NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Is "Diversity" A Smoke Screen For Racial Quotas?

November 24, 1998

Judges are reportedly taking an increasingly dim view of the argument that the goal of diversity in schools justifies the use of preferential quotas.

  • Last week, the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a complicated quota admissions plan used by the public Boston Latin School, which had resulted in a qualified 15-year-old white girl being denied admission in favor of lower-scoring black and Hispanic students.
  • Observers trace the diversity argument to a decision by the late Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell which suggested that "intellectual diversity" was an accepted rationale for considering race in admissions -- even though "racial diversity" was not.
  • A U.S. district judge had earlier cited Powell's justification in upholding the policy of the school to reserve its first 45 seats without regard to race, but allocate the remaining 45 according to a quota based on the ethnic composition of the applicant pool.
  • Legal scholars say the Appeals Court's decision makes it clear that school officials lack the authority to assign students by race solely to achieve a desired racial mix.

The Center for Individual Rights is pressing cases against the University of Washington and the University of Michigan from which it hopes the courts will make clear that like secondary schools, colleges and universities may no longer rely on "diversity" to justify racial preferences.

Source: Terence J. Pell (Center for Individual Rights), "Does 'Diversity' Justify Quotas? The Courts Say No," Wall Street Journal, November 24, 1998.


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