The Ruling In The Harvard Asian Discrimination Case: So What WAS “The Point”?

In response to U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs’ ruling this week that Harvard University does not discriminate against Asian Americans in undergraduate admissions, two commentators issued reactions with almost themes: the ruling missed the point. In the New York Times, law professor Melissa Murray wrote that the opinion missed the point by being…

…focused on diversity as the sole grounds on which the use of race in admissions may be justified. As Judge Burroughs noted in her ruling, diversity-centered admissions policies can “enhance the education of students of all races and backgrounds, to prepare them to assume leadership roles in the increasingly pluralistic society into which they will graduate,” “broaden the perspectives of teachers” and “expand the reach of the curriculum and the range of scholarly interests.” Her words echo the standard refrains that have been deployed to defend affirmative action since Justice Lewis Powell’s opinion in University of California v. Bakke (1978). Justice Powell famously extolled the virtues of the “Harvard Plan,” which recognized that a “farm boy from Idaho can bring something to Harvard College that a Bostonian cannot offer.” The problem, of course, is that thinking about diversity in terms of what beneficiaries might contribute makes the benefits of affirmative action contingent and conditional — worthy only because its beneficiaries serve the broader needs of institutions and those who are assumed to belong.

To the contrary, Murray believes that Harvard’s race preferences out to be justified as permanent reparations, though she never uses those exact words.  (Hmmmm.…I wonder if she’s black? Let’s see…why yes, she is!):

Those who fought for affirmative action expected institutions to maintain policies that ensured continued representation of those who had long been excluded. But at least in the courts, these convictions have been largely jettisoned.

That’s because they are unethical, illegal and unconstitutional.

The momentary victory for Harvard, which was correctly accused of discriminating against Asian-Americans in admissions in order to further affirmative action goals, was the result of an ideological rather than a legal analysis. I give the judge credit for being open about his bias: how else could one interpret his reasoning? From the Washington Post:

While Harvard’s “admissions process may be imperfect,” Burroughs wrote, the judge concluded that statistical disparities among racial groups of applicants “are not the result of any racial animus or conscious prejudice.”

The law does not require “racial animus or conscious prejudice” to make  racial discrimination illegal. Discrimination on the basis of race is unfair, unjust, illegal and wrong. The judge doesn’t address that fact; he just explains why Harvard’s discrimination is the good kind, writing,  “The use of race benefits certain racial and ethnic groups that would otherwise be underrepresented at Harvard and is therefore neither an illegitimate use of race or reflective of racial prejudice.”

What does “under-represented” mean? This is a tell: Judge Burroughs is a disciple of the Left’s edict that  institutions, workplaces, benfits and distinctions are inherently suspect or harmful if they don’t closely match demographic divisions within the public in general. This essentially un-American myth requires the use of quotas while disguising their intent and function.

Affirmative action has always been an example of policy hypocrisy, engaging in present discrimination in order to combat the effects of past discrimination. It was justified, at best, as a temporary breach of core principles in pursuit of a theoretical remedy to a unique problem.

Another “the opinion missed the point” article had a more useful, if also flawed,  analysis than the law professor’s “We should keep discriminating against whites and Asians forever because of slavery and Jim Crow” argument. Richard Ford makes the case in “The Harvard Ruling Misses the Point” that the entire debate is taking place within an absurdity. Elite institutions like Harvard exist to bestow the credential of being  certified “elite,” a member of the deserving American upper class. “Democratizing” the anointment process by artificially using factors that have nothing to do with merit or achievement to bestow elitism is self-contradictory: once it becomes obvious that getting admitted to Harvard signifies nothing substantive, then Harvard’s ability to sanctify its graduates vanishes, or should.

It should. Harvard’s degree always was something of a fraud in this respect. Ford correctly observes,

The unstated assumption that folds affirmative action into a general critique of elite admissions is that acceptance should be based exclusively on individual merit (and that merit, in turn, should be measured by grades and test scores). Indeed, opponents of affirmative action often speak as if it is a departure from an otherwise even-handed and admirable meritocracy. But the Harvard case and the bribery scandal both expose—in high relief, if not for the first time—the extent to which non-racial (and hence legally unproblematic) admissions preferences dwarf those associated with race. Athletes, legacy applicants, and those otherwise likely to help universities secure large donations enjoy higher admission rates than members of underrepresented racial groups. Affirmative action is one of the more modest of many departures from numerical indicia of merit.

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/30/2019: The More Edition

 

More anti-gun posturing, more diversity deceit, more sympathy for parents who kill their kids in hot cars….more.

1. Leadership Ethics: California Gov. Gavin Newsom shows how not to respond to a tragedy. It has been apparent for some time that Newsom’s objective is to make Jerry Brown look like a thorough and moderate professional by contrast. His reaction to the fatal shooting in Gilroy, California, over the weekend, which took the lives of three people (including two children)  was a) to immediately politicize the tragedy; b) blame Trump, which is pandering gold; c) engage in outrageous hyperbole; d) recycle the silliest of anti-gun tropes, and e) do so while lacing his comments with profanity, because cursing makes bad arguments more persuasive, or something.

Most of his statement before the cameras was inarticulate, stuttering and emotional. Forget about the competent leader’s duty to show calm and professional demeanor so the public knows a capable adult is in control. This is how you signal virtue, and that you care. Once  the honorable Governor of California began talking in complete sentences, this was his approach:

“It’s just an outrage. I can’t put borders up — speaking of borders — in a neighboring state where you can buy this damn stuff legally. How the hell is that possible? [ Comment: How is it possible that states make their own laws, and California doesn’t get to dictate to Nevada? Let’s have a show of state hands to see how many states appreciate Gavin’s state creating a magnet for illegal immigrants, who then can proceed to travel where they wish.] I have no problem with the Second Amendment. [Note: That’s an obvious lie, but we can assume Newsom would say that he supports “sensible gun control,” which in eventually means “no guns.”] You have a right to bear arms but not weapons of goddamned mass destruction. [Note: No rifle, much less single shot rifle, is a weapon of mass destruction, and certainly not a goddamned weapon of mass destruction. This is disinformation, but hey, the governor is hysterical, so give him a break.] You need these damn things for hunting? Give me a break. [Note: The argument that the Second Amendment exists for the benefit of hunters is false, and dishonest, but anti-gun demagogues, especially Democratic governors—New York’s Governor Cuomo has made similar statements—keep recycling it. It convinces ignorant people, you see.] It’s just sickening… the leadership today that just turns a blind eye and won’t do a damn thing to address these issues. [ Translation: “Do something!”] What’s goddamned absent in this country right now is moral authority. [Comment: Whatever that means coming from an official of a party that ridicules and marginalizes religious faith.] California’s doing its part, but Jesus, these guys, the folks in the White House have been supporting the kinds of policies that roll back the work that we’re doing,. [Note: the “policies” Newsom refers to are known as the Bill of Rights.] It keeps happening, over and over and over again, on their damned watch. [Clarification: The shootings happened on Newsom’s watch as well, and before 2017, President Obama’s watch. Newsom didn’t make the “watch” argument then, for some reason]

This was pure, irresponsible demagoguery. As usual, the news media didn’t help by refusing to clarify that the “assault-type weapon” used in the shooting was not the  automatic, military  version of the AK-47 which is illegal, but the legal, single shot version. (“Assault-type” and “assualt-style” mean that the gun looks like an automatic, but isn’t. It is pure deceit. )That would require, however, exposing how ridiculous and dishonest the “weapons of mass destruction” line was. Continue reading

Early Memorial Day Weekend Ethics Warm-Up, 5/24/19: Movies And Women, Real And Imagined

Good Morning!

My father loved Sousa marches. So do I. Sousa was a genius in a very narrow range, but a genius he was. The Liberty Bell was one of my dad’s favorites. Here is a great website to familiarize yourself with the great march-master’s creations; it has instant links to each march.

1. Since it has done such a superb job ensuring world peace, the U.N. moves on to the important stuff… Unesco has issued a report claiming that having female voices in machines like GPS’s, smartphones and personal assistant devices reinforces gender stereotypes and enables the oppression of women. From the Times:

“Obedient and obliging machines that pretend to be women are entering our homes, cars and offices,” Saniye Gulser Corat, Unesco’s director for gender equality, said in a statement. “The world needs to pay much closer attention to how, when and whether A.I. technologies are gendered and, crucially, who is gendering them.”One particularly worrying reflection of this is the “deflecting, lackluster or apologetic responses” that these assistants give to insults. The report borrows its title — “I’d Blush if I Could” — from a standard response from Siri, the Apple voice assistant, when a user hurled a gendered expletive at it. When a user tells Alexa, “You’re hot,” her typical response has been a cheery, “That’s nice of you to say!” Siri’s response was recently altered to a more flattened “I don’t know how to respond to that,” but the report suggests that the technology remains gender biased, arguing that the problem starts with engineering teams that are staffed overwhelmingly by men. “Siri’s ‘female’ obsequiousness — and the servility expressed by so many other digital assistants projected as young women — provides a powerful illustration of gender biases coded into technology products,” the report found.

Gee, that’s funny: I thought the reason a woman’s dulcet tones were used in such devices is because they were easier on the ear than, say, HAL. Nor would it occur to me that a woman was being subservient or submissive when the female voice was coming from a lump of metal and plastic on a table.

FACT: Yes, a consumer should have the option of having a device speak in a male or female voice.

FACT: If the owner of such a device wants to insult it, make sexual comments to it, or crush it with a hammer, that’s none of the U.N.’s business.

FACT:  Programming AI to be adversarial to its owner, whatever voice the device is using, is unethical, and, obviously, bad business.

Unesco’s report is the epitome of manufactured offense. Continue reading

What Is The Ethical Response To The Racially Unbalanced Admissions To New York City’s Elite High Schools?

The question has been giving me a headache since I first read about the stunning results of the process that gives New York City students access to its elite public schools.  Of the nearly 4,800 students admitted into the specialized schools for 2019, 190 are black, down from  207 black students admitted last year out of just over 5,000 offers. Stuyvesant high school, which is representative, gave 7 offers to black students (out of 895 slots),   33 offers to Hispanic students, 194 offers to white students, and Asian-American students received a whopping  587 offers. Overall, Asian-American students constitute 60% of the student bodies of the eight elite schools.

Students take  a single exam that tests their mastery of math and English in order to gains entrance to the academically challenging school. Stuyvesant, which has the highest cutoff score for admission and is thus the most selective of the schools, now has the lowest percentage of black and Hispanic students of any of New York City’s roughly 600 public high schools.

What should the city do about this? Should it do anything?  Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, December 19, 2018: Facebook’s Lies, Hillary’s Letter, Harvard’s Defenders, And Kavanaugh’s Victory

Good Morning!

1. Open Forum today! As soon as this post is up, I’ll open a forum for readers here to raise their own suggestions for ethics topics and to offer their commentary without me getting in the way. The last one was a spectacular success, attracting over a hundred comments, generating many fascinating threads, and producing three Comments of the Day so far. Just keep the topics on ethics, don’t get distracted by tangents and bickering, and keep it civil.

The immediate motivation for today’s forum is that I have to prepare for and deliver an annual end of year ethics CLE seminar at the D.C. bar. If you’re in the vicinity and need the credits, or just want a lively ethics workout, come on by and say hello. Here are the details:

Date: December 19, 2018

Event start time :1:30 PMEvent end time:4:45 PM

Venue:D.C. Bar: 901 4th ST NW, Washington, DC 20001-2776

Credit: 3.0 Ethics Credit Hours, including 3 hours of professionalism for those states with such requirement.

Description: Widespread discord in our current culture places unusual stress on professional ethics, and unfortunately, the legal profession is not immune. The past year saw many legal professionals, including famous names in the law, make questionable decisions and breach legal ethics standards, providing both cautionary tales and fodder for analysis. This challenging and interactive class will explore important developments and looming perils that every lawyer should be ready to face.

Topics include:

• Direct adversity vs. “general adversity,” and whether it matters
• Sexual harassment as a legal ethics problem, and the profession’s vulnerability to “The King’s Pass”
• Defying a client for the client’s own good
• Fees, referrals and gaming the rules for fun and profit
• Professional responsibility vs. legal ethics
• The increasing threat to law firm independence and integrity
• The technology ethics earthquake

..and more!

Faculty: Jack Marshall, Pro Ethics Ltd.
Fee: $89 D.C. Bar Communities Members; $99 D.C. Bar Members; $109 Government Attorneys; $129 Others

2. Meanwhile, here are Facebook’s “standards”… As Ethics Alarms posts continue to be blocked on Facebook in various ways, including by “community standards” that for some reason reject the ethics of “Miracle on 34th Street,” the social media behemoth’s own standards are coming into focus: From CNBC: Continue reading

How Can Anyone Honestly Defend Harvard’s Discriminatory Admissions Practices? Especially Harvard?

The federal trial that began last week in  Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, featuring  America’s oldest college being accused of discriminating against Asian-American applicants should, if there is justice in the world, both finally kill the lingering bigotry of college affirmative action policies and expose the U.S.’s most prestigious educational institution, and the ideological philosophy that has captured it, as the hypocritical and fraudulent entity that it is.  Does Harvard discriminate on the basis of race? Why yes, it does. There is no valid argument that it does not. Evidence shows that the college ties itself into logical knots concocting ways to justify not admitting Asian-American applicant who would sail into freshman classes were not their race used to undermine their candidacy. The plaintiffs cite reports that Harvard itself conducted  in 2013. The reports, by Harvard’s Office of Institutional Research, found that being Asian-American was negatively associated with being admitted. Harvard claims that it must consider race in order to have a “diverse” student body, which is important, it says, to the quality of education one can obtain there. “Diversity,” however is and has always been a rationalization for discrimination. No matter how affirmative action is framed, the fact is that it is a zero-sum game: for each individual whose race benefits their quest for admission, there is another individual whose race is used as a justification to reject him or her. There is no way of getting around this inconvenient fact, yet Harvard and other elite institutions persist in denying it.  Continue reading

This Is How Officials Like Mayor De Blasio Think: Unethically, But They Mean Well

Never mind that the always dubious logic behind educational quotas and affirmative action is finally being exposed and discredited: New York’s socialist-in-all-but-name Mayor de Blasio is determined to have the city’s elite public schools “look like New York City,” which is code for “quotas.”

“The status quo is broken. We have to make a major change. We have to make sure that the very best high schools are open to every New Yorker, every kind of New Yorker. They need to look like New York City,” he has said. So he has announced a proposal that would change how students are admitted to eight of the city’s specialized high schools, the crown jewels of NYC’s school system, the equivalents of private schools in quality of teachers and challenging curriculum where students gain entry based on their performance on a single test, taken by all applicants. That seems fair…but since it doesn’t yield a perfect demographic match to the city as a whole, de Blasio’s social justice sensibilities are offended.

Black and Hispanic students make up 67 % of the public school population, but the specialized high schools, which include Stuyvesant High School and the Bronx High School of Science, have just 10 % of students from these groups occupying the 500  available slots, with no improvement in that percentage for years.

Ah! The test must be the problem! This has been the accepted, conventional wisdom and cant that has been repeated by Democrats and affirmative action activists for decades, despite little but blind faith to bolster it. The Mayor, of course, is a believer. Continue reading