The University Record, February 25, 1997

FACULTY PERSPECTIVES

 

Editors Note: Affirmative action is multifaceted. It prompts diverse viewpoints because it envelops numerous concerns and core values. Here are two perspectives.

 

The Michigan Mandate: Up, down or sideways?

By T.M. Dunn
Professor of Chemistry

 

The following comments must be read as being mine alone, in that they have not been discussed by SACUA.

Most faculty members are already aware of the action taken by the Regents of the University of California on July 20, 1995, in which they voted to end affirmative action in admissions, hiring and the awarding of contracts. Also, in early 1996, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled that the University of Texas may not consider race as a factor in its Law School admissions policies. These two actions, when added to the earlier ruling in the Bakke case, have focused a great deal of attention on the status and future of affirmative action.

Following the "Hopwood" ruling some important statements were made by the presidents of three major private universities, viz Rudenstine of Harvard, Shapiro of Princeton and Casper of Stanford, each supporting strongly the aims and objectives---and mostly, the methods and results---of affirmative action programs over the past 30 years, at least as they applied to the admissions policies of their universities.

It is interesting to reflect upon these statements and to ask why these university presidents felt it necessary to affirm the value of something that was being overruled in the courts, particularly since those edicts do not apply to their private schools. As Casper expressed it: "As we look for the leaders of tomorrow, if all we considered were capacities measurable on a scale, without taking into consideration the aspects of `being deserving and exceptional,' we would be betraying the Founders .... We do not admit minorities to do them a favor. We want students from a variety of backgrounds to help fulfill our educational responsibilities."

And Shapiro: "Since I believe it is essential to our common sense of humanity, to the effective functioning of our democratic institutions and to America's continued cultural and economic leadership that we achieve as full a degree of participation as possible, I believe we should make every effort to eliminate any social, cultural or economic impediments to this goal (including gender, ethnic, religious and racial biases)." And Rudenstine: "I do not believe we can solve the persistent dilemma of race or ethnicity in American life simply by stating that we live---or have a right to live---in a society where these characteristics have ceased to be significant. Our hope for progress lies in gradually narrowing the real gaps that continue to exist among many people of different races. That can be done only by creating fruitful ways of bringing people together---at the very best by educating them together."

The Michigan Mandate was instituted by President Duderstadt in 1988 but, apart from discussions with individual faculty members, it was never presented to the Faculty Senate or to its representative body, the Senate Assembly. I believe that it is time for us, the faculty, to confront the issues which surround affirmative action and the Michigan Mandate and to move, by consensus, to a faculty resolution as to the future of such initiatives.

Last April, the Senate Assembly passed a resolution affirming the value of diversity in the makeup of the faculty and the University at large. However, there was no advice as to how this desirable state might be achieved. It seems appropriate that, particularly on the eve of a new University presidency, this should now be attempted.

Earlier in the academic year, the Regents requested that the Provost consult with each of the schools and colleges to ensure that their affirmative action processes were within the law. He was able to reassure them on this matter at the November 1996 meeting. Following closely upon this, the annual minority faculty numbers were published in early January and these proclaimed an increase of 0.3 percent (from 15.1 percent in 1995 to 15.4 percent in 1996) in total faculty numbers of 3,921. This represents an increase of only 12 individuals in 1996 as well as showing a loss of five tenure track and three lecturers from the African American faculty population alone, yielding a total of 3.85 percent compared with a national average of about 11 percent. Our Native American faculty members also decreased, by 10 percent---from 10 to nine. Should these figures be a cause for concern? I believe that they should, with regard to both recruitment and retention!

We can always find reasons why our recruitment of new faculty, minority and non-minority, has taken the directions which it has, but it is vital to remember that it is not the administration in which the Regents invest the authority to select new faculty or promote them---it is the faculty, and no initiatives for new faculty recruitment CAN succeed if the faculty are not in agreement with them! Some critical questions then, surely are these:

1. Should we, the faculty, be not only supportive but aggressive in the recruitment and retention of underrepresented minority group members?

2. What do we, the faculty, AND the University and the nation at large, stand to gain by bringing these individuals into the academic community?

Let me answer the second question first since I believe that it is the crux of the matter.

It is profitable to reflect that, soon after the year 2000, the groups that make up the minorities in the present population will become the majority but, with our current rate of faculty recruitment, we will have progressed less than half way towards such a composition of the faculty. Why should this concern us?

Surely, one of the most important functions of education at all levels is to open up the prospects of equal opportunity to every segment of the population. In this regard, it is of paramount importance that the tertiary educational system recognize its responsibilities for the preparation of our future social, civic, business and educational leaders, and this, in turn, requires a diverse professoriate. This has nothing to do with the presence of role models! It is only the fact of their presence in significant numbers that will be convincing proof of the absence of discrimination.

In recognizing the errors of the past we need to acknowledge that many people were deprived of the opportunities they should have had to partake fully of the social, economic and educational opportunities from which the majority of people in this country have derived so much happiness, profit and intellectual excitement. The problem, however, is to find ways to remedy the problems that are with us now.

I have to admit that I was originally unconvinced that the civil rights legislation of the 1960s could achieve the kinds of national attitudinal changes concerning racial discrimination they were crafted to accomplish, but I believe, in retrospect, that I had totally left out of my considerations the importance of being required, as a departmental chair, for example, to consider the possible legal consequences of my actions. The legislation certainly had the effect of drawing my attention to the almost complete absence of most minority groups in the faculty at that time.

It is helpful to reflect upon what might have happened had there been no civil rights or affirmative action legislation. I am convinced that although difficult problems remain, without those legislative actions, this nation would have nothing like the degrees of social amity, economic prosperity or educational equality which we have achieved. We have only to observe the social upheavals stretching from African countries to the Middle East and the Balkans, as well as the once powerful USSR to see the results of past minority oppressions and their aspirations that have erupted in the last five years and the directions they have taken. I believe that there have been significant benefits from these civil rights and affirmative action policies. However, we have a long way to go before minorities are represented in numbers that reflect their abilities and their presence in the community at large.

We have arrived at the first question that, of course, applies to all significantly underrepresented minorities, not only African Americans and Native Americans. It might be thought that a special case could be made for these two groups in recognition of the errors of the past, but my case does not rest upon this. Rather, it rests upon the present and the future and not the past. The feature of the African American and Native American groups that draws my special attention is due to the length of time we have had to secure their full inclusion, and how much still remains to be accomplished.

It is too early to guess where the current legal issues on affirmative action will end so I will not attempt to foresee them. I believe that, particularly for higher education, the legal position should be unimportant and that the basic attitudes expressed by Presidents Casper, Shapiro and Rudenstine should be sufficient for us to seriously attack this imbalance in the makeup of our faculties and our student population.

The Senate Assembly has already affirmed the desirability for a diversity of our faculty and our university generally but no consensus emerged during the discussions as to how to proceed. Reading many of the articles written on affirmative action by business and social leaders, as well as higher education, one consistently notes their concern for a leadership pattern which is inclusive of all groups---religious, ethnic, racial, gender and so on. I feel sure that this is a very important factor in the attitudes of many of the university presidents in their support of affirmative action, viz---that they are very aware of the changing demographics and they are determined that their universities will continue to have those leaders among their alumni and alumnae. We, in our turn, can hardly do less!

The issue, then, is that nearly everyone avows the importance of diversity in higher educational faculty, but there are objections from some faculty and some legal rulings against race as a valid basis for affirmative action. However, I do not think that anyone has ever suggested affirmative action based purely upon racial origin but rather, that merit is not a strictly or simply quantifiable characteristic.

As a faculty, we are concerned with the selection, retention and promotion of future and current faculty members. In selecting new faculty we actually base our decisions on many factors. Within every department there are usually many different fields and even within these fields there are choices as to which areas are likely to be most fruitful in the future. Also, to be frank, we now often weigh in heavily in terms of areas described as "fundable" with all of the ambiguities inherent in the values involved.

With all these choices available, we often hire candidates on the basis of a string of assumptions that are not always based upon their individually demonstrated abilities but, rather, on a set of criteria which are often seated in political values more than academic attainment. To be sure, there are cases of such exceptional demonstrated academic abilities that a singular, opportunistic appointment can be achieved, but these represent a small percentage of new appointments, especially at the beginning level. Again, there are certainly cases where the pool is void of minority candidates, but then this may well be a "Catch 22" matter that only time can erase.

What, then, am I advocating with respect to minority recruitment? It is that we must do our best to define our future academic needs in terms that are far broader than we have hitherto been inclined to do, and to recognize, a priori, that the decisions we make DO involve complex social, political and academic motives. The more specialized---or over-specialized---our constraints become, the more unlikely it is that we will attract a diverse group of candidates who will be able to present their own views of the future of the subject. In the broader circumstances I believe that we, the faculty, will be far more open to the nature of the decisions we are making and be more likely to recognize the value of perspectives that minority candidates can bring to the educational profession.

In these terms "affirmative action" represents a state of awareness of the total climate in which our recruitment and promotion decisions are made, rather than viewing them in the more limited dimensionality of our perceived individual subspeciality mandates and their current fundability.

Let us, then, as the people who are invested with the authority to recruit and promote our future and present colleagues, exercise this great responsibility by broadening our understanding of what we are doing every time we engage in this process and strive to enhance our faculty diversity. Only by increasing representation of the widest racial, ethnic, religious, political and gender representatives will we find the kind of unity which all those differences ultimately make possible.

 

 

 

 

Race in University of Michigan admissions

 

By Carl Cohen
Professor of Philosophy

 

 

The role of race in University admissions deserves our thoughtful reconsideration. We all want an admissions system that opens access equally to all, one that yields entering classes with a wide variety of talents and interests while remaining truly fair. These objectives do not require --- nor does law or morality permit --- the outright preferences we now give on the basis of race, or other ethnic categories for which race may here serve as shorthand.

I preface this critique with a personal note: There is no institution in the world, save only my family and my country, that I love more than the University of Michigan, to which I have devoted more than 40 years of my adult life. I have been honored to serve as chairman of our Academic Senate, and as chairman of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. But when this University, of which we are so proud, engages in deliberate discriminatory practices that it seeks to hide and then disguise, we on the faculty are right to be appalled. The motives behind such conduct may be honorable, but worthy aims cannot justify racially discriminatory devices. Racial discrimination is wrong; it always was and it always will be wrong. We are not permitted to dabble in it. Moreover, advantages given to persons of some races but not others do great damage --- to the University as a whole, but especially to those who were supposed to have been helped. In this sphere our proper "goal" is the complete elimination of all preferences by race; the proper "timetable" for the achievement of this goal is now.

Intellectual diversity --- the variety of opinions and perspectives that enrich and invigorate university life --- was recognized (in Regents v. Bakke in 1978) as an important aim. Using skin color as a proxy for intellectual diversity is morally problematic, relying as it does upon stereotypes --- but in any case the intention to use race as a proxy for potential contributions certainly cannot excuse deliberate discrimination by race. Spokespersons for our University, seeking the protection of the Bakke decision by echoing its words, repeatedly say that "we consider race among many other factors." This is true but highly deceptive. We use race in admissions as no other non-intellectual criteria are used. All applicants are classified by race first; we count applicants and acceptances by race at every turn; we establish "affirmative action goals" that can be satisfied only by racial numbers. Our admissions systems are, in sum, thoroughly saturated by racially preferential devices.

Justice Powell made it very clear in Bakke that an admissions system whose focus upon "diversity"
amounts mainly to adjusting the racial proportions of its classes misconceives the diversity of which he was writing. He, the author of the defense of diversity upon which reliance is so commonly placed, declares unequivocally that race-based systems devised to advance racial proportionality are constitutionally invalid on their face.

The continuing unabashed use of ethnic preferences to achieve a higher proportion of one race or another --- success measured by percentage numbers carried to decimals --- is a flagrant violation of the principles laid down in the law of the land; readers who doubt this will receive a copy of the Bakke opinion from me upon request.

In that opinion, Justice Powell rejects the effort to defend the pursuit of racial percentages so long as "goals" but not "quotas" are employed. "This semantic distinction," he writes, "is beside the point." The point, Powell emphasizes in Bakke, is that any admissions device is discriminatory "whether described as a quota or a goal" if it uses "a line drawn on the basis of race and ethnic status." That is the fatal flaw of racial preference, the deliberate use of racial categories for disparate treatment. Moral principles condemn it; and as the Supreme Court of the United States has made perfectly clear, our Constitution and our laws forbid it.

Do we, at this University, draw such racial lines? Do we knowingly discriminate by race? Most certainly we do. The preferences we confer are not merely "plus factors" giving marginal benefit to minority applicants otherwise equal or nearly equal; they are major and systematic discriminatory devices designed to give very substantial advantages to applicants from some racial groups. University of Michigan records obtained using the Freedom of Information Act reveal that what is going on beneath euphemisms and obfuscation is, in a word, shocking. Some illustrations will exhibit the racial mischief we do:

First, the formal, written policies of our admissions system are explicitly discriminatory. In a document headed "Guidelines for All Terms of 1996," prepared by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and marked "Confidential --- Internal Use Only," the responses to be given to applicants on first review are set forth in a grid, whose vertical axis is formed by the several categories of GPAs, and horizontal axis by the several categories of SAT (or ACT) scores. Every applicant falls into one of 90 resultant cells. Within each cell appear instructions regarding the letter of response counselors are directed to send to the applicant; but different instructions appear on two (or three) different lines within each cell, and at the top of the sheet appears this directive: "In General [sic] use the top row in each cell for majority applicants and the middle and bottom rows for underrepresented minorities."[emphasis added] Elsewhere in the document we learn that the phrase "underrepresented minorities" refers, in this document, to "American Indians, Black/African American[s], and Hispanic/Latino American[s]."

How sharply these different responses discriminate by race may be seen from the following two examples among many:

1) Non-minority applicants with GPAs between 3.2-3.3 (B+) and with SAT scores of 1010-1080 (or ACT scores of 22-23) receive on first review the coded classification "R-TST" which results in a response letter coded R, for Reject. Minority applicants with precisely the same academic scores and credentials receive the coded classification A . . ACSP, which results in a response letter coded A, signifying Admit. Is this, or is it not, outright discrimination by race?

2) Non-minority applicants to the highly prized Premedical-Medical Program, INTEFLEX, are classified on first review A-INT (Admit) only if they have a GPA of 3.8 (out-of state) or 3.6 (in-state) and SAT scores of 1320+ or ACT scores of 30+. Minority applicants to the same INTEFLEX program are classified A-INT with GPA of 3.4 (in-state or out-of-state) and SAT scores of 1170+ or ACT scores of 26+. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 expressly forbids discrimination against any person in the United States "on the ground of race, color, or national origin . . . under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." Do these explicitly different admissions standards by race show, or do they not show, that we are violating that law?

Second, in actual decision-making as well as in formal policy we discriminate by race. This is proved beyond cavil by the numerical results of our admissions process, revealed in official documents from our Law School and Medical School, as well as from Undergraduate Admissions. Reports, again in the form of grids, show for each cell marked off by GPA (vertical axis) and test scores (horizontal axis) how many applicants there were in that cell, and of these how many were offered admission. So the percentage rate of admission for any cell may be readily determined. But separate grids are prepared for Blacks, and for whites, and for those of other ethnic groups, so the rate of admission for any cell or cells may also be calculated by race. Two illustrations of the racial disparities in admission rates disclosed will betoken the scale of our discriminatory practices:

1) A total of 526 applicants for undergraduate admission (according to the data provided for 1994) had GPAs between 2.80-2.99 (B-), and SAT scores of 1100-1390 (or ACT scores of 27-32). Of these, 48 were minorities and 478 were non-minorities. Of the non-minorities in this category, 12% (56) were offered admission. Of the minority applicants in this category, 100% (48) were offered admission. Similar disparities abound. Is this or is it notcompelling evidence of discrimination by race?

2) Law School applicants with GPA between 3.25 and 3.49 (B+), and Law School Aptitude Test (LSAT) scores between 156 and 163 (good but not outstanding), were very numerous in 1995. Of the 238 "Caucasian Americans" in that category only 7 were offered admission, 3%. Of the 17 African American applicants in that category 17 were offered admissions, 100%. Similar disparities abound here too. Is this not ineluctable evidence of racial discrimination practiced by an institution receving Federal financial assistance?

Apparently anomalous admissions are often defended as no more than the result of attending to the merits and special talents of individual applicants. Reasonable people will agree that scores and averages are not the only things that ought to count, and that admissions need not be based entirely upon numerical credentials to be fair. But non-quantitative merits of character and talent are exhibited by individual applicants from every ethnic group; if considered for applicants of one color, fairness requires that they be considered for applicants of every color. The weighing of such individual characteristics, therefore, cannot possibly explain the patterns of racial discrimination that pervade our admissions systems.

If the quest for intellectual diversity cannot justify our racially discriminatory practices, might they be justified as compensation for injuries earlier done? No. A remedy for injury may be given justly only to those who have suffered that injury, not to other persons whose skin is of the same color. Wrongs done to some Blacks (and other minorities) cannot be redressed by giving favor to other Blacks, any more than wrongs done by some whites may be punished by penalizing other whites. Rights are possessed by persons, not by skin color groups. Where a remedy is due, it is due to the person damaged, not the group to which that person belongs.

Moreover, whether some person has in fact been injured in a way that justifies a racial remedy is a matter that does not lie in the competence of the University or its admissions officers to determine. And if some competent court were ever to find that unlawful racial injuries had been inflicted by our University, the authority to fix a compensatory remedy certainly would not rest in our hands. But of course the admission preferences we give were never designed to give remedy; they were designed to achieve racial proportionality.

Racial discrimination having this objective is morally indefensible. It will come to an end before long because most citizens of Michigan, when they learn what we are doing, will not tolerate it. The contrast between our public profession of "commitment to a policy of nondiscrimination," and our knowing but hidden practice of such discrimination, will provoke resentment and hostility gravely damaging to us. If we continue to engage in discriminatory practices, and to seek to deceive the public about them, we will not deserve to be excused.