Over at Quillette, an American University teacher calling himself “Keith David” (I can’t find a reference for him) writes “A Student Sleuth Found Evidence that Our University Practices Reverse Racism. Here’s Why I Advised Him Not to Publish It.”
It is a long article, and deserves to be read in its entirety even at the risk of having your head explode. I find the author’s approach to the problem both typical and depressing, but before I enumerate my reactions, here are some major points in the article:
This essay describes a conversation I had in 2017 with [an undergraduate] I will call him Daniel…At the end of his freshman year, Daniel applied for admission to a competitive honors program that our university runs, but he was rejected….Daniel believed he’d been treated unfairly. He believed he was the victim of reverse racism….Daniel proceeded to explain that he and a friend had both applied to the same honors program and had both been rejected. Afterwards…[t]hey scrutinized the social-media accounts of fellow students and found several dozen applicants who’d posted about being accepted. A lot of them…were either African American or Hispanic. Daniel and his friend then…identified several dozen students who had been rejected, many of whom were Caucasian or Asian….They decided to create a spreadsheet…to organize the data they’d collected….Daniel explained that he and his friend had performed various kinds of statistical analysis on the data, and had concluded that admission to the honors program was closely related to Dean’s List status within certain groups. However, there were large differences in acceptance rates across those groups. Overall, he told me, the factor that explained the most variance in admissions outcomes was…the race or ethnicity of the applicant. The patterns were quite stark. African Americans who weren’t on the Dean’s List had a better overall chance of being admitted to the honors program than whites or Asians who were on the Dean’s List.
Daniel…told me he was thinking of filing a protest with the admissions committee and challenging them with the data he’d gathered. He was also thinking about sending his data to the university newspaper as a way of exposing the unfairness of the committee’s decisions.
As I listened, I began to think about what I might tell Daniel once he stopped talking.
Should I tell him what I thought—that he might well be right about why he was not admitted to the honors program? Should I tell him that I had heard some talk among the faculty that seemed to confirm his suspicions? A few months earlier, I’d heard a dean saying that the honors program was too “traditional” in its make-up. What the university needed to do, this dean said, was “make the program look more like America as a whole.” …Should I try to make the case for affirmative action, explaining that the policies are well-intentioned and designed to make up for real injustices, including slavery, segregation, and racism? Should I tell Daniel that sometimes in life one just has to accept this kind of unfortunate outcome as part of a larger process of social transformation? Should I introduce him to the concept of “taking one for the team”? Should I mention any of my own experiences with affirmative action? Should I tell him about the time when I applied for an internal position at our university, only to learn that it was actually a “targeted” search? …This meant that I, as a white male, had almost no chance of being selected.
Should I tell Daniel about the colleague I’d spoken with just a few weeks earlier, who’d told me, with much frustration and a touch of anger in his voice, that he was getting out of academia because he’d concluded that it is now virtually impossible for a white male to get a tenure-track position in his field? This young man had finished his PhD and published a book. He had applied for scores of tenure-track jobs, but had finally concluded he was not likely to get one. “Picking me,” he explained, “won’t do anyone any good. It won’t help the institution show that it is combatting racism, and it won’t allow any of the members of the hiring committee to assuage their white liberal guilt.” Shortly thereafter, this colleague took a non-academic job as a computer programmer….Should I tell Daniel that, over the years, I had grown more and more frustrated with the way in which the academics I work among approach hiring? I’d seen plenty of searches in which members of the hiring committee went out of their way to try to hire persons of color, or members of under-represented minority groups, but nobody would ever admit publicly that this is what was going on. Nor did anyone want to admit that their efforts to boost minority candidates made job-seeking more difficult for members of other, non-preferred groups….
In the end, I didn’t tell Daniel about any of my own experiences.
I told him that I thought he might be right about why he hadn’t been accepted into the program…. I then briefly (and perhaps half-heartedly) outlined the usual justification for affirmative-action programs.
But what I emphasized most was that I thought it would be unwise for Daniel to launch a campaign against the admissions committee, even if his data was as strong as he seemed to think it was. I told him that a campaign of the sort he was considering would almost certainly fail…it would probably do no good in the long run….Support for affirmative action is almost universal among academics. Very few are even willing to express hesitations or second thoughts on this issue, lest they be deemed racists. The people who make these decisions feel good about the people who benefit from affirmative action, and they avert their gaze, as much as possible, from the people who are harmed by it. I warned Daniel that I thought his plan might end up doing him a lot of harm. If he chose to make his exposé public, the most likely outcome would be that some student or faculty member would accuse him of being a racist. Publishing his data would probably end up hurting him rather than helping him.
…He told me that he was not a racist. He had voted for Democrats in the 2016 election and hated Donald Trump. And as it happens, I had reason to believe this was true….Daniel told me that he believed affirmative-action policies were justified for college admissions, but he did not think they should be used to filter out qualified applicants to honors programs and graduate programs.
…To be honest, I’ve never been quite clear on how we’re supposed to get over centuries of judging people by their skin color or ethnicity by paying more and more attention to skin color and ethnicity.
In the past few years, in fact, I’ve increasingly had the sense that affirmative action may be backfiring. Policies meant to correct historical iniquities seem to be stoking racial resentment. Like Daniel, I dislike Trump intensely. I don’t have much in common with his followers, and I certainly don’t think of myself as one of them. But I do, increasingly, understand some of the grievances that motivate them. I wish I didn’t, but I do.
…I told Daniel that he could still succeed at our university, and get accepted by a top graduate school, even if he never made it into the honors program—as long as he just kept on taking challenging math and science classes and posting good grades.
In some ways, I think I gave Daniel good advice….On the other hand, maybe it would have done some good to let the world know just how far the admissions committee was willing to go to admit under-represented minorities and make that honors program “look more like America as a whole.” By the same token, maybe there is something cowardly about not challenging current practices because it’s not in one’s own self-interest to make trouble. Maybe the world would be a better place if some people did challenge these preferential policies.
Keith, if that is his name, concludes by asking, “Did I give Daniel good advice? Or would you have told him something different?”
Why yes, I would have told him something very different. Not only did the American U. instructor show that he is an enabling, complicit, cowardly and willing participant in a corrupt and unethical culture, but he recruited a student to take the same lazy, go along to get along, weenie-esque path as he has. The author asks, “Maybe there is something cowardly about not challenging current practices because it’s not in one’s own self-interest to make trouble. Maybe the world would be a better place if some people did challenge these preferential policies.”
The author nicely represents the absence of character within academia that has allowed our institutions to devolve into Leftis indoctrination camps with barely any resistance, places where political and philosophical conformity is valued above all. Notice the nauseating “he’s no racist because he hates Donald Trump like I do” virtue-signaling, and the condescension to “the deplorables.”
As for his questions:
- “Should I tell him what I thought—that he might well be right about why he was not admitted to the honors program?” You’re a teacher, man: how does withholding that information qualify as teaching?
- “Should I tell him that I had heard some talk among the faculty that seemed to confirm his suspicions?” Of course. It’s called “evidence.”
- “Should I try to make the case for affirmative action, explaining that the policies are well-intentioned and designed to make up for real injustices, including slavery, segregation, and racism?” “Well-intentioned” is not a valid justification for unethical conduct.
- “Should I tell Daniel that sometimes in life one just has to accept this kind of unfortunate outcome as part of a larger process of social transformation?” Tell him to love Big Brother for the greater good? That the ends justify the means? What a good Nazi Keith would have been.
- “Should I introduce him to the concept of ‘taking one for the team’”? Which “team” would that be? How can one’s team deliberately ensure that one is mistreated?
- “Should I mention any of my own experiences with affirmative action?” Of course!
- “Should I tell Daniel about the colleague I’d spoken with just a few weeks earlier, who’d told me, with much frustration and a touch of anger in his voice, that he was getting out of academia because he’d concluded that it is now virtually impossible for a white male to get a tenure-track position in his field?” What’s the alternative, withholding facts because they undercut the approved narrative?
- “Should I tell Daniel that, over the years, I had grown more and more frustrated with the way in which the academics I work among approach hiring?” No, you should just lie to him. Why do you have to ask this question?
“Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. He is not a good man who, without a protest, allows wrong to be committed in his name, and with the means which he helps to supply, because he will not trouble himself to use his mind on the subject.”