When I first came to the United States 26 years ago to undertake some post-graduate work, I lived with a group of Jewish students in a large dormitory near UCLA. After about a year, I became acquainted with a startling fact about my fellow lodgers – their level of academic achievement was well below what I had experienced among my fellow students in Australia. Many could not spell simple words; their grammar was atrocious; their conversation was filled with non- sequiturs and was riven with an over-dependence on the word “like.”
I was part of the U.C. system then and have been associated with UCLA in one way or another, ever since.
During that time, I have seen not only seen academic standards fall, but the rise of a campus culture which places cultural sensitivity training above all other priorities, including academic distinction.
I wasn’t aware of it when I arrived in 1984, but only six years had then passed since the landmark law suit Regents of the University of California vs Bakke, which had gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The case involved one Allan Bakke, who had applied to U.C. Davis Medical School but was denied, despite an impressive academic record.
The U.C. Davis Medical School claimed that its affirmative action/ diversity policies prevented it from increasing the number of white males who could be admitted. However after he was denied a second time, Bakke filed suit for mandatory injunctive relief, demanding that the school allow his admission and to render its restrictive policies unconstitutional. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court with Bakke eventually gaining the right to attend U.C. Davis but with no conclusive majority opinion on the constitutionality of its affirmative action policies.
Yet Justice Lewis F. Powell’s lone opinion in the case was consequential. It concluded that though race could not be the basis for excluding a candidate, race could certainly be one of many factor in admission’s considerations. That opinion was seized upon by affirmative action enthusiasts and became part of the U.C. admissions policies thereafter.
Ten years ago, after having read The Tyranny of Diversity, a book on the state of universities in an age of affirmative action, I launched my own inquiry into how universities, committed to integration of minorities through affirmative action policies and a commitment to diversity, were coping with the changes to their student populations.
The results of that inquiry were sobering: a rapid fall in academic standards; an increase in reports of date rape and sexual assault and the decrease of civil discourse on campus.
The system had become a zero-sum game that opened the door for jobs, promotions, or education to minorities while shutting the door on whites. Not only that, but in a country that prized the values of self-reliance and meritocratic achievement, it had imported into our educational system ideals which were foreign to it, providing opportunity that had not been earned and eroding rather than encouraging respect, tolerance and openness.
Recognizing that affirmative action policies had, appallingly, become a means of engineering reverse discrimination, California voters in 1996 therefore soundly approved Proposition 209, which amended the California State Constitution to prohibit public institutions from considering race, sex or ethnicity for the purposes of admissions or public employment.
But that was not the end of affirmative action. Not by a long shot. Chameleon-like, it merely morphed into “diversity” as a new expression of its determination to integrate multiple cultures, lifestyles, sexual preferences and points of view into the wider campus community.
I was reminded of all this last Thursday when the U.C. Regents decided, in a public meeting, to apologize to the black community of U.C. San Diego for an off campus party that had mocked Black History Month. The Regents promised to help create campus environments in which minority students would feel more comfortable.
In fact, U.C . President, Mark Yudof, declared that he would seek changes in admissions policies as well as the creation of scholarships for underrepresented minorities “in order to improve diversity.”
Hmmm…. so, here we are again – 50 years after John F. Kennedy introduced the term ‘affirmative action’ into our vocabulary, 32 years after Powell’ s opinion in Bakke and 14 years after Proposition 209 - and we find that not only is there an outright denial of diversity’s failure, but a general agreement among our academic leaders that our universities are not quite diverse enough.
For Yudof was not only referring to the offense to black students. His remarks were made against a backdrop of racial slurs and near rioting which interrupted a speech by Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, at a speech at U.C. Irvine on February 12th. The outrageous behavior of Muslim students there, in which 11 were arrested for disorderly conduct, drew public attention to the fact that Muslim students on campuses throughout the West often do not feel bound by the same rules as non-Muslims, particularly when it comes to the expression of their views on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Yudof, of course, would not admit it, but the riots at places like U.C. Irvine and U.C Berkeley, are as much a result of the diversity policies in the U.C. system as they are the capstone of a half century of attempted integration policies, which focus on freedom of expression and the promotion of cultural identity at the expense of educational advancement.
For administrations are increasingly loathe to clamp down on hate speech on campus for fear of tripping the wires of cultural sensitivity. So professors and students alike can compare Israelis to Nazis, the War in Gaza to the Holocaust or call for the murder of an ambassador – and university administrations can barely bring themselves to blink an eyelid.
Meanwhile, affirmative action lives on in its diversity disguise, as pernicious an ideology as ever. In the same forum where Yudof debased himself by begging forgiveness from the black community for not making the U.C. system diverse enough, U.C. Regent Eddie Island added:
“It is our own standards and slavish adherence to grade point averages and SAT scores that have put us in this dilemma. We value those things higher than we value other human qualities that are just as important and that can make a contribution within the UC environment.”
How ironic, for the truth, of course, is quite the opposite. It is affirmative action and diversity which have put us in this dilemma – and the problems that they encourage, are only growing.
“We stand in solidarity with the Irvine 11,” declared Victor Sanchez, president of the University of California Student Association in his opening remarks to the regents during the meeting. This was a sly reference to the Chicago 7 – essentially making the case that screaming racial epithets and encouraging incitement to murder constitute protected speech, as long as it is are attached to a cause to which the U.C. students are popularly aligned.
Did any of the U.C. Regents rebut this hateful notion? None. For to do so would to be contravene diversity’s golden rule: all opinions and viewpoints are equally valid, no matter how viciously expressed.
And how is the new found meritocratic emphasis of our universities faring in all of this? Well just ask Jocelyn Devault of Newbury Park, whose 18-year-old senior, despite possessing a 4.1 GPA, all Advance Placement, International Baccalaureate course work and high SAT scores, could not manage to get into even one of the U.C.s she applied to for the Fall of 2010.
Why would any thoughtful parent wish to send their child to a tertiary institution where hate speech is given such protective cover, where academic achievement is devalued and where the leaders are weak, supine sychophants who bend in the direction of whatever multicultural wind is blowing their way?
Perhaps we should all be asking these hard questions as the U.C. Regents get to work on strengthening their diversity agenda.