and it isn’t who you might think. About 15% of the freshman slots at the nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher education are going to students who do not meet the institutional criteria for admission – specifically, athletes and legacy admits, the bulk of whom are white.
Consistency time. I’m opposed to strong (quota-based/preferential) affirmative action. This is no better – worse, in fact, since at least preferential AA can be plausibly motivated by a desire to help people who are behind the eight-ball. Admitting unqualified students to boost a sports team or placate donors is cronyism and hypocrisy.
It’s bogus either way. If the institution is going to have standards-based admissions, then publish the standards and admit students who reach them – and nobody else. No more preferential AA – not for the “disadvantaged” sons of upper-class blacks, not for the genuinely disadvantaged in the slums, not for the talented but dim football star, not for the well-connected scion of privilege.
Admit by merit – or acknowledge that the institution is not interested in merit, and has some other agenda in mind.
A fair liberal (or conservative, for that matter) might then ask, “ok, but then how do you help the genuinely disadvantaged?”
My answer is, by providing a first-rate education to every student who wants one in the primary and secondary grades, ensuring that the disadvantaged have a shot at learning things of value and increasing their human capital. And then create scholarships for the poor – of whatever “race” – but worthy student. Not perfect, but it gets us 80% of the way there without hurting anyone at all – a Pareto optimal situation, or close to one.
(I have an old friend on a discussion list who is an absolutely devastatingly good scholar on proving that Pareto optimality never really happens, in the service of arguing against the unbridled market’s efficiency. She’s right; it almost never does. But we very often get what I’d call a “Pareto good enough” – a situation where there’s a big benefit and most people aren’t hurt by it.)
In the case of affirmative action of the preferential variety, there is a definite benefit. Though we may quarrel about the existence and magnitude of the ratchet effect, I agree with liberals that strong affirmative action does help the people it is designed to help, overall. Unfortunately the negatives to specific people are large enough, I think, to break even my relaxed standards for Pareto goodness.