The Damaging Fraud of ACA-5

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Sather Tower rises above the University of California at Berkeley. (Noah Berger/Reuters)

California’s progressives are determined to legalize racial discrimination in college admissions by passing ACA-5, which overturns Prop 209 forbidding such discrimination. Their purported reason for doing so is to increase “underrepresented group enrollment.” The “underrepresented” groups are black and Hispanic students. The campaign to pass ACA-5 will, therefore, focus considerable attention on the alleged benefits of racial preferences in college admissions to black and Hispanic students.

Even if one accepts the proposition that the state should be permitted to engage in racial discrimination in college admissions, an increasing number of studies show that racial preferences actually harm their intended beneficiaries. Black and Hispanic students admitted to colleges for reasons of racial preference are, as I have noted previously, far more likely to flunk out or rank at the bottom of their respective classes than their white and Asian comparatives. This is particularly true in science, technology, engineering, math, and law.

The phenomenon is due in large part to what Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor call the “mismatch effect.” The GPAs and SAT scores of black and Hispanic students admitted due to affirmative action are dramatically lower than their white and Asian comparatives, leading to profound performance disparities between the former and latter cohorts. These disparities result in these students being significantly more likely to cluster in the bottom quartile of their respective classes and drop out entirely. In contrast, with race-blind admissions, black and Hispanic students are more likely to enroll at schools that are a more appropriate competitive match, thereby increasing the probability of graduation.

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ACA-5 is a toxic two-fer: It legalizes the odious practice of racial discrimination and hurts even the alleged “beneficiaries” of such discrimination. The only group it benefits are the charlatans of identity politics.

Peter Kirsanow — Peter N. Kirsanow is an attorney and a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

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