The Fisher decision misses the point: Separate and unequal

A new Georgetown University report titled “Separate and Unequal: How Higher Education Reinforces the Intergenerational Reproduction of White Privilege” by Anthony Carnevale and Jeff Strohl reinforces why the Supreme Court’s decision in Fisher v. University of Texas misses the point. Recall that in Fisher v. the University of Texas, while the justices recognized the value of diversity in the higher education experience, universities and colleges must prove that no workable race-neutral alternatives could have produced the same diversity benefit. And strikingly, Justice Kennedy stated that in this process “the university receives no deference.” A reviewing court will be the arbiter of this determination.

The report by Carnevale and Strohl debunks the assumption that the United States has attained a level educational playing field in which consideration of race is no longer relevant. The study demonstrates that American higher education has two separate and unequal tracks: the 468 selective colleges and the 3250 open-access institutions. The divergence between these two tracks is increasing rather than diminishing. The authors identify two prominent themes that characterize these tracks: 1) racial stratification in the 4400 two- and four- year colleges analyzed for the study; and 2) polarization between the most selective schools and open-access schools. And from a student perspective, they conclude that “disadvantage is worst of all when race and class collide.”

Between 1995 and 2009, despite increases in the enrollment of African American and Hispanic students attending postsecondary institutions, more than 8 in 10 of new white students enrolled in the 468 most selective institutions, whereas more than 7 in 10 new Hispanic and African-American students have gone to open-access two and four-year colleges. White students account for 78 percent of the growth in the more selective institutions, while 92 percent of the growth in open-access institutions went to Hispanic and African-American students.

In addition, stratification by income is marked in more selective colleges, with high-income students overrepresented relative to population share by 45 percentage points and African-American and Hispanic students underrepresented relative to population share by 9 percentage points. This disadvantage is magnified by pre-existing geographic (spatial) isolation in the location of high schools as well as economic and educational deprivation in the pre-college years.

Why does this matter? The 468 most selective schools spend two to nearly five times more per student, have higher ratios of full- to part-time faculty, higher completion rates, and greater access to graduate schools, even when considering equally qualified students. Also, the college completion rate for the most selective schools is 82 percent, compared with 49 percent for open-access, two- and four-year institutions.

The report responds to two important questions. First, it provides substantive evidence that contradicts the “mismatch” theory which posits that minority students fare better in universities where the median test scores are nearer their own. In contrast, it reveals that Hispanic and African-American students benefit from attending selective institutions even when their test scores fall substantially below the averages at these schools, with a graduation rate of 73 percent from top colleges when compared to a graduation rate of 40 percent at open-access institutions.

Second, the report sheds light on the difficulty of substituting race-neutral alternatives such as class or to produce the same educational diversity benefit. The authors find that it would take more than five or six times the current level of class-based admissions to maintain the current racial mix in the most selective colleges. In fact, the pool of low-income white students far exceeds the pool of Hispanic and African-American students eligible for selective college admissions. The flood of low-income students that could result from using class as a proxy for disadvantage would create intense resource challenges for all but the most wealthy of selective institutions in the financial aid process. More selective institutions would also have difficulty to maintain current standards in the competition for students with higher test scores.

The report does not include an identical analysis for Asians and Native Americans due to data limitations. It does note that while 50 percent of new Asian enrollments have gone to the most selective schools, 30 percent have also gone to the open-access schools. In this regard, a 2005 College Board study reveals that Asian American/Pacific Islander students are evenly concentrated in two- and four-year institutions, with over half of the students in California and Nevada enrolled in community colleges. And a study produced by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute concludes that, like other minority students, AAPI students often struggle with poverty, with 47.4 of Asian American families classified as low income compared with 39.5 percent of the general population.

The challenge ahead for universities is to develop the statistical models that will satisfy the Supreme Court’s requirement to prove that alternative race-neutral alternatives are not sufficient for producing the educational benefits of diversity. In the evolution of the new criteria required to satisfy Fisher’s requirements, the Georgetown University report takes an important step in laying the groundwork for the evidentiary data and metrics needed.

Summing up the complexity of the court’s newly imposed requirements for justifying the consideration of race as one factor among others in college admissions, Thomas Kane and James Ryan point out in a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that:

The court sometimes seems to labor under the belief that there is some magical combination of race-neutral proxies that will produce exactly the same group of students as in a class admitted under a race-conscious plan. Admissions officers know differently….

“A Long Slow Drift from Racial Justice” — The Hidden Perils of the Fisher Ruling

Last week two decisions from the Supreme Court seemed to turn the clock back on the delicate framework of Civil Rights constructed in the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson eras, in what the former president of the University of Michigan and Columbia University, Lee Bollinger, called “a long slow drift from racial justice.” The high court’s decisions in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder and Fisher v. the University of Texas, while appearing to give credence to the principles of racial justice, severely eroded the means to attain voting and educational access.

The Shelby Country decision nullified Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, while maintaining Section 5. Section 4 required nine states and some counties to obtain preclearance from the Department of Justice prior to changing voting requirements. Although based on a formula last updated in 1975, most observers believe that a bipartisan Congress will not coalesce in passing an updated formula. Chief Justice John Roberts justified the decision by stating that “things have changed dramatically” in the South and this country. Within 48 hours of the law passing, Texas, one of the states formerly covered under Section 4, moved to strengthen its requirements for voter identification and indicated that redistricting maps would no longer require federal approval. Comedian Bill Maher aptly termed the Voting Rights decision as evidence of Racism 2.0, in the evolution of more subtle and carefully constructed forms of exclusion. The Fisher decision, in turn, set an almost impossibly high bar for the use of race in college and university admissions that will likely result in unparalleled levels of litigation.

In the Fisher case, Abigail Fisher, a white undergraduate denied admission to the University of Texas claimed that her race prevented her admission to the university while less qualified minority students were admitted. The Supreme Court returned the case to the Fifth Circuit, asking the district/appellate Court to re-review the case with “strict scrutiny” of the inclusion of race in holistic review at the University of Texas. Although some affirmative action advocates viewed the outcome of the ruling as positive in that the justices recognized the value of diversity in the higher education experience, the decision now makes it extremely difficult for universities and colleges to consider race even as one factor among many in a holistic review of admissions applications. Ordinary Americans, as Lee Bollinger observed, will not pick up on the decoupling of race-conscious college admissions and “the larger project of social justice” amidst the legal maneuvering and minutiae.

The Fisher decision essentially brought the courts into the university and college admissions process by requiring a reviewing court to determine if a university’s use of race is necessary to achieve the educational benefits of diversity. Further, “the reviewing court must ultimately be satisfied that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce” these benefits (Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin et al., June 24, 2013, p. 2). Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy, declared that in this process, “the university receives no deference.” Kennedy explained further that the courts, not university administrators, must determine that the means chosen to attain diversity are “specifically and narrowly framed to accomplish that purpose.”

As noted by Peter Schmidt in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the decision has led representatives of Pacific Legal Foundation and the Southeastern Legal Foundation, public-interest law firms that have brought litigation against affirmative action programs, to indicate that they look forward to representing individuals who wish to challenge university and college admissions policies. It remains unclear is how the courts can possibly handle challenges to admissions policies that might arise in the more than 4000 institutions throughout the United States.

Commentators indicate that universities and colleges will need to ramp up their efforts at data collection to meet the requirements of the Fisher decision and to prove that race-neutral efforts could not have attained the same level of racial diversity. Given the constraints of the Fisher decision and its aggressive intrusion in the realm of university governance, it will require significant efforts on the part of colleges and universities to find the appropriate channels to continue to enhance the access and success of minority students to educational opportunity.

Striking Lack of Diversity in Ivy League’s Top Positions

The June 14 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education (“At the Ivies, It’s Still White at the Top”) presents a remarkable pictorial display of the individuals in the top levels of university administration in the Ivy League (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale). This pictorial display is more powerful and compelling than any statistical report in portraying the absence of diversity in university leadership. It reminds us of the dimensions of the administrative landscape as it exists today and emphasizes the fact that we are truly only at the beginning of the long journey toward inclusion in the top tiers of our nation’s educational institutions. This journey begins with representation as its first phase, next proceeds to the development of a representative bureaucracy that reflects the changing demography of student populations, and ultimately requires the creation of inclusive cultures at all levels.

The lack of racial and ethnic diversity in the top administrative ranks is not limited to the Ivies, but also pertains to public and private research universities as well as four-year colleges throughout the United States. A 2008 King & Gomez study found that close to 85 percent of the top-ranked positions in doctorate-granting institutions are held by whites and 66 percent held by males. Similarly, a NACUBO (2010) survey, found that Chief Financial Officers are 90% white and 68% male.

Furthermore, as Bryan Cook, former director of the American Council of Education, notes in the lead article by Stacey Patton in this Chronicle special edition, the lack of racial and ethnic diversity at 149 four-year colleges has persisted for 25 years. Cook also observes that institutions rarely replace a minority member with another when he or she leaves. As Ms. Patton perceptively notes, the frequent argument about “lack of qualified candidates” for these top roles becomes a loaded and coded divergence—a smoke screen that feeds stereotypes of minorities as less capable, intelligent, or experienced (p. A4). The few minorities that are selected for these highly visible roles experience what researchers William Tierney and Robert Rhodes call the double-edged sword of “a perverse visibility and a convenient invisibility.” For example, in her essay, “The Making of a Token,” in the edited volume Presumed Incompetent Yolanda Flores Niemann reports her “inordinate visibility” as a minority female professor in a mainly white male department. Subjected to overt racism and isolation, her negative self-perceptions and lowered sense of self-efficacy in the academy increased, until, as she reports, “I no longer recognized the person in the mirror.” Hiring one or two minorities at high levels within our institutions of higher education cannot be expected to solve the sense of exclusion, perceptions of token status, heightened visibility, or differential expectations that can accrue to the singular individual or nominal number of individuals in these top roles.

There are, however, some promising developments on the horizon. David S. Lee, professor of economics and public affairs and the director of the Industrial Relations Section at Princeton University, was just named provost last week, as the current provost (Christopher Eisgruber) ascended to the presidency. Unlike its Ivy comparators, Columbia University had the highest percentage of minority administrators (42 percent), although only 3 of its senior-level administrators are minorities. And women have certainly attained the highest levels with female presidents at all of the Ivies except Yale (Dartmouth has an interim female president).

As Alvin Evans and I share in our forthcoming book, The New Talent Acquisition Frontier: Integrating HR and Diversity Strategy, diverse talent is an accelerator of innovation, demanding a shift in the structures of top-down, command-and-control leadership that characterized the Industrial era. In this era of globalization, universities can no longer afford to ignore the need for diverse, collaborative, intergroup leadership. The leadership of diverse executive teams will create common ground in an environment of shared governance, promote inclusive campus climates, and position the university to respond to the changing educational needs of students in an interconnected, global society.

Prom Night in the Deep South

Proms serve as a strong indicator of the racial tension in “post racial” America.  The Saturday April 27, 2013 edition of the New York Times includes a news story about a small, rural town—Abbeville, Georgia—and Wilcox County High School where some students are challenging the tradition of the a segregated prom.

A student, Mareshia Rucker who is African American, watched from a crouched position in a car as her White classmates attended the White Prom. Like all of the Black students she was not invited. From her hidden position in the car she thought about this:

“These are people I see in class every day… What’s wrong with dancing with me, just because I have more pigment?”

The excuses given for continuing segregated proms, mostly from the white parents, was that the students had a different taste for their music, dancing and tradition. New York Times columnist Robbie Brown explains it this way:

“But locally, the separate proms have defenders. White residents said members of the two races had different tastes in music and dancing, and different traditions: the junior class plans the white prom, and the senior class plans the black prom.”

At Wilcox County High School since integration took place the proms have been organized as private, invitation-only events that are funded and sponsored by the students parents and not the school.

A week after the White Only Prom took place a small group of Blacks and White students raised funds, organized and held an integrated prom. The school board has said it will soon vote on a new structure for proms, sponsored by the school and not parents.

 

In this day and age, supposedly a “post racial America,” some argue that race-based proms are an enigma.  But are they really?  Since the 1970s public schools have re-segregated.

RACIAL SEGREGATION NOW

In Charleston, Mississippi located in the heart of what is known as THE DELTA with a total population of less than 3,000 and a median household income of less than $21,000, Charleston garnered national attention in 1997 and again in 2008 when the issue of segregated senior proms was in the news.

The national spotlight for Charleston came because the academy award winning African American actor Morgan Freeman offered to fund the school’s prom in 1997—but only if it were open to both Black and White students.  His offer was turned down by the school board and white parents (the Black population outnumbers the White population in Charleston).

Some 10 years later Freeman made the offer again and this time it was not only accepted but the Canadian documentary film crew headed by Canadian filmmaker Paul Saltzman was interested in making a documentary, Prom Night in Mississippi.

Like other short-lived celebrations (a national championship one season; a last place finish the next), one has to wonder in this era of post-racialism how deep is social segregation?  As the illustration below reveals, even when school systems are integrated the proms remain segregated.

(Image source)

 

 

RACIAL SEGREGATION THEN

Racial segregation in the Deep South did not end with the US Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Topeka, Kansas in 1954.

 

 

In the BROWN decision Chief Justice Earl Warren, writing for the majority, said this:

Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racially integrated school system… We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

 

Across the entire history of the US, the majority of African Americans attended inferior grammar and secondary schools.  Those seeking to attend white schools in the north, including colleges and universities, were often denied access.  Some schools in the north desegregated voluntarily and in some cases early in the 20th Century, but schools in the south resisted integration severely and systematically.  In some cases movements to integrate even under court order erupted into violence.  The integration of Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas was so contentious that President Eisenhower sent National Guard troops to protect the eight young men and women attempting to attend school there.  Similarly, when James Meredith attempted to integrate the University of Mississippi a near war broke out forcing President Kennedy to send in armed troops.  Governor Ross Barnett closed the Ole Miss campus in response.

 

The Brown v. the Board of Topeka, Kansas decision (see above) which guaranteed African Americans the right to attend any public school was intended to offer access to the institution of education in the United States.  Yet, it has been only partially successful.  First of all the Supreme Court decision was resisted.  It was intensely resisted in the Deep South so much so that many southern school districts were not integrated until the early 1970s, nearly 20 years after the historic decision.  The most severe resistance to school integration was in Mississippi.  The resistance movement resulted in the development of a set of private, often religiously affiliated, academies, colloquially referred to as “seg academies” which acknowledges that they were and continue to be entirely segregated; as privately funded schools they are not required by the Brown decision to integrate nor are they required to meet performance standards or be accredited.

 

Sara Carr’s article in the December 2012 Atlantic   captures the raison d’être of the segregation academies that sprang up in states like Mississippi, Alabama and all across the south after the Brown v. Board 1954 decision:

“These schools were started to keep white children away from blacks,” said Wade Overstreet, a Mississippi native and the program coordinator at the national advocacy organization Parents for Public Schools. “They’ve done an amazing job of it.”

 

The unintended consequences from this self imposed segregation for Whites has not been seriously addressed in that those White kids from the post-Brown segregated south were stymied in their education resulting in their inability to attend elite northern liberal arts colleges.  Why?  Because by setting up “seg academies” that did not have to adhere to performance standards the perception of these schools outside of the south is that they were not delivering the type of college prep education that would be required to be successful in college.  This perception is further exacerbated by the overall impression from the Civil Rights Movement that southerners are “backward.”

 

 

 

Incredibly, forms of deep social segregation continue today no place more clearly than in the school system that long-standing U.S. tradition of the SENIOR PROM!

 

The point of these illustrations is that its not simply the integration of schools that will produce integrated proms.  The concerns that White parents expressed in the 1960s and 1970s about their children sitting in desks next to Black children—which I would argue was really a concern about integrated friendships and heaven forbid integrated romances—has taken on a life of its own through the debate and struggle around the prom.

 

My theoretical underpinning for “Prom Night in the Deep South” is Joe Feagin’s WHITE RACIAL FRAME, in which he says (129):

“Even when whites do racist performances targeting Americans of color, the old racial frame accents that they, as whites, still should be considered to be “good” and “decent” people.  The dominant racial frame not only provides the fodder for whites’ racist performances, but also the means of excusing those performances.”   Such back-stage actions are interpreted as harmless, as “no big deal,” and often as just good interactive “fun.”

 

This frame allows White parents and school board members in the Deep South to see themselves as “better” than their kids and other White students viz., their Black schoolmates and, therefore, worthy of still holding the coveted segregated prom.

Further, the south as a whole was stunted by segregation which requires the setting up and running of a two-tiered system—politically, economically, socially, recreationally, with regards to health care and education— that proved to be not only expensive but also backward (Smith and Hattery 2010).  And, since neighborhoods, communities, whole sectors of large cities are segregated it stands to reason that schools will continue along this path as well (Hattery & Smith 2012).

And, as long as banks continue the practice of “redlining” as long as differential access to home mortgages exists and as long as major legal statutes against social segregation are not upheld, we will continue to see pockets of segregation across the US and in the south.

Even in schools where White and Black students sit next to each other in class, the over-arching concern that White parents have about love across racial lines is the driving factor behind the move to keep proms segregated.

 

References (linked above):

Brown, Robbie. 2013. “A Racial Divide Closes as Students Step Up.” New York Times, April 26th

Carr, Sarah, 2012, “In Southern Towns, ‘Segregation Academies’ Are Still Going Strong.” The Atlantic (December 13th)

Feagin, Joe R. 2010. The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter-Framing. NY: Routledge

Hattery, Angela J. and Earl Smith Smith, 2012, African American Families Today: Myths and Realities, (Rowman & Littlefield).

Hattery, Angela J., Earl Smith, 2007, “Social Stratification in the New/Old South: The Influences of Racial Segregation on Social Class in the Deep South.” Journal of Poverty Research 11(1), 55-81.

Orfield, Gary. 2011. “Segregated and Satisfied in the Southland?” Huffington Post

Smith, Earl and Angela J. Hattery, 2010, “Cultural Contradictions in the South.” Mississippi Quarterly Vol 63 (2): 145-166.

Rubin, Richard. 2003. Confederacy of Silence: A True Tale of the New Old South. NY: Atria Books.

* * *

~ Guest blogger Earl Smith is Professor Emeritus, Sociology, Wake Forest University.

The Secrets within the Ivy: The Continuation of White Supremacy

Upon recently reading the New York Times op-ed piece by Ross Douthat, The Secrets of Princeton, I am reminded of Dr. Joe Feagin’s words:

White racism today remains “‘normal’” and deeply imbedded in most historically white institutions. Every such institution is still substantially whitewashed in its important norms, rules, and arrangements…it seems likely that a majority of whites cannot see just how whitewashed their historically white organizations and institutions really are.

The editorial piece discusses a recent submission from guest contributor of The Daily Princetonian and Princeton alumna, Susan Patton, who controversially declared that the women of Princeton should, “Find a husband on campus before you graduate.” She goes on to say:

I am the mother of two sons who are both Princetonians. My older son had the good judgment and great fortune to marry a classmate of his, but he could have married anyone. My younger son is a junior and the universe of women he can marry is limitless… As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are. And I say again — you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.

Oh no, she didn’t!! Sorry, I was channeling a number of high school students I work with. But nonetheless, apparently from the slings and arrows she received for publishing her essay, Susan forgot the first two rules of the Ivy League:

1st RULE: You do not talk about the secrets of the Ivy League.
2nd RULE: You DO NOT talk about the secrets of the Ivy League.

Douthat noted many of her ideological opponents deem her as a turncoat to feminism. Her betrayal of acknowledging a truth, which Douthat feels many who attend Ivy League institutions are conscious of, is Patton’s biggest crime. A truth that encompasses the ideas that these places of highly manicured lawns and pristine historically well-kept buildings are focused not only on the pursuit of academic excellence, but also the charge of preserving racial entitlement while safeguarding the advantages accrued over generations in order to be safely transmitted to the next.

Even though these institutions over the decades have visibly discussed racial diversity and applied a dash of the finest cosmetic makeup to cover their blemished pale skin, Ivy League schools continue to be, as Feagin states, “whitewashed.” The quest for meritocracy continues within the 21st century. The current mode of protecting white interests, access to power, and purifying the elite is constant in country that attempts to convince its people that they are living in a post racial society. Albert Memmi understood this mechanism of racial supremacy when he stated,

racists are people who are afraid…generally it is because one wishes to obtain or defend something of value…the necessity to defend an individual identity and a collective identity, against all who come from elsewhere and don’t belong, is in operation.

This is not a declaration that all who attend these settings are racist per se, but the institution itself and those that practice the dark arts of the white racial frame, are definitely protecting historically privileged White placement on a hierarchy while simultaneously dispensing unequal treatment for a marginalized people. Its systems do not freely and equally entitle Blacks and Latinos to the same resources, power, and empathy as predetermined for the privileged placement of Whites. This is definitely illustrated within their modest number of students and faculty of color.

But then again, what do I know. I was poor and attended a state school.

Chilling or Warming Effects of Affirmative Action Bans?

As we await the Supreme Court’s decision in the landmark Fisher v. University of Texas case, an intense and polarized debate has arisen about whether bans on affirmative action such as California’s Proposition 209 have had a chilling or a warming effect on minority student enrollment. In 1996, Proposition 209 in California, also known as the California Civil Rights Initiative, amended the state constitution through a ballot proposition and prohibited governmental agencies and public institutions from considering race, sex, or ethnicity in employment, contracting or admissions.

Papers offered at the Brookings Institution in September 2012 presented one side of the debate. A presentation by Kate Antonovics, an economist at the University of California at San Diego and Richard Sander, a professor of law at the University of California at Los Angeles, asserted that Prop 209 had a “warming” effect on the enrollment of underrepresented minority students. Their analysis is based upon yield rates and they conclude that affirmative action increased the likelihood of minority students accepting admissions offers. (Yield rates refer to the percentage of students who choose to enroll in a university or college after having been offered admission).

These researchers also offered support for a controversial theory called “mismatch.” Sander and Stuart Taylor, Jr., a former New York Times Supreme Court reporter, have been the primary proponents for this theory that argues that racial preferences for blacks offered by certain tiers of schools below the elite tier result in “mismatch” or the unintended side effect of driving students with weaker academic preparation than their classmates to drop out of school and abandon their career aspirations.

Yet a recent empirical study by Peter Arcidiacono and his colleagues at Duke University reaches a different conclusion regarding the effect of Proposition 209. These researchers found that college enrollment rates of African Americans and Hispanics in California’s 4-year public colleges actually declined after the Proposition’s implementation. The data set used to derive these results was not based upon yield rates, but rather upon enrollment data from IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) coupled with data provided by the University of California Office of the President on parental income and education, high school GPAs and SAT scores that allowed the researchers to control for these variables.

Two-thirds of the enrollment decrease reported by Arcidiacono and others came from the California State University System (CSU). Yet, surprisingly, the authors describe the CSU system as consisting “primarily of non-selective institutions.” Would it not be significant that institutions that have traditionally served a greater proportion of minority populations have had a decline in minority enrollment post-Prop 209? And while the CSU may be less selective than the UC, the excellence of the CSU institutions has long been recognized by college rankings. For example, U.S. News and World Report’s selected California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo as the best public master’s university in the West for 17 years in a row. In reporting the findings on the decline in minority enrollment, Arcidiacano and his co-researchers hypothesize that CSU’s simultaneous implementation of Executive Order 665 requiring all incoming freshmen to take the English Placement and Entry Level Mathematics tests “may have deterred enrollments in the CSU system, especially among minorities” (p. 14).

Different evidence is offered for the “chilling” effect of bans on affirmative action by William C. Kidder at the University of California at Riverside. In “Misshaping the River: Proposition 209 and Lessons from the Fisher Case”, Kidder presents survey data from 9750 Latino and African American students at eight UC campuses. This data indicates that the campus racial climate has become significantly more inhospitable for these students than at UT Austin and two other peer universities. The perception of a “chilly climate” has resulted from the affirmative action ban and low diversity that have led students to believe that they are less respected by their peers. In a recent paper titled, “The Salience of Racial Isolation” Kidder also presents directly conflicting evidence on yield rates, indicating that the percentage of African Americans accepting admissions offers has declined, with some instances of zero yield rates to top UC universities.

The conflicting analyses presented by scholars on both sides of the affirmative action debate call for continuing review. The results of the survey of campus climate at the University of California indicating perceptions of a “chilly” environment for minority students seem especially significant, as universities seek to build inclusive and welcoming campuses in the face of legal challenges.

College Presidents Weigh in on Affirmative Action in Admissions

The pending Supreme Court decision in Fisher v. University of Texas presents a new challenge to the Court’s decision of a decade earlier in the Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger cases at the University of Michigan. In the Michigan cases, the Court clearly recognized the value of student body diversity in the educational process and upheld the inclusion of race as one factor among others in a narrowly tailored holistic review process. Numerous expert studies support the Court’s position on diversity and student learning outcomes. For example, four studies presented at the most recent meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) provide empirical support for the benefits of diversity for college students, using longitudinal assessment of the scores from the Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency and the Collegiate Learning Assessment.

Yet a recent Inside Higher Ed survey of 841 college presidents conducted by Gallup found that 70% agreed that consideration of race in admissions has had a “mostly positive effect” on education in general, while only 58% agreed that such consideration has had a “mostly positive effect” on their campuses.

Dr. Benjamin Reese, president of the National Association of Chief Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) and Vice President for Institutional Equity at Duke University, suggested that framing the question around race rather than the benefits of diversity resulting from a holistic review of applications may have elicited less positive responses. In reporting Reese’s perspective in his March 1 article, editor Doug Lederman writes, “That, though, is not the question before the courts.” He then cites Richard Kahlenberg, senior fellow at the Century Foundation, who indicates that “the Presidents are completely out of step with where the courts seem to be heading and where the American public is on this issue.”

A closer reading of the Grutter decision suggests that the Court was focused on the overall benefits of diversity. It specifically reaffirmed the opinion of Justice Powell in the landmark 1978 Regents of the University of California v. Bakke decision who found that “diversity is a compelling state interest” essential to the university’s mission. Writing for the narrow 5-4 Grutter majority, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor focused on the concept of “critical mass” in summarizing the positive impact of diversity at the University of Michigan’s Law School. She noted the effects of diversity on learning outcomes and the preparation of students for a diverse workforce, society, and legal profession:

But the Law School defines its critical mass concept by reference to the substantial, important, and laudable educational benefits that diversity is designed to produce, including cross-racial understanding and the breaking down of racial stereotypes.

The crux of the issue in Fisher relates to critical mass. How is it defined? How will we know when we reach it? What benefits derive from it? We have seen the concept of critical mass in the research literature as it refers to a substantial presence of women and minorities on campus. It refers to the sufficient presence of underrepresented groups to be able to overcome isolation, defeat stereotypes, and provide a welcoming atmosphere for diversity.

The concept of critical mass is a qualitative rather than a quantitative concept. Yet justices sympathetic to Fisher have been asking for quantification of the attainment of critical mass, even though quotas are not permitted under prior judicial rulings. Chief Justice Roberts repeatedly questioned Gregory Garre, the lawyer for the University of Texas asking: “What is that number? What is the critical mass of Hispanics and African Americans at the university that you are working toward?” When Garre argued that the school did not have a specific point of critical mass and would make this determination, Roberts responded, “So I see, when you tell me, then it’s enough.”

From this perspective, the responses of the college and university presidents to the Inside Higher Ed Survey do not appear to be “out of step” with the American public. Rather these responses reflect a very real awareness of the complexities and nuances relating to the implementation of affirmative action in admissions processes. Support for affirmative action was strongest among presidents of public master’s (81%) and public doctoral universities (80%). In Alvin Evans’ and my review of institutional diversity plans in Are the Walls Really Down? Behavioral and Organizational Barriers to Diversity , we found that public universities have been in the forefront in the development of institutional diversity plans, perhaps due to their legal reporting requirements, size, resources, and requirements for public accountability.

Although the outcome of Fisher v. Texas remains uncertain, the fact that numerous legal briefs have been filed by associations and groups asserting that curtailing affirmative action would hurt the quality of the education students receive is promising. The voices of educational leaders, professional associations, and scholars are critical in the ongoing debate of how education can continue to serve as the gateway to opportunity and the great equalizer in our richly diverse society.

In the March 8 edition of the Chronicle Review, Brian Rosenberg, president of Macalester College, sums up the importance of presidential voice as “the most influential public voice of the institution”:

I have always believed that courageous views, thoughtfully expressed, are actually less risky than silence in the face of serious wrong. I have spoken out, in my role as president of Macalester College, on many contentious issues, and I have chosen to remain silent on others. What has guided my decision-making, and what I believe guides that of most of my colleagues, is not cowardice or self-interest, but careful judgment about what is in the best interest of the institutions we hold in trust.

Denial is More Than a River: White Privilege and the Power of Denial

Denial… as Bill Watterson has said, “It’s not denial. I’m just selective about the reality I accept.” Well for some in Delavan-Darien, Wisconsin, the river of denial is running as deep and steady as in Egypt (h/t Mark Twain).

 

(Image source)

Seriously though, Delavan-Darien High School was recently under fire by parents who reportedly:

…accused a diversity class of promoting a critical race theory, alleging that students are being taught that minorities are disadvantaged by white oppressors.

Fox news gleefully reported that the class “…exposed students to radical leftist thinkers.” Parents of students at the high school described the curriculum was “indoctrination,” due to the exposure of works by University of Texas professor Robert Jensen, author of The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege and social experiments which required students to participate in critically analyzing the racial composition of dolls on the shelves of a local Wal-mart.

One of the complaining parent said that the reading materials and assigned tasks were…“meant to divide and victimize non-whites and condition whites to feel guilty and to be more passive.” Someone reached out to the (conservative) Young America’s Foundation, which dismissed the class as “race-baiting,” “indoctriniation,” and so much “white guilt.”

The Superintendent Robert Crist deflected the controversy by blaming the class on the youth of the teacher within the course.  He went on to state the course raised “red flags.”  He believes “in helping kids understand the basic objectives of curriculum and not use some radical material to get a student to support some kind of a special theory.” Special he says?  Tell that to the people of color who fell prey to the racial predatory loans (1990s-2000s) that fueled the recent housing crisis. Regardless, currently the class is out of commission and under review by the powers that be within the local school district.

Overall, I feel that a large percentage of governmental and institutional policies and programs enacted today are essentially continuing a legacy of control that benefit the majority—Whites.  This in fact is a legacy many deny even when confronted with surmounting evidence that affirms otherwise.  But then again, why admit transgressions when the strengthen efforts to continue the heritage of oppression endured by people of color subsequently benefits them—the elite proprietors of money, power, and resources within this country.  Within this setting they continue to hold the reins of supremacy over the marginalized and less fortunate.  Their influence and direction set the rhythm for those on the outside of their inner circle to dance to.  They determine who is worthy of their attention and admiration and those who are to be ignored and detested.  They determine those who should be considered safe and those who should be seen as dangerous.  They have the power to influence the minds of those here and abroad.

In the general public when discussing the pains of racism today, I have heard the uttered words, “Come on, get over it.  It is in the past and has no significance in a country where a Black man can be elected President of the United States.”  Sociologist Bonilla-Silva describes this attitude as “color blind racism.”  He observes that Whites, collectively, have:

“…developed powerful explanations — which have ultimately become justification — for contemporary racial inequality that exculpate them from any responsibility for the status of people of color.”

This subsequently occurs due to the fact that in general, many Whites and Blacks perceive the idea of racism much differently. First, Whites distinguish racism as acts that are founded within the notion of prejudice. Secondly, people of color, such as Blacks observe racism as “systemic or institutionalized.”

I hold fast to the certainty that racism cannot be quantified into simple attitudes or acts of prejudice directed toward a person or group of people, but forever unremitting and replicated within in our society within an array of systems and institutions. Hence, it would not be hard to arrive at the conclusion that racism is an immortal ideological symbiote that has latched upon the psyche of the world’s consciousness.  Furthermore, those affected and suffer from colorblind racism bears a lack of comprehension in relation to the continued hold racism and oppression has on all major systems and institutions.

In other words…White Privilege…

The Segregation of Seattle’s John Stanford “International” School

About 15 years ago, John Stanford became head of Seattle Public Schools. He had a vision. Recognizing the demands of a global economy and an increasingly diverse student body, he proposed an international language school. Key components included: proficiency in English and at least one other language, global perspectives infused into all areas of study (rather than being “add-ons”), and partnerships with parents, community leaders, and international sister schools. His vision led to Seattle creating a network of international schools, featuring immersion programs and curriculum that prepare students to be globally competent in the 21st century. The first, John Stanford International School (elementary), opened in 2000 with two immersion tracks, Japanese-English and Spanish-English.

 

International public schools, now seen across the nation, are a huge departure from trends of the recent past which discouraged multilingual learning based on the assumption that it would be confusing for young children. Implicit in this assumption was an insidious message about assimilation to mainstream culture through fluency in English and abandonment of native tongues. Immigrant parents were led to believe their children would suffer, be slow, or “dumber” than their monolingual counterparts. Many Americans today are all too familiar with our history of educational pressure to conform, and can easily recount personal and painful stories about loss of heritage language and access to culture.

Research on dual language development has grown substantially since the 1970s. We now know there are actually many cognitive benefits for young children simultaneously exposed to more than one language. These children have greater brain activity and denser tissue in areas related to memory, attention, and language. They have performed better on measures of analytical ability, concept formation, cognitive flexibility, and metalinguistic skills. Evidence also suggests that children who continue to learn academic concepts in their native language while gradually learning English outperform academically and socially children who are immersed in English-only programs.

So, did John Stanford lay the foundation for global elementary education in Seattle? Not quite. In her long awaited second book Can We Talk About Race? Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D., alarmingly spotlights the slow resegregation of our nation’s schools over the last decade. She shows how a series of recent legislations reverting school assignments to neighborhood have led to the undoing of much achieved by Brown v. Board of Education. Given that much of the U.S. is still severely divided across racial lines when it comes to housing, schools have naturally fallen back into segregated patterns.

Seattle is no exception. After a decade of other unsuccessful efforts to desegregate its schools, Seattle School District instituted mandatory busing in 1977. reaching its racial-enrollment goals 3 yrs later. However the District ended busing in 1989 and the racial balance at Seattle schools began to unravel. In 2007 Seattle parents played a pivotal role in legislative resegregation in the Supreme Court case Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No.1. The Court prohibited assigning students to public schools solely for the purpose of achieving racial integration and declined to recognize racial balancing as a compelling state interest. For years, Seattle parents had been given wide latitude to pick and choose schools for their children. In June 2009 however, Seattle Public Schools adopted a new student assignment plan reverting to a community-based approach, sending students to schools closest to home. The plan was phased in from 2010-2011.

2010 Census results indicated that more than a third of Seattle residents were persons of color. This population grew 26% from 1990-2000, and 32% from 2000-2010. The largest non-White racial group in Seattle is Asian and Pacific Islander living predominantly in the South end (International District, Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill) and outside the city in parts of Bellevue, Redmond, Kent, Bothell, Auburn, SeaTac and Maple Valley. Despite these statistics, John Stanford’s visionary first International School and Japanese immersion program, is located in North Seattle, Wallingford. A predominantly White neighborhood. Originally parents from all over the city could apply to John Stanford. Children with Japanese heritage were given priority.

But since the district reverted to neighborhood assignment, only students within the assignment zone may attend. According to the School District’s own annual reports (before 2010) and school reports (2010-), while John Stanford’s Asian student body remained constant at about 23% from 2004-2010, its White student body grew from 41% in 2004 to 56% in 2009/10. When the neighborhood school assignment was phased in from 2010-2011, John Stanford’s White student body jumped up to 61% while it’s Asian student body dropped to 13% (though 10% newly identified as multiracial and some may have been part Asian). This racial demographic shift certainly doesn’t reflect what is happening in the city at large. When I called the school to confirm, an impatient woman curtly told me that the drop in Asian attendees was not true and that the school had just added a kindergarten class. When I told her my own son has Japanese heritage and I was interested to apply, she told me I couldn’t because we didn’t live in the zone.

Is John Stanford International School teaching students to be globally competent in the 21st century? Or is it teaching them racial exclusion and preferences of old?

Sharon Chang’s great blog is here.

Mocking Mexican Americans: Young White Women

In this week’s edition of Inside Higher Education, Scott Jaschik reports on a picture taken of a group of Penn State Chi Omega sorority sisters mocking Mexicans. It is offensive enough that the picture depicts the group dressed in spaghetti western attire, but even more despicable are the signs featured in the picture:

“Will mow lawn for weed and beer” and “I don’t cut grass, I smoke it.”

What does this say about the collective views this group has of Mexicans? We have expectations about where certain groups belong based on generations of ethnic and racial stereotypes and societal stratification that are illustrated in this example. These views not only shape our expectations about one another, but also impact the way we treat each another.

For example, Washington State Supreme Court Justice Steven Gonzalez writes about the experience of being mistaken as a criminal defendant in a federal courthouse. He states:

Let me mention for example attorneys of color who are sometimes in criminal cases mistaken for the defendant by the participants. How do we respond to that? Sometimes we are overly formal, by making sure that we’re dressed particularly well and that our speech is particularly professional, just to let people know who we are because we’re not always given the benefit of the doubt. I remember when I was a federal prosecutor I was traveling with my wife to Texas and we went to the federal courthouse in Laredo, Texas. I was curious, I thought I’m part of the federal family, so I’m going to go in and see what a different federal courthouse looks like. When I went into the courthouse I started getting tailed by security; they followed me through the courthouse, and when I walked into a courtroom the clerk said, “Defendants sit to the left.” That was the first thing she said to me as I walked in. And I realized that out of my suit, I looked to them like a suspicious person or a defendant in that context.

(soon available here)

Being out of his suit is only part of the story. The other part is the fact that there are negative stereotypes about Mexicans and Mexican Americans that follow us wherever we go. Latino professionals universally encounter these challenges as I highlighted in my book on Latino lawyers. The notion that we should be mowing lawns, drinking a beer (presumably under a cactus), or working as maids/custodians has certainly impacted my life both personally and professionally. The impact of the views represented by the Chi Omega sorority picture penetrate into all aspects of Latinos’ lives and certainly bring to mind many memories of my own experiences.

Some of mine include being asked for a my social security card during a routine traffic stop for speeding (it took me years to stop carrying my social security card), or being asked for a “green card and an ID” before being allowed to go into a club or being asked rather aggressively by an older woman at a health club I used to belong in, to bring her some water while I was sitting down on a bench waiting for my daughter to finish tennis lessons. (The coach teaching the lessons recognized what was going on before I did and turned to the woman after she’d asked me for water for the third time and tells her he’ll get it for her when he was done giving his lesson). These examples pale in comparison to the examples I’ve experienced as a professor. I am not alone. It has been recently documented in a book on academic women of color, Presumed Incompetent that cover topics from campus climate to tenure and promotion as experienced by female faculty of color.

At the heart of all these examples is the way Latinos continue to be stereotyped by others as so grossly illustrated in the Penn State Chi Omega sorority example.