a student told me about his courseload, I observed that he was in a lot of tough classes graded on mandatory curves. That was true, he responded, but a couple of them were “safeties.” I asked him what that meant. A little embarrassed, he said that was a term for a class that had enough black and Hispanic students to absorb the low grades on the curve. His remark was breathtakingly cynical–and an oversimplification too. (The correlation between race and grades was by no means perfect.) But it was hard to blame him, and I gradually learned that many students thought in those terms.
Sander began to believe that his discoveries were manifestations of a concept that economist Thomas Sowell has dubbed the “mismatch” effect. According to the effect, if students are less prepared for a particular level of instruction–which occurs almost by design with affirmative action–then, not only do they make worse grades than their peers, they actually learn less than they would have if they had attended a less challenging school.
Eventually, Sander gained access to a large data set constructed by the Law School Admissions Council. After analyzing the data, he wrote his findings in an article, “A Systemic Analysis of Affirmative Action in American Law Schools,” which he published in the Stanford Law Review. Later, he published additional findings in his book, Mismatch.
His findings were stunning. For instance, 53% of black students in his data set never passed the bar exam and thus failed to become lawyers. By contrast, only 17% of the white students failed to become lawyers. Thus, the black-white gap, 36%, is quite large.
Sander estimated, however, that if law schools would eliminate racial preferences–thus eliminating the mismatch effect–then the black-white gap would fall to about 13%. That is, about two thirds of the gap would disappear.
Sanders’ findings hit a nerve. As he would soon witness, proponents of racial preferences would launch a feverish attack against his findings and him personally.
One instance occurred at the Stanford Law Review. After its editors decided to publish his article, word began to spread among law professors, and some wrote the Review, urging its editors to withdraw their decision to publish Sander’s article. Eventually, after the administration of the Stanford Law School intervened, the editors agreed to a compromise. They would publish Sander’s article, but hold a competition in which researchers would be invited to submit critiques of Sander’s work. However, if a scholar submitted an essay that mostly supported Sander’s work, it would be disqualified from the competition.
At several law schools, Sander was invited to present his results. However, unlike the usual speech or seminar, Sander’s presentation would always be followed by another speaker, who would explain why Sander was wrong.
The general idea,” wrote Sander, “seemed to be that [my results] were too explosive or too dangerous to be presented without some filtering, some sanitizing process.” For instance, for an event at Harvard, Sander spent the day traveling from Los Angeles to Boston. However, once he arrived, he learned that the person scheduled to critique his work would not be able to attend. Sander suggested that her time could be filled with a longer question-and-answer session. However, the event organizer smiled apologetically and explained that the entire event would have to be canceled.
At times, the critiques were outright lies. As Sander notes:
One law school in New York held a well-publicized event that drew an audience of some two hundred faculty and students. After I spoke about “Systemic Analysis,” the school’s admissions director rose and said that none of my findings applied to this law school. At this law school, he said, students of all races earned the same grades and had the same rate of success on the bar. I, of course, had no way to respond to these claims; my data came from databases that did not identify individual schools. But at dinner afterward another administrator leaned over with a confidential smile and said, “I hope [the admissions director] didn’t nettle you too much. He just made all that stuff up to placate our students.”
Source: Breitbart Feed