At the University of California, the Sky Has Not Fallen

Friday, January 30, 1998

Crucial facts have been left out in much of the hysteria about declining black enrollments at the University of California at Berkeley in the wake of the end of affirmative action policies there. This compounds the misconceptions that existed before such policies were ended.

During the decade of the 1980s, Berkeley's rapid increase in the number of black students on campus did not translate into comparable increases in the number of blacks actually graduating. At one point, the number of black students graduating declined absolutely, while the number of blacks on campus was increasing. That was part of the high price of being more interested in racial body count than in getting people educated.

The problem was not that black students at Berkeley were "unqualified." Their test scores, for example, were above the national average. It was just that the test scores of the white and Asian students were far higher. The black students at Berkeley were perfectly qualified to be successes somewhere else, rather than being failures at Berkeley.

The number of black, Hispanic, and American Indian applicants actually admitted to UC San Diego went up -- and now they are being admitted on their qualifications.

Now that racial double standards in admissions have been ended, many black students are in fact going elsewhere. For example, there has been an increase in the number of black applicants who meet the admissions standards at the University of California at San Diego. Is it not more important to have these students go where they are more likely to graduate, rather than have them serve as temporary tokens on the Berkeley campus, allowing university administrators to gush about "diversity"?

Much the same story applies on other campuses across the country and for other minorities, such as Hispanic Americans.

Where group body count has been the overriding consideration, minority students who were perfectly capable of graduating from a good college have been artificially turned into failures by being admitted to high-pressure campuses, where only students with exceptional academic backgrounds can survive.

The real issue has not been "qualified" versus "unqualified." The issue has been the systematic mismatching of minority students with the particular campuses where they have been admitted.

Once racial double standards of admission were ended, it was virtually inevitable that minority students would redistribute themselves among institutions. But the black and Hispanic students who no longer went to Berkeley did not disappear into thin air or fail to go to college at all.

UC San Diego is not chopped liver. It has respectable colleges and professional schools, and its graduates have every prospect of finding rewarding careers.

It was ironic that President Clinton chose the UC San Diego campus for his speech deploring the end of affirmative action. Worse yet, the university's administration released misleading statistics, showing that the total number of minority students applying there had declined by 4 percent after affirmative action ended.

What has happened in California needs to happen in the other forty-nine states.

What the same statistics also showed was that the number of minority students meeting the university's admissions standards had increased significantly, while the number of minority applicants who were clearly ineligible for admission had declined substantially, now that the double standards were ended. The number of black, Hispanic, and American Indian applicants actually admitted to UC San Diego went up--and now they are being admitted on their qualifications.

Isn't that what we hoped for, those of us who wanted double standards ended?

Despite much hysteria over the fact that there is only one black student entering Berkeley's law school this year, fifteen were admitted--and fourteen chose to go somewhere else. These other places included Harvard, Stanford and the like, so don't shed tears over these students either.

Not only have double standards produced needless educational failures among minority students, they have polarized the races by producing great resentments among white students. It has been a policy under which both groups have lost, though in different ways--and in which the country as a whole has lost.

What has happened in California needs to happen in the other forty-nine states--and journalists need to start reporting the truth about it, even when the truth is not "politically correct."