Friday, September 30, 2011


Race-based admission to universities

This morning (Friday, September 30, 2011) I listened to a part of the Larry Mantle AirTalk program on KPCC in Pasadena. The topic was using race as a factor in admitting applicants to public universities. When I turned on the program one caller was arguing that admitting an applicant on the basis of race means denying another applicant who may be (or probably is) better qualified. A few minutes later Larry’s guest, Ward Connerly came on to state his position and personal history. Mr. Connerly has been a vocal critic of any use of race in choosing applicants to public universities.

I’m not prepared to argue for or against using race in choosing applicants to public universities, such as the University of California. Instead, after thinking about the caller who argued against any race-based criterion for admission because it would entail qualified candidates being excluded, I concluded that the argument is pointless. Whether or not race is a factor in choosing whom to admit and whom not to admit, the mere fact that university facilities are limited implies that some qualified applicants are going to be denied admission. The only way to make sure that no qualified applicant is turned down is to admit all applicants, and do whatever is necessary to create places for them.

I have heard Mr. Connerly express his dislike for race-based criteria for admission to public universities many times. I don’t recall that he has used the argument about the qualified student being excluded to make room for the minority applicant. He has argued that admitting a student simply because of his race tends to reinforce any feeling the student might have about his or her own inadequacy. That is, a minority student can’t be proud of being admitted just because he or she is a minority. A student likes to believe that he or she really has a superior intellect and rightfully deserves a place in the university student body.  At least that's one argument Mr. Connerly has used.
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