NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 5, 2007

Columbia University President Lee Bollinger recently admonished voters in California and Michigan for abolishing affirmative action programs and not promoting diversity on campus.  He was wrong to do so, says Dinesh D'Souza, the Rishwain fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Consider two scenarios for the University of California at Berkeley or the University of California, Los Angeles:

  • In the first, the campus is 45 percent Asian, 48 percent white, 4 percent Hispanic and 3 percent black.
  • In the second, the campus is 30 percent Asian, 55 percent white, 7 percent Hispanic, and 8 percent black.
  • The difference is that the first scenario is produced by merit, and is a pretty good picture of what Berkeley and UCLA look like now.
  • The second scenario is produced by racial preferences; it represents socially-engineered diversity -- it is how Berkeley and UCLA used to look in the era of racial preferences.

The advantage of natural diversity is that it achieves its goal without sacrificing merit. The disadvantage of socially-engineered diversity is twofold, says D'Souza:

  • First, it is unfair to qualified students who are denied admission; if you want to raise the proportion of under-represented groups, you have to lower the proportion of over-represented groups.
  • The second disadvantage of ethnic and racial preferences is that they often hurt the students they seek to help by putting them into competition with students against whom they are mismatched.
  • California's public universities, for example, had scandalous black and Hispanic dropout rates in the era of affirmative action.

While diversity is good for higher education, the issue raised by affirmative action is not one of "diversity" versus "no diversity," says D'Souza.  It is a matter of the natural diversity produced by talent and hard work, versus socially engineered diversity.

Source: Dinesh D'Souza, "Why Diversity Doesn't Matter,", June 5, 2007.


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