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Preferred Practices for Affirmative Action in Universities:

I posted this in the comments, but I liked it enough to decide to make a post of it:

I don't have a blanket objection to affirmative action, but I do think it's important to (a) have a theory as to which people you are giving preferences to, and why, rather than just give a preference to anyone who meets rather arbitrary ancestry rules (e.g., why should a the child of white immigrant physicians from Bolivia be preferred (as a "Hispanic") over the child of dark-skinned poor religious refugees from Iran?); (b)have some transparency, so that students are more or less aware of the scope of the preferences they may be benefiting from, and can choose whether to attend with reasonably full information (this is especially important at law schools, given the extremely high rates at which black matriculants at lower-ranked law schools either fail out or never pass the bar); and (c) do serious analysis every once in a while to ensure that whatever programs are established are meeting their goals (which should be established as part of (a)), and are not just continuing to exist out of bureaucratic inertia (or dogma) despite being counterproductive.

UPDATE: I should note that some or all of these "preferred practices" may be inhibited or prevented by the Supreme Court's affirmative action jurisprudence, which allows preferences only for "diversity" purposes. Of course, no one really takes this seriously, least of all the Court itself; if this had been taken seriously, Grutter would have had to come out the other way, because the district court found as a factual matter that despite Michigan's denials, the law school gave preferences only to select Hispanics (Mexican-Americans and mainland Puerto Ricans). Taking the tenth Mexican-American over the first Cuban or Columbian-American may make sense from a redistributivist perspective, but it hardly contributes to "diversity." Nevertheless, universities must at least pretend to obey the law.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Conflicting Rationales for Affirmative Action in Higher Education:
  2. Preferred Practices for Affirmative Action in Universities:
sbron:
The biggest problem with AA is that it has been in
place for over 40 years, yet the academic performance
of Black and Latino students at the high school level
has if anything worsened. The Harvard (now at UCLA)
Civil Rights project recently concluded that 50% of
Latino students were dropping out of the Los Angeles
school system. The dropout rate for Black students in
Detroit is 75%. AA and associated race-based financial aid helps a comparatively small number of
underrepresented students go to elite universities
they otherwise could not attend. But it does nothing
to address fundamental problems such as the 70%
illegitimacy rate among Black children.

Applying the "global test", AA has been an unqualified
disaster in India, Malaysia and Sri Lanka leading to
literal civil war between Tamil and Sinhalese in the
latter. AA is almost a joke in Brazil,
where "black" students get preferences in college
admission, but perhaps half of Brazilians have significant
African ancestry. Due to Brazil's high rate of
intermarriage, students claiming to be Black must
submit photos to be evaluated by a secret committee.
A recent PBS broadcast about this crazy system
showed identical twin brothers who had submitted
photos -- one of course was judged Black, the
other non-Black.
10.8.2007 12:10am
LTEC (mail) (www):
The Court has determined that in many cases, the goal of discriminating in favor of some must be providing "diversity" for others. How do you propose to measure how well this goal is being met?
10.8.2007 12:11am
sbron:
More on historical context -- the ancestors of
today's AA were the "Numerus Clausus" of Central
Europe and Jewish quotas at Ivy League Schools.
These systems benefited noone, and their resurrection
in new guises, with somewhat different targets is
absolutely shameful in American higher education.
10.8.2007 12:18am
Visitor Again:
The Harvard (now at UCLA)
Civil Rights project recently concluded that 50% of
Latino students were dropping out of the Los Angeles
school system.


If you took a look at the schools they attended in Los Angeles you would know why they drop out.

The public schools are a disaster in Los Angeles, and the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision ensuring there will be no racial desegregation, means they will remain a disaster.
10.8.2007 12:21am
Visitor Again:
The point being that affirmative action in college and professional schools comes too late. Where it is needed most, it is never given. And, since our big city schools are so racially segregated, you can be sure it will not be given in the near future. Mayor Villaraigosa is trying to do something about all this in L.A. but it is a bureaucratic nightmare and he really does not have the power.
10.8.2007 12:25am
sbron:
Visitor Again:

Please read this article by a former LA schoolteacher.

http://tinyurl.com/3dfc9d

Many high-achieving Asian students attend the same
crummy schools. Neither AA or school busing is going
to fix this problem. If your goal is to re-integrate
Whites into the LA schools, a small problem is that
most LA neighborhoods have virtually no Whites left in them.
10.8.2007 12:31am
David M. Nieporent (www):
The public schools are a disaster in Los Angeles, and the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision ensuring there will be no racial desegregation, means they will remain a disaster.
That's absurd, if not ludicrous. There's no reason to think that, in the absence of discrimination, shuffling people around by race makes schools better; putting a few white people around Hispanic people doesn't magically make the latter smarter. And since we've had these so-called "voluntary" -- not for the actual students, of course -- "desegregation" (sic) plans around for decades, and it hasn't helped, the claim that banning these programs is what will make the schools bad is obviously wrong. These programs have nothing to do with improving schools; they're about making the class picture look prettier.

The point being that affirmative action in college and professional schools comes too late. Where it is needed most, it is never given.
Exactly. And all affirmative action does is allow liberal elites to pretend that they're doing something. They don't bother to try to fix the schools -- in fact, they actively fight against it by allying with teachers' unions -- because they can brandish college matriculation statistics to pretend that they're helping black/hispanic people. If the University of Michigan came out and said, frankly, "We can't admit enough black people because most of them haven't gotten a good enough education," there might be pressure to do something about that.
10.8.2007 12:41am
justwonderingby:
"I don't have a blanket objection to affirmative action"

How about Equal Protection?

It's straightforward, and thus, of no use to law professors, but affirmative action denies white people equal protection. There's no if's and's or but's about it.

I know I'll get flamed for this post and many folks will think I don't understand the "nuances" of constitutional interpretation (somehow I lack this gift which allows folks like a certain Yale law professor to suggest that the word "person" in the 2nd amendment doesn't really mean people... and we wonder why people hate lawyers), but at some point the text means what it says (or at least it should).

Then there are the folks who will argue that AA isn;t discrimination. That when police departments were ordered to hire 2 minorities for every white, that wasn't discrimination, just "diversity" and "evening the playing field."

And then we all wonder why no one can have an honest discussion about race in this country.

What a mystery. Someone call a law professor to explain it.
10.8.2007 12:56am
theobromophile (www):

have some transparency, so that students are more or less aware of the scope of the preferences they may be benefiting from, and can choose whether to attend with reasonably full information (this is especially important at law schools, given the extremely high rates at which black matriculants at lower-ranked law schools either fail out or never pass the bar)

Those transparency rules should, ideally, govern every law student. IIRC, law schools have formulas for estimating GPA from LSAT and UGPA. Based on those two factors, they can also approximate a person's chances of passing a particular Bar.

Pragmatically, if all accepted students are provided with some correlation between LSAT, UGPA, and law school GPA/chances of passing the bar, all would be able to make a more informed decision.

From a practical perspective, law schools essentially have diversity quotas. They have pretty much the same percentages, every year, of "diverse" students. Admissions monitors, daily, the admission &matriculation rates for sub-groups of the applicant pool. While AA might have some laudable goals, the de facto quota system is a little much to stomach.
10.8.2007 12:59am
Houston Lawyer:
The schools aren't the problem, the parents are. Students whose parents stay married and care about their education can be adequately educated almost anywhere.

On the other hand, proponents of affirmative action will fight you tooth and nail if you want to offer the children of poor people the chance to go to an elementary school that is run by someone other than the state.

Yeah, lets get some honesty in affirmative action. That'll build support for it.
10.8.2007 1:01am
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
justwonderingby: Equal protection can't be a "blanket objection" to affirmative action. Because -- most obviously -- equal protection only applies to government schools. David's post is about affirmative action globally, even when practiced by, say, Yale (since this came up as a result of Justice Thomas's book).

So even if equal protection, as you suggest, bars all affirmative action by the government, that's only a "local objection" to affirmative action at government schools, and says nothing about whether it's a good idea at Yale.

(For all I know, David may also believe that some affirmative action at government schools is O.K. even under equal protection; but I won't presume to speak for him on that.)
10.8.2007 1:22am
U-M 3L:
From a practical perspective, law schools essentially have diversity quotas. They have pretty much the same percentages, every year, of "diverse" students.

Simple honesty in how affirmative action is applied would go a long way, i.e., something other than the fantastic utterances normally heard from admissions offices: "By weighing a variety of factors that add diversity to each class, we randomly end up with precisely 8% black, 7% Hispanic, and 2% Native American students every year. Miraculous!"
10.8.2007 1:33am
neurodoc:
sbron, I am in general agreement with you, but with some exceptions, mostly minor:

"the ancestors of today's AA (affirmative action) were the 'Numerus Clausus' of Central Europe and Jewish quotas at Ivy League Schools." Affirmative action is about "favoring," the other about "disfavoring," so the former may be seen as the mirror image of the latter, and there may be some common threads between them, but hard for me to see the former as somehow the historical progeny of the latter.

"the 'Numerus Clausus' of Central Europe and Jewish quotas at Ivy League Schools. These systems benefited noone..." Well, of course those systems benefited those who filed the places which would otherwise have been taken by more qualified Jewish students. And they served, if not "benefited," those who preferred for whatever their reasons a social and economic system which kept Jews down.

A point you did not make about how affirmative action and Jewish quotas do and don't relate is that just as the latter were disappearing, the former was starting up. One of the arguments for affirmative action is that it is an eminently fair way to remedy the injustices of past discrimination against certain minorities, most notably African-Americans. The irony is that what arguably remedies some of the past injustices suffered by African-Americans, aggravated past injustices suffered by others, in particular Jews. In my father's generation, it was a truly singular accomplishment for a Jewish student to gain admission to medical school. (At Howard in the mid-40s, my father was told they had already taken two Jewish students for the next year's class, and thus their quota was filled.) So a great many well-qualified Jewish aspirants were denied the opportunity to become physicians. Then, when their sons and daughters applied to medical schools starting in the 60's and 70's, they did not face the same hard to overcome hurdles that their parents were up against, but they had to compete for the fewer places after set asides for affirmative action students. Grateful to no longer be up against the brutally discriminatory quotas that Jews had previously had to contend with, and perhaps not fully aware of what had gone on only a short time before, the new wave of Jewish applicants did not protest. (Also, overwhelming liberal until recently, Jews have been among those most supportive of affirmative action on behalf of African-Americans.)

I think the conflict between the Tamils vs Sinhalese is in large part a legacy of English colonial rule rather than "affirmative action" of the sort we have in this country. Likewise, the conflict between Tsutsis and Hutus owes much to the legacy of Belgian colonial rule, "affirmative action" there, that is the favoring of one ethnic group over another, being more about relative power than pursuit of "justice." India, there I think affirmative action for dalits and other groups is more a Hindu thing than the product of foreign rule or influence.

You mention Brazil, which is as you say a country with more racial mixing than many others on that continent, e.g., Argentina. Whatever you may hear or be told, don't believe that a fair complexion, the fairer the better, is a distinction advantage over a dark one. That doesn't in any way mitigate racism in this country, but it does mean that racism is unknown in many countries that purport to be free of it and one might expect to be so.

And those Asian students who succeed even in those crummy schools, they are a problem to explain, aren't they. They are even more "problematic" when they seek admission to the University of California system. Like race horses which must carry more weight in order to ensure a competitive race, the bar has to be set higher for them lest the universities be swamped with them. (I have forgotten the statistics on Asian admissions to the University of California. I do recall, however, how astounding, and outrageous, though, it was to learn how much weight had to be put on their backs in the form of higher GPA and test scores in order to keep them from crowding out other minorities. That and details of the University of Michigan's "grid" for undergraduate admissions really opened my eyes wide.)
10.8.2007 1:34am
neurodoc:
As my last post presumably makes clear, I am very skeptical about affirmative action in higher education. But in one special case, that of a "government" school system, I am not so skeptical, I am inclined to buy into affirmative action.

I have in mind the uniformed services academies (West Point, Annapolis, Air Force, and Coast Guard). It was argued around the time that Gratz and Grutter were in the courts that the services need a diversity of officers to lead enlisteds, who these days are disproportionately minorities. That makes good, maybe even compelling, sense to me. Do those who are absolute in their opposition to affirmative action in higher education want to tell me why I am wrong to find merit in the case for affirmative action at the service academies? (If they will say that lives depend on the quality and competency of our officer corps, I will not disagree, but I will say that I don't think very much compromise in standards is required to allow for diversity at the academies. And how enlisted feel about their leadership, and how the leadership feel about their enlisted, is an intangible of inestimable importance. There is a large enough natural divide between officers and enlisted, and a greater racial/ethnic difference between the two can not be a good thing.)
10.8.2007 1:55am
Robert Ayers:
Please don't call it "affirmative action" when you mean
"race or ethnicity discrimination". Some of us are old enough to remember what AA was: outreach and effort to assure minorities that they weren't locked out, followed by race-blind decision-making.
10.8.2007 1:58am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Let me suggest that you aren't going to get an AA philosophy any time soon. Likely, the real reason behind AA in many cases is redistributive and punitive, rather than diversity. But diversity is the only real legal justification for AA. What to do? Fudge and obfuscate.

I know kids living in million dollar houses and going to private prep schools who are getting AA preferences for college. I know one who became Black to get into an Ivy League school (kid had mixed ancestry, but spent most of its time with the White side of family before college). Besides making a prettier picture, it is not clear what giving preference to Black, Hispanic, etc. kids who attend the same schools and live in the same neighborhoods as the White kids do growing up contributes to anything really useful for the colleges giving those preferences. The one thing it does do is make those running the schools feel more progressive and better about themselves - presumably for correcting historic wrongs, even though their actions are almost purely symbolic, given the typical heritage and background of the average AA admittee at the elite schools.

I too don't totally oppose AA. What I do oppose is unprincipled preferences ostensibly based on one theory (diversity) but really based on others (redistribution, reparations, etc.) And that is where David's and Ilya's points become relevant. If the justification is diversity, then lay out and defend the criteria used to determine diversity. Defend why a rich black coming out of an elite prep school should have preference over a poor white from a dysfunctional school and family.
10.8.2007 2:01am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
It was argued around the time that Gratz and Grutter were in the courts that the services need a diversity of officers to lead enlisteds, who these days are disproportionately minorities.
Except that recent statistics show this not to be true, and esp. when it comes to combat troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan right now.

Nevertheless, I doubt that very many here would not agree that one of the greatest successes in integration has been our military.
10.8.2007 2:08am
Tony Tutins (mail):

Many high-achieving Asian students attend the same
crummy schools.

More evidence that kids' academic performance depends on the parents they have.
10.8.2007 2:13am
neurodoc:
Bruce Hayden (1:08AM), I think it may be the case that there is reasonable proportionality in the enlisted ranks as far as combat arms go, but not in the Army as a whole. In any event, I agree that "one of the greatest successes in integration has been our military" (the greatest success?), and I assume that both of us think that a good thing and wish that the military was not so singular in that regard. So, now, do you agree/disagree that the strongest case for affirmative action in higher education is the uniformed services academies one? (If you agree, then alas you are disqualified, because I really want to hear from those who oppose affirmative action even for the service academies.)
10.8.2007 2:58am
justwonderingby:
"equal protection only applies to government schools."

Sasha, these private schools receive public monies, do they not?
10.8.2007 9:04am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Thankfully, private entities don't become state actors for constitutional purposes just because they take government money.
10.8.2007 9:32am
Happyshooter:
Let us have an honest discussion about AA, then.

Is it a matter of some groups not having enough of their people at the school, or some groups have too many?

At the top level law schools jewish students are there well over their percentage in the population, and jewish profs are way way over represented.

A real affirmative action program would limit that overpopulation, thus making space for others.

A real affirmative action program would also limit asians and men in the hard sciences, and women in the soft subjects and nursing.

Then blacks would be limited in the basketball and football programs.

Then, once the over-represented populations are blocked using a max quota, if the rest of the races and sexes didn't fill in to their general population percentage we can worry about a min quota.

Of course, we can obey the constitution and not discriminate on the basis of race or sex...but that sort of fairness makes liberals sad.
10.8.2007 10:16am
Virginia:
equal protection only applies to government schools

Very true; however, federal civil rights laws apply to all schools, private and public.
10.8.2007 11:06am
Tony Tutins (mail):
federal civil rights laws apply to all schools, private and public.

If I remember right, the expansive interpretation of the Commerce Clause accounts for this.
10.8.2007 12:21pm
GD (mail):
"At the top level law schools jewish students are there well over their percentage in the population, and jewish profs are way way over represented."

Are white protestants underrepresented to a greater extent than African-Americans and Hispanics at these top schools? If 40% (purely a guess, I don't know that these numbers are tracked or released) of the school is jewish or asian, it seems that this must be the case.
10.8.2007 12:32pm
Pol Mordreth (mail):
neurodoc,
I am definately against AA at service acadamies. I do not know if you ever served, and if not I am not disparaging you in any way. I served 7 years as an enlisted man in the Navy. The reason IMO that the services are the best example of integration in the US is that they are completely colorblind. You seldom if ever heard that so - and - so got promoted because he is (insert racial subgroup here) because there was no AA in the Navy. the best people got promoted, period. That was the perception among everyone I worked with.

At another level, supporting AA at the service academies is not useful due to the limited number of officers that come from the academy anyway. I trained officers at one assignment as an instructor at the naval nuclear power training unit. IIRC, about 1 in 10 were academy grads, the remainder were ROTC grads. ROTC scholarships are completely colorblind as well. If you have the grades and are willing to commit to a 4 year tour as an officer, then uncle sugar will pay you to go to school.

Respectfully,
Pol
10.8.2007 1:53pm
Alan Gunn (mail):
Many years ago, I participated in a conversation in which a wealthy donor, told of the appalling academic performance of AA admits in a particular school, replied, "But it makes me feel so good to see black kids carrying college textbooks." That, in a nutshell, probably captures a lot of the real reason for affirmative action in most colleges. And it's so much easier than doing something about elementary and secondary schools.
10.8.2007 1:57pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Pol is seriously mistaken about service academy admissions. Many of the students are admitted by congressional nomination. There are minimum standards, but the representatives and senators make their nominations from the pool of qualified applicants from their district and state. They are quite aware of the racial and ethnic composition of their districts.

ROTC scholarships are not particularly competitive and are designed to attract the committed through their after graduation service commitment and anyone who thinks that promotion is only by competence should see me about this small bridge in Brooklyn that I have for sale. As in any other organization, promotion is linked to other things. Piss your boss off and you are toast.
10.8.2007 2:48pm
Libertarian1 (mail):
Thankfully, private entities don't become state actors for constitutional purposes just because they take government money.



How does Grove City fit into this view?
10.8.2007 3:34pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Grove City was about which schools are subject to Title IX, which bars sex discrimination in education programs receiving federal financial assistance. Grove City College didn't get any direct federal financial assistance, but it did enroll students who got certain federal grants. The Supreme Court said this was enough to trigger Title IX responsibilities for the school.

So Grove City isn't about whether the school was a state actor; rather, the school was admittedly a state actor, but the question was whether it was subject to a particular regulation.
10.8.2007 3:56pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
As for the state action doctrine, it's all very complicated, and under certain conditions, a private school might be considered a "state actor" so that constitutional constraints apply; and in that case, you might argue that Equal Protection prohibits affirmative action.

But under most conditions, just getting federal funds isn't enough. So if the government wants to require you to have affirmative action, then that's subject to an Equal Protection analysis. And if the government wants to urge you to have affirmative action as part of some funds disbursement program, that's also a government decision, so subject to an Equal Protection analysis (filtered through the unconstitutional conditions doctrine).

But none of this applies to whether a private school can choose to have affirmative action because of its own ideological reasons.

Similarly, a private school can choose to impose restrictions on the students speech (the kind that would be invalid if it were a government school), even if it gets public funds; it can choose to search the kids' lockers or administer drug tests (in a way that would be invalid if it were a government school), even if it gets public funds; and it can choose to have a process for expelling students without the sort of "due process" that would be required for a government school, even if it gets public funds.

This is all stuff that's important for private actors to have the right to do. If accepting government money were enough to make anyone subject to all constitutional conditions, under modern conditions that would make everyone part of the government.
10.8.2007 4:02pm
Pol Mordreth (mail):
Eli Rabett has obviously never been in the service. Of course your fitreps are a factor in your promotion. however, at the enlisted level, your evaluations are less than 1 % of your promotion score. the greatest part of you're promotion score are your exam score and your PNA (passed, not advanced - if you have taken the test for this rank before, but didn't make the cutoff) points.

The way Navy enlisted promotion works is: once you have been in your current rank long enough, you take the test. the questions are drawn from the shipboard learning curriculum for the next rank in your rate (job class). Now, they'll decide in advance that the navy needs, say, 100 new E-6's in your job navy wide. if 1000 E-5's pass the test, the top 100 will advance. they take your test score (0 to 100 scale), add your PNA's(1.5 pts per exam), add points for medals( varies, most are 1 pt per award), and add up to 2 points for the average of you're last 3 evals.

Now, I didn't say that there isn't any admission preference at the service acadamies. However, there isn't any preference for ROTC and they are ~ 90% of the officers and ~ 99.99999% of the officers that are worth a crap. Therefore, I do not see why (as per neurodoc's question) ethnic preferences at the service academies would have any real result as far as matching the racial composition of the services. All of you who haven't been in the service don't really understand how irrelevant most officers really are.

Respectfully,
Pol
10.8.2007 4:15pm
The General:
Really, we'd all be much better off if all schools stopped giving a shit about what color everybody was and started worrying about how stupid the kids are and actually trying to do something about it...like, I don't know, teaching them skills and subjects that may actually be useful; e.g., reading and writing.

How much public resources are wasted trying to make sure that some arbitrary "diversity" is achieved when there is no proof that it helps anyone?

AND IT'S FUCKING UNCONSTITUTIONAL RACIAL DISCRIMINATION! How is this principal so hard to understand?
10.8.2007 6:25pm
Horatio (mail):
AND IT'S FUCKING UNCONSTITUTIONAL RACIAL DISCRIMINATION

When asked about the US Constitution the Doctor responded: "Alive! It's alive! It's alive!"
10.8.2007 8:22pm
justwonderingby:
"As for the state action doctrine..."

You know, if law school X decided that it wanted to exclude minorities, then I suspect your Equal Protection analysis would be very different. Right?
10.8.2007 9:02pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Nope, if private still not covered by the 14th Amendment.
10.8.2007 11:14pm
Tiffany (mail):
There is also affirmative action fraud. Students who are not what they check, and get admitted accordingly, sometimes as far as tenure track professors. It would be interesting to get data on this.
10.9.2007 12:45am
neurodoc:
Pol Mordreth, FWIW (not too much), I was in the Reserves for 18 years (joined at age 38 with no inducements of any sort) and was called to Active Duty for 7 months during PGW1. But I hasten to add that I was Medical Corps and didn't go to OBC until after I had been in for 10 years and the unit clerk picked up on it. (When I went to the PX to buy major's insignia, I kept telling the lady who wanted to give me the "gold" that no, I was a major, not a lt. col. It seemed only logical to me that silver came before "gold." So military experience, but far less intense and up close than yours.)

"All of you who haven't been in the service don't really understand how irrelevant most officers really are." I didn't see myself as "mission critical," but "irrelevant"?
10.9.2007 2:59am
Pol Mordreth (mail):
neurodoc, understood, i didn't mean to give offense. I wouldn't classify medical officers as irrelevant, as the training path and discliplines for medical service are so demanding, and you cannot build in room for error and safety systems as you can in mechanical systems. Im my experience in the submarine forces, we could have done without about 60% of our officers and had their billets filled by senior enlisted (like our medical services - a single corpsman (j/k)) and actually improved on our mission readiness. Line officers (as opposed to specialty officers, like medical or engineering) in the modern navy are managers. they are not technically proficient in their fields, and because of this they are looked on with scorn and disrespect by the enlisted that actually do their jobs for them and make them look good. In short, the more technical the field in the navy, the fewer officers were looked at with anything resembling respect, and aligning the races wouldn't have changed anything in my opinion.

As I said, I trained officers for the nuclear pipeline, and on my boat I was the LPO for reactor labs division. My normal interaction with my division officer was "Please sign this sir. no, I don't have time to explain to you what it means. no, I don't have time to leave it with you to look it up, the engineer needs it now. No, don't come along and ask silly questions, it'll make you look bad. I'll teach you this stuff after chow. But right now, it needs your signature" To me, that is irrelevant. As in, not necessary in the chain of command to ensure ships mission.

Respectfully,
Pol
10.9.2007 1:17pm
neurodoc:
Pol Mordreth, twice on planes I have found myself sitting next to submariners and chatted with them about their experiences. I am very grateful to them (and you) for doing what they do. I certainly would not want to do it. But do you think for purposes of this discussion the submarine corps might be somewhat exceptional, different from the less technically skill combat Army in terms of its "sociology" (don't know what else to call it)?

Because the military leadership wanted affirmative action to survive those SCt challenges, I was inclined to accept their judgment that it was in the best interests of the academies, and hence the nation. Perhaps I should not give so much weight to those opinions, more weight than I do to university leaders on the question of affirmative action for their more numerous schools. (I was skeptical of the advocacy by business leaders on behalf of affirmative action in higher education so they could have a more diverse pool of job seekers to chose from.)
10.9.2007 3:52pm
Pol Mordreth (mail):
neurodoc, good point. the sociology of the grunts may very well be different. However, the perception of advancement would well be the same. Thinking that your officer may be a 'token AA candidate' would be worse for a line company than it would on a boat. would you lose faith in his ability to lead? to give the right orders under stress? In the navy we ate our young, the schools had an aggregate 80 - 85 % fail out rate, and everyone knew that all the officers were at least capable of learning.

In my family we have all services represented. (Both parents were in the Air Force, brother and myself in the Navy, brother and sister in the army, sister in the Corps, and sister in the Coast Guard) I'm going to poll around and see what their views are on AA in the acadamies. Note however that we were all enlisted, and officer mentality and goals are significantly different than enlisted mentality on a variety of issues. Most enlisted wouldn't trust most of their officers as far as they could throw them in my experience. However, there is usually one or two in the command that the men would rally around and support unconditionally. In my experience they have been the officers that the men percieved would go to bat for them against the command when need be. they didn't put their careers ahead of the well being of the rank and file.

I guess we've gotten a little far afield here. Back on topic, i believe (FWIW) that the leadership made a political decision to back the ability to choose between applicants based on race due to their own myopic worldview. The services are so successful at integration (IMO) due the the perception that, while suck-ups will still get promoted, everyone has the ability to do the job. If that perception was to change, I think it would be horrible for morale and unit cohesion. AA by itself does not change that perception, but it does open the door for the soft bigotry of low expectations to rear it's ugly head. When I was an instructor, there was a perception that certain students got additional 'benefit of the doubt' before they would fail out. The civilian oversight people investigated every situation where a minority flunked out, looking for bias. As instructors, our rule of thumb was a minority needed twice the documentation of assistance and counseling before recommending them for a transfer to another program than a white. That was to enable us to keep our jobs. This rule applied to officers and enlisted students. The civillians were charged with looking for racism (among other things) and if you look hard enough, you will find it even if it's not there. (by the way, I am both an ethnic minority and a religious minority.)

I guess my point is, right now things are okay. I have seen things get worse instead of better in the navy due to policies (both official and unofficial) that prevent us from treating all people the same. On the boat we cared about one thing - were you qualified on the sub. other than that, we didn't care. Black, gay, Jewish, it didn't matter. (and yes, i think DADT is wrong as well, but that is another matter.)

Respectfully,
Pol
10.9.2007 5:14pm