Against Affirmative Action at Fredonia
February 1, 2006
by Stephen Kershnar
AGAINST AFFIRMATIVE ACTION AT FREDONIA
Members of the Fredonia community should be opposed to current attempts to diversify the SUNY Fredonia campus. Those who want to promote diversity usually want two things. First, they want a greater number of racial and ethnic minorities (usually blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans) and, in some cases, women. Second, this is to be done by lowering the standards for hiring and admission.
The reason these policies are a bad idea is that they sacrifice merit. Consider preferential treatment at competitive schools. When it comes to student performance at the competitive schools, the average black student ranks in the 23d percentile of the class and the average Hispanic ranked in the 35th percentile. Hence, replacing a black or Hispanic student admitted under these admission practices with one admitted without regard to race or ethnicity would likely produce a considerably better student. It gets worse. Further evidence that at elite schools black students perform less well than their likely replacement is that they drop out at twice and sometimes three times the rate of white students. This effect is also present in a broader array of colleges and universities. This is in part due to the lowering of standards for these groups.
Nor is there any clear benefit for white and Asian students from the lowered standards. From what I understand about the data, the studies do not indicate that majority students learn more academically when the beneficiaries of preferential treatment are put in their classroom.
Hence, preferential treatment likely leads to weaker students. A similar pattern can reasonably be expected with regard to faculty and staff. These effects are hardly surprising. If a liberal NBA team hired Jewish and Asian players despite their lowered abilities, it would hardly surprise anyone if these players were on average weak and if they hurt the team.
The proponents of affirmative action usually cite a list of benefits that they think warrant the presence of otherwise weaker students and faculty. Specifically, they claim that the programs produce role models, introduce new ideas, dispel stereotypes, promote integration, and equalize opportunity and wealth. The opponents claim that such programs increase resentment in more qualified individuals, reinforce stereotypes, balkanize the population, and cost money. It’s worth considering the last factor. Last year the combined salaries of the offices of affirmative action, multicultural affairs, and educational development program at SUNY Fredonia exceeded $260,000, although to be fair it’s not clear that all of this spending was related to diversity-related concerns. It’s hard to believe that this money couldn’t have been better spent on hiring more faculty or attracting talented students. The proponents need evidence that diversity will produce the promised benefits. Other than a bunch of anecdotes, they don’t have any. Let us, however, imagine that they did. What evidence do they have that the benefits outweigh the merit-related losses such as efficiency? None. When we choose a surgeon or lawyer we want the best we can get. We should choose faculty and students in the same way.