Man Without Qualities

Monday, November 15, 2004

More Evidence That Affirmative Action Is A Terrible Idea

It seems from this Los Angeles Times article, one of my Los Feliz neighbors is in for some very rough times:

UCLA law professor Richard H. Sander, author of a controversial new study concluding that affirmative action hurts black law school students ... is a soft-spoken former VISTA volunteer who for years has studied housing discrimination and championed efforts to fight segregation in Los Angeles....

Sander's latest research, to be published this month in the Stanford Law Review, already is drawing widespread criticism from liberal backers of affirmative action and is roiling law schools around the country.

His study asserts that law school affirmative action programs often draw African Americans to tougher schools where they struggle to keep up, leading many to earn poor grades, drop out and fail their state bar exams.

"The big picture is that this system of racial preferences is no longer clearly achieving the goal of expanding the number of black lawyers," Sander said in an interview. "There's a very good chance that we're creating such high attrition rates that we're actually lowering production of black lawyers, and certainly we are weakening the preparation of the black lawyers we are producing."

Affirmative action opponents have made similar arguments about racial preferences in the past, but Sander's research provides new statistics on academic performance. He reports that, in his national sampling, nearly half of first-year black students received grades placing them in the bottom tenth of their classes. In addition, he found that among all students who entered law school in 1991, 45% of black students graduated and passed the bar exam on their first try, while 78% of whites did so. ....

Some critics who have read a draft of the paper say Sander is probably understating the rate at which blacks pass the bar exam. They also argue that his explanations for black students' lagging performance are based on sweeping, unproven assumptions, and they say that he fails to recognize affirmative action's far-reaching benefits. ....

Alison Grey Anderson, a friend who has taught at the UCLA law school since 1972, said she admires his intellectual integrity. "If he believes something is true, he's going to say it, and he's really not going to take into account the political consequences ... I wouldn't want to be in his shoes."

Sander, director of the Empirical Research Group at the UCLA law school, said ... affirmative action "needs to be subjected to the kinds of cost-benefit evaluation that we would apply to any social policy." ...

Sander ... lives in Los Feliz with his two children and wife ... One factor, he said, is the educational future of his 14-year-old son, Robert. University affirmative action could play a role in Robert's life because his racial background is mixed: Sander is white and Robert's mother, Sander's first wife, is black.

Sander's other child, a 19-month-old daughter named Erica, has a terminal disease.

Professor Sanders sounds like quite a guy. I hope that he is under no illusion that a commitment to the scientific method, an open-minded approach to the costs and benefits of programs viewed by liberals as central to maintaining their social and political fiefs, a personal connection to the issues he raises in the form of his own son, or the tragic status of his young daughter, is going to mean a thing when the liberals lunge for his carotid arteries.

As they most surely will lunge after that paper appears in the Stanford Law Review.

UPDATE: Let the intemperate, ad hominem assault on Professor Sander begin!

Link thanks to Mike Daley.

Read a summary of Professor Sander's article written by the professor himself here.

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