Affirmative Action at Harvard

Alan Dershowitz recently penned a piece in The Wall Street Journal on Affirmative Action.

Alan Dershowitz, the constitutional law scholar and professor emeritus of Harvard Law School who sure does love to see his mug on TV, recently penned an editorial for The Wall Street Journal calling for an end to the consideration of race in Harvard’s admissions process. As Dershowitz points out, the United States Supreme Court will be rendering a verdict in its next term on the Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College case in which the legality of Affirmative Action will be decided. And, as he points out, it is expected that the court will rule against Harvard. While many believe the decision will be 6-2 (Justice Brown Jackson has recused herself from hearing the case), we believe the decision will be 5-3 with Chief Justice Roberts crossing sides to join his liberal colleagues. Either way, we don’t see how Affirmative Action will withstand the Supreme Court challenge. But, that being said, Dershowitz’s argument that the end of Affirmative Action will bring about a meritocracy in elite college admissions is deeply flawed.

As he writes in his piece entitled “Harvard Needs Merit-Based Admissions,” “The time has come, however, for universities to abandon their efforts to achieve superficial, artificial diversity based on race. The coming decision would provide American schools with an opportunity to develop admission criteria based on academic achievement and potential—while abolishing such non-merit-based criteria as legacy status, athletics, geography and other nonacademic preferences. There would be resistance to getting rid of these advantages, but it could be done.”

Earth to Alan Dershowitz, but what are you talking about? Maybe you had too much time in the sun with your old pal Jeffrey Epstein on his island in the Caribbean? In any case, the elimination of Affirmative Action will not spell the end of the preferential treatment in admissions offered to legacy candidates. It will not spell the end of the preferential treatment in admissions offered to recruited athletes. It will not spell the end of the preferential treatment in admissions offered to students from underrepresented areas. Why would eliminating Affirmative Action provide “an opportunity” to eliminate legacy admission or the admission of recruited athletes? What does this have to do with the price of tea in China, Alan?

The topic of Affirmative Action always inspires lots of comments — particularly from our more conservative readers. We’ll publish your comments, whether we agree or disagree with them, so long as you keep them cordial. So post away!


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  • Marc Loftus, Esq. says:

    You seem to insinuate because athletic teams and legacies are largely white- no other whites deserve to be admitted- because they filled up their quota! Athletics is merit-based and non whites do not really have much enthusiasm for sports, not because of any discrimination. But at the same time- middle class midwestern Irish or Notheastern Jewish applicants should not be discriminated against and they are. Dershowitz is great. Im proud he is one if the tribe. If Ivies want to eliminate sports- which they seem to have anathema for anyway- do it! They are obviously scared to eliminate sports but not to eliminate every white applicant in the world other than athletes and legacies.

  • AJ Crumpert says:

    Anyone who is walking around an Ivy League campus realizes it’s not representative of America at all- its racially imbalanced in favor of women and minorities. America is about 60% white at least but it’s more like about 25% white on Ivy campuses. American Blacks are WAY underrepresented, Asians WAY OVER. You seem to complain about this inequity on the athletic field, but not the classroom. Why? What’s the difference if merit is supposed to BE merit?

  • ContentOfCharacter says:

    re: “Why would eliminating Affirmative Action provide “an opportunity” to eliminate legacy admission or the admission of recruited athletes? What does this have to do with the price of tea in China, Alan?”

    At least that quote highlights the phrase “an opportunity”: while the rest of your post seems to be implying he guarantees it’ll happen rather than merely the reality that it provides an *opportunity* for it to happen. Why? Because any major restructuring of a process provides the opportunity to fix multiple things wrong with that process at once. Whether or not the opportunity is taken is a different story.

    If the restructuring is focused on meritocracy: it seems a perfect time to argue for the elimination of every admissions criteria that is obviously not even arguably related to academic merit. This post doesn’t seem to provide any actual argument against his comments. His point might be wrong: but if so it’d seem appropriate to explain *why* the reformation process couldn’t possibly go the way he wishes.

    In actuality this posts seems more an attempt to disparage his oped in hopes people won’t notice there wasn’t an actual reasoned argument against it: or worse that the author doesn’t notice the lack of reasoned argument due to emotions clouding judgement. Alternatively it may suggest a lack of understanding of it. Sometimes those who hold a position emotionally do indeed struggle with grasping a point made from someone from a different “tribe”. If you don’t grasp his argument then I’d suggest asking for help to understand it since it seems rather straightforward.

    re: “We’ll publish your comments, whether we agree or disagree with them”.

    That remains to be seen. I’d posted a comment on another article on this topic that had suggested the author didn’t grasp the basic comment of a “zero sum” game and wasn’t making a rational argument. I suspect it never appeared due to whatever moderator disagreeing with it. Those from fields with a heavy background in math and logic tend to have negative reactions to opinion pieces that seem to ignore simple basic logic. If you believe in affirmative action: argue for that using logic: not by pretending that somehow admitting changing the rules to admit a student from group A doesn’t necessarily mean a student from group B isn’t admitted. Unless the numbers admitted change: favoring one group automatically means disfavoring another, even if people wish to try to obfuscate and gloss over it.

  • ContentOfCharacter says:

    re: “inspires lots of comments — particularly from our more conservative readers. ”

    I should note that: not everyone who critiques your views on affirmative action is “conservative”. Many liberals and classical liberals (aka libertarians) value Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a society that makes decisions based on the content of character rather than superficial things like race. If someone is poor for instance: that is an attribute independent of race. Judge based on relevant attributes as opposed to irrelevant superficial ones.

    Treat people as individuals: rather than focusing on group characteristics. There are studies showing that “pretty privilege” outweighs any claimed privilege based on race: many wealthy attractive black people that arguably have far more privilege than some white people.

    Many liberals view decisions made based on race as by definition racist: even if they grasp the decision is supposedly being made for “good” reasons as opposed to what would be claimed to be “bad” reasons for making racist decisions. If there are problems with the numbers of qualified applicants from particular groups due to racism influencing K-12 education: they view the answer is to tackle any discrimination there: rather than adding counterbalancing discrimination later on. They question whether “discrimination in a good cause” won’t merely cause the problem it has: making some group feel discriminated against in this arena: even if they aren’t in other aspects of life. Again: its a zero sum game, favoring one group necessarily disfavors and discriminates against another.

  • ContentOfCharacter says:

    On the topic of this page which doesn’t even attempt to make an argument, prof. Michael Munger of Duke wrote a good essay explaining that the higher ed political bubble leads to students who don’t learn how to make actual logical arguments:

    “Our higher education system fails leftist students…
    So, the absence, in many departments, of dissenting voices is harmful. Not so much harmful to those who would agree with the dissenting voice, but those who are denied the chance to collide with error.”

    Many liberals have empathy when they encounter a student who didn’t get into a college apparently due to discrimination. Many are enlightened enough to have that empathy regardless of the race of the child: even if its a white male. They grasp that its not that child’s fault if there was any sort of past discrimination against other people. They wonder why the child should be punished for the sins of their ancestors (or in many cases: no one who was an ancestor).

    Its not their fault for having been born the wrong race leading to bean counters to decide what they think is “right” based on harm to *others* in the past. Punishing these children: rather than solely focusing on merit, seems based on vengeance against those they happen to look like rather than “justice”.

  • Steve Israel says:

    @ContentofCharacter. SO MANY agree wholeheartedly with you, including me. And I am a member of what traditionally was a discriminated group When this country is filled with more races than the world itself, seemingly, and there are cries of discrimination against someone bad on race or gender, etc.. everyone knows it is all BS. There is NO discrimination in USA against ANYONE BUT white males. Every business and every school is trampling over white Maes to admit blacks, latinos, gays and transgenders. It’s the new ‘replacement agenda’ that everyone on the left says is paranoia and racist too. They don’t want to debate that ever. Why? BECAUSE Anything that does not advance Communism, multiculturalism or LGBTQ is immediately branded as ‘Racist’ by the left to kill off opposition. Ivy Coach is usually pro-free speech but they censor a lot too, either parts-of or entire posts.

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