Published: Nov 03, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Oct 30, 2012 04:00 PM
Bob Wilson’s recent column “Affirmative Action: a Cure as Bad as the Disease” (DN, Oct. 14, http://bit.ly/TSqhts) is laced with the type of rhetoric that has long hidden the truth behind the need for affirmative action. People like Wilson are convinced the policy amounts to no more than special privilege given based on race. There are special privileges in higher education, but the advantages are given to the rich.
Wilson used his column space to disparage Duke University President Dick Brodhead for two incidents he claims prevented Duke from stepping into the “glow of a post-racial society”. He begins by ranting about how racial preferences are demeaning to blacks and offensive to others.
Wilson then uses his two examples to prove Brodhead deserves a serious talk from the board of trustees. His reasoning left me wondering what the one has to do with the other when it comes to the matter of affirmative action.
Wilson implores the example of Crystal Gail Mangum, the notorious exotic dancer who accused members of the lacrosse team of rape, as evidence that Brodhead has a propensity to side with black people who need to be reminded of their proper place.
It’s baffling that Wilson would use this case to engage in a conversation regarding diversity in education. Mangum’s actions have no bearing on the question on academic performance at Duke, and the 88 faculty members who Wilson states “threw the lacrosse players onto the third rail,” should be commended for having the guts to speak up during a time of hostility based on a culture of insensitivity at Duke. We are quick to forget people were ready to burn the school to the ground.
Wilson continues his unfounded assault of affirmative action by claiming Brodhead sacrificed economic professor Peter Arcidiacono after the release of his controversial unpublished paper on black enrollment at Duke. Arcidiacono’s data asserted that black students at Duke migrated to academic majors less challenging than those they sought to pursue when they enrolled. Wilson assumes this study affirms affirmative action is no more than a system that offers space to those devoid of the credentials needed to succeed at schools like Duke.
Wilson failed to mention that Brodhead remained silent during the release of a study by Nathan D. Martin, a graduate student at Duke, and Kenneth I. Spenner, a professor of sociology at Duke, in 2006. The study uncovered Duke’s legacy students, a group that collectively have lower-than-expected grades during freshman year, lower SAT scores and do not choose to major in the natural sciences or engineering.
Legacy students are granted admission preferences due to being children of alumni. In many cases at Duke, they are students coming from a family able to make a sizable donation.
Duke’s policy of offering special treatment to the rich is mentioned in Daniel Golden’s book “The Price of Admission: How America’ Ruling Class Buys its Way into Elite Colleges – and Who Gets Left Outside the Gate.” The book highlights socioeconomic data that shows how “an admissions preference for legacies clearly ‘advantages the advantaged.” The book alleges that Duke encouraged “development admits” – students whose academic credentials wouldn’t get them in but who were attractive due to the donating potential of their family.
Wilson notes the case before the U.S. Supreme Court as an opportunity to undo “reverse discrimination.” Wilson fails to get it. Affirmative action was implemented to minimize the advantages offered those who are white and reap benefits due to class.
Given that class privilege is closely tied to white privilege, it’s imperative that systems remain to secure the goal of diversity. If the Supreme Court wants to consider an unfair system, take a serious look at legacy programs and how they impact people like the white female denied admission at the University of Texas.
If blacks shouldn’t be allowed in because of race, then the wealthy shouldn’t be allowed in due to privilege.
Contact Carl Kenney at firstname.lastname@example.org
and read his blog at http://rev-elution.blogspot.com/