December 12, 2015

Another Tilt at the Diversity Windmill

President Gregory L. Fenves of the University of Texas at Austin implicitly accuses California and Michigan Universities of producing inferior educational outcomes. He is certain it must be so "after those states barred the consideration of race in admissions." (Wall Street Journal, "Safeguarding Student Diversity" Dec. 9, 2015)

Does real data support his accusation? There is no indication it will be presented to the Supreme Court. On Dec. 10, WSJ reported the second Supreme Court trial of UT's admissions practices "mired in factual questions," and Justice Kennedy lamenting "We're just arguing the same case." Perhaps that is because, in the original trial, the justices accepted on faith UT's assertion that it had a compelling educational interest in student body racial diversity.

Legal arguments should rest on solid factual data, not mere visceral opinions. Student body diversity can be measured, as can educational outcomes. Correlations, if any, should be calculated by statisticians. If a correlation is found, further analysis is necessary to establish causality.

An admissions policy that maximizes educational outcomes must first identify and consider as many causal correlates as possible. One obvious candidate, never discussed by University administrators, is intellectual diversity of faculty and staff. Any attempt to craft a narrow, last-resort race-based admissions criteria must necessarily rely on such data, and demonstrate that race is an indispensable causal correlate.