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Old 01-19-2003, 08:05 AM   #1
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Bush Fights Racism

President Faults Race Preferences as Admission Tool
Thu Jan 16, 3:02 PM ET Add Top Stories - The New York Times to My Yahoo!


By NEIL A. LEWIS The New York Times

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 President Bush (news - web sites) offered a sweeping denunciation of direct preferences for racial minorities in university admissions today and said his administration would file a brief with the Supreme Court urging that the affirmative action admissions policies at the University of Michigan be declared unconstitutional.


"I strongly support diversity of all kinds, including racial diversity in higher education," Mr. Bush said in a nationally televised address. "But the method used by the University of Michigan to achieve this important goal is fundamentally flawed. At their core, the Michigan policies amount to a quota system that unfairly rewards or penalizes prospective students based solely on their race."


In putting himself on the side of three white students who assert they were denied admission to the undergraduate and law programs in favor of less qualified minority candidates, Mr. Bush moved to the front lines of the nation's debate about affirmative action programs.


The president said that while he believed there should be a way to ensure more minority students in universities, programs like the ones at Michigan "create another wrong and thus perpetuate our divisions."


Such programs, he said, "are divisive, unfair and impossible to square with our Constitution."


In a sign of the careful political calibration of his words, the president repeatedly used the term "quotas" to describe Michigan's admissions policy, a word that inevitably draws strong opposition in polls.


The president's decision to intervene in the case was significant because the Bush administration was not legally involved and did not have to take a position.


Despite the broad-gauge language in Mr. Bush's address this evening, the possible scope of the brief that the administration will file with the Supreme Court on Thursday remained unclear.


Shortly after the president spoke, a senior White House official involved in drafting the brief told reporters it would be "very narrowly tailored" to address only the Michigan programs.


The official, who spoke on the condition he not be identified, said the administration's brief would not call for the court to overturn the holding in the landmark 1978 Bakke decision that race could be a factor in university admissions.


When the official was asked whether Mr. Bush and the administration believed race may ever be a factor, he declined to reply directly and said, "We need not address in this case the outer limits of what is constitutional."


The president's statement pleased many in his party's conservative base. Yet it also comes at a time that the Republican Party has been in turmoil over racially charged statements by Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, which may have set back the party's efforts to increase its appeal to minority voters. Democrats were quick to denounce the administration's position on affirmative action and portray it as a true measure of Mr. Bush and his party.


Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the minority leader, was one of several Democrats who said the president's approach to the University of Michigan should be viewed as a litmus test of the administration's commitment to civil rights.


Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat who is seeking the presidency, said, "This administration continues a disturbing pattern of using the rhetoric of diversity as a substitute for real progress on a civil rights agenda."


Ari Fleischer (news - web sites), the president's spokesman, dismissed any idea that the White House deliberations over how to confront the issue had been influenced by politics.


"The president is dismissive of any notion involving the political implications of a decision on a matter as important and sensitive as something involving race and admission to college campuses, which is how Americans get their opportunity to make it in our country," Mr. Fleischer said at the White House briefing.


Mr. Bush's comments today came after four moderate Republicans had urged him not to oppose the plaintiffs in the Michigan lawsuit. The senators, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, said in a letter to the president that universities should be able to take race into direct account.


"Many Republicans throughout the nation believe that diversity should be recognized as a compelling government interest in the admissions policies" of universities, they wrote.

Many conservatives were elated by Mr. Bush's stance. However, there was still uncertainty among longtime opponents of affirmative action, who worried that his administration's brief might not go far enough.

Linda Chavez, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a group that works to end racial preferences, applauded the president's remarks. But she said it would be a disappointment if Mr. Bush left the door open to the slightest possibility that it would be acceptable to consider race in admissions.

"If the court leaves any door open on taking race into account," Ms. Chavez said, "you'll just have more and more creative attempts from university administrators to accomplish what they have been doing for years."

Ms. Chavez said that for the administration to maintain its credibility on the issue with its conservative supporters, it would have to say directly that race may not be taken into account because there is no compelling state interest in promoting diversity. In the Michigan cases, the court is set to decide whether there is a compelling state interest in a diverse student body to justify preferences for minority students.

The court will also have to decide whether the Michigan programs were narrowly tailored to meet that goal and did not go too far.

Mr. Bush said today that the programs were unconstitutional because they relied too heavily on race. In Michigan's undergraduate school, minority candidates were given extra points in a formula to decide whether they could be admitted.

The law school simply counted race as one factor among many. But Bush administration lawyers say it operated as a quota system because in practice it resulted in the incoming class always having a similar percentage of minority students.

Lee C. Bollinger, who was the president of the University of Michigan when the litigation began, said the president was incorrect in his characterization of the programs.

Mr. Bollinger, who is now the president of Columbia University, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Bush "is simply incorrect" and that "these are not quotas."

He said Mr. Bush was using that label "to try and isolate a program and make it seem exceptional, but the fact of the matter is that Michigan's program is virtually the same as those of selective universities across the country."

In his remarks, Mr. Bush suggested that it was acceptable to take race into account in what has sometimes been called the original definition of affirmative action, simply reaching out to minorities to apprise them of opportunities.

"University officials have the responsibility and the obligation to make a serious, effective effort to reach out to students from all walks of life without falling back on unconstitutional quotas," Mr. Bush said. "Schools should seek diversity by considering a broad range of factors in admissions, including a student's potential and life experiences."

He also cited a program in Texas, where he was governor, in which students in the top 10 percent of each high school class are guaranteed admission to the University of Texas.

The senior White House official who spoke to reporters said the president believed that "we need to try, if at all possible, to promote the broadest amount of diversity without taking race into account."

In its brief, the university argues that with strictly race-blind admissions, it could not possibly build the "critical mass" of minority students necessary to make diversity more than an empty promise.

Despite strong recruitment efforts, the university said, the law school received only 35 applications from minority students at the top range of undergraduate grades and law board scores that account for nearly all admissions. In contrast, the school received 900 applications from white students in that range.

Even with a "race-blind lottery," the brief said, "the percentage of African-American students enrolled would almost certainly fall below 3 percent."

The court is set to hear arguments in the case in April and is expected to issue a decision this spring.
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Old 01-19-2003, 08:07 AM   #2
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Now the giving of points to one race over another is 100% racist. This is an excellent move by the president. It is nice to see him take the lead on something domestic.

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Old 01-19-2003, 09:35 AM   #3
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As race makes no difference at all to someone's ability to attend and complete university, this is great. If the quotas are so important, the real problem lies with the denial of students based on race. If that is indeed happening, then that should be addressed, not implementing the acceptance of students based on race, which then becomes token gesturing.
It's good schit indeed.
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Old 01-19-2003, 09:38 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by Angela Harlem
implementing the acceptance of students based on race, which then becomes token gesturing.
Not only is it a token gesture.....

It reinforces that the person receiving the points for admission, somehow cannot compete if there is an even playing field.
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Old 01-19-2003, 09:42 AM   #5
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I remember speaking with admissions counselors for Georgetown's law school. They actually showed me a chart that listed races and gender and the minimum LSAT score needed for admission. I found it very disturbing.
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Old 01-19-2003, 10:36 AM   #6
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If I remember right, quotas to enact affirmative action has previous precedent of being declared unconstitutional, so Bush is likely going to succeed on this one. The question, though, is whether there is an alternate method to increase diversity that won't be declared "racist"?

I was once told that if we went solely on grades, only Asians would be admitted into most graduate programs, and would likely take up a large portion of undergraduate admissions. Something to think about...

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Old 01-19-2003, 10:49 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by melon
The question, though, is whether there is an alternate method to increase diversity that won't be declared "racist"?
that indeed does seem to be the most important question
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Old 01-19-2003, 10:54 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by melon
If I remember right, quotas to enact affirmative action has previous precedent of being declared unconstitutional, so Bush is likely going to succeed on this one. The question, though, is whether there is an alternate method to increase diversity that won't be declared "racist"?

I was once told that if we went solely on grades, only Asians would be admitted into most graduate programs, and would likely take up a large portion of undergraduate admissions. Something to think about...

Melon
Presumably the reason the "playing field" is tilted against inner-city types (most of whom are black) is because their schools are rife with disruption and violence, right? So why not fix the problem there?

Answer: because we're looking for a quick fix instead of a deeper solution to a complex social problem.
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Old 01-19-2003, 11:10 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by speedracer


Presumably the reason the "playing field" is tilted against inner-city types (most of whom are black) is because their schools are rife with disruption and violence, right? So why not fix the problem there?

Answer: because we're looking for a quick fix instead of a deeper solution to a complex social problem.
I completely agree with you here, but the problem with just focusing on long-term solutions solely is that people are only in high school a short time, and we cannot realistically sacrifice a generation or so of people just to prove a point.

Of course, affirmative action has been in existence for 30 years now, and I almost want to ask why no president has ever come up with a long-term solution? I guess an endless flow of tax cuts and drastically increased military spending isn't the answer to everything...

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Old 01-19-2003, 11:17 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by melon


I completely agree with you here, but the problem with just focusing on long-term solutions solely is that people are only in high school a short time, and we cannot realistically sacrifice a generation or so of people just to prove a point.

Of course, affirmative action has been in existence for 30 years now, and I almost want to ask why no president has ever come up with a long-term solution? I guess an endless flow of tax cuts and drastically increased military spending isn't the answer to everything...

Melon
I have to take off soon, but I'll try to reply to this thread later.

But for now, I will simply ask: is it really that disastrous if a bunch of black freshmen have to enroll at Central Michigan or Eastern Michigan instead of at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor?

(I suppose I should know better than to pose a question like this to a Spartan. Oh well.)
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Old 01-19-2003, 11:31 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by speedracer


I have to take off soon, but I'll try to reply to this thread later.

But for now, I will simply ask: is it really that disastrous if a bunch of black freshmen have to enroll at Central Michigan or Eastern Michigan instead of at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor?

(I suppose I should know better than to pose a question like this to a Spartan. Oh well.)
Well, at the same token, is it really that disastrous if a bunch of white freshmen have to enroll at Central Michigan or Eastern Michigan? Or, yes, Michigan State. Personally, I think U of M is mostly hype anyway, but, of course, perhaps I am biased.

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Old 01-19-2003, 01:01 PM   #12
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Affirmative action is a thorny policy because the problem it wants to solve is not actually one of race--it is one of *poverty.* Studies have shown, for example, that standardized test scores of children from rich black families are roughly the same as those of children from rich white families. But poverty is what we really don't want to address these days. We don't want to confront the fact that in this "land of opportunity," the working poor face a huge and complex set of problems in a system that is tilted, however unintentionally, against them. No longer in this country can a person expect to work full-time and be able to make a decent living--one that could put even one or two children through school.

I'm not exactly in favor of preferences based on anything besides grades and other scholastic achievements--but if you're going to have preferences, base them on economic rather than racial "disadvantage." I knew a few--not many, but a few--black and Hispanic kids from families far more privileged than my white one. Then at least preferences aren't based on accidents of birth, but on real circumstances that need real changes. "American poverty" is a dirty term that many people refuse to acknowledge. But it exists, and the only way to change it is opportunity based on economic circumstances rather than those that are gender- or race-based.
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Old 01-19-2003, 09:06 PM   #13
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This is an excellent move by Bush. One proposed solution, Vouchers, which are promoted by the president, as well as clamored for by Black parents, would allow their sons and daughters to have the opportunity to attend something that resembles an educational institution and excel in theirl lives, while giving the public schools the incentive to shape up their act and actually attempt to become reputable facilities. But it's nice to know the Unions have no desire to move in this direction.

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Old 01-19-2003, 09:47 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by paxetaurora
Affirmative action is a thorny policy because the problem it wants to solve is not actually one of race--it is one of *poverty.* Studies have shown, for example, that standardized test scores of children from rich black families are roughly the same as those of children from rich white families. But poverty is what we really don't want to address these days. We don't want to confront the fact that in this "land of opportunity," the working poor face a huge and complex set of problems in a system that is tilted, however unintentionally, against them. No longer in this country can a person expect to work full-time and be able to make a decent living--one that could put even one or two children through school.

I'm not exactly in favor of preferences based on anything besides grades and other scholastic achievements--but if you're going to have preferences, base them on economic rather than racial "disadvantage." I knew a few--not many, but a few--black and Hispanic kids from families far more privileged than my white one. Then at least preferences aren't based on accidents of birth, but on real circumstances that need real changes. "American poverty" is a dirty term that many people refuse to acknowledge. But it exists, and the only way to change it is opportunity based on economic circumstances rather than those that are gender- or race-based.
Basing assistance on economic rather than racial "disadvantage" is a great idea, paxetaurora. Interesting enough, a few people that I have talked to about the Africa emergency - were quick to say that there is enough poverty here to take care of - we should take care of our own first.

I do agree that eliminating the current affirmative action policy is an excellent move by President Bush.
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Old 01-20-2003, 01:32 AM   #15
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To admit that poverty is an actual root problem would go contrary to most conservative ideology, which will literally insist on everything *but* poverty as the problem to many societal ills. Why? Fears about wealth redistribution, and, hence, fear that the "wealthy" will no longer be wealthy, in favor of making others not in poverty.

Thus, I do not imagine that "poverty" will ever be brought up to replace "race."

(An admittedly awkward post on my part, but I hope you get my point...lol.)

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