So rather than talking about, oh, this year we have the best class ever, the lowest admit rate ever.
But in higher education, we describe admissions as a reward for hard work and dedication.
Again, given the outcomes of admissions, it says that people who are economically advantaged, who are White, who are Asian American, are more worthy and deserving, because those groups tend to be who are the ones that are rewarded in the admissions process.
So this tension between an individualist, winner-takes-all meritocracy and a process of selection that seeks to fulfill multiple missions of research, teaching, and the public good, and social mobility, is what lies, to me, at the heart of controversies over affirmative action.
So let me say a little bit about affirmative action.
I see it less as a kind of fix to this individual meritocracy, but rather as a critical policy, an important policy, that promotes four important organizational goals.
The first is a diverse learning environment. We think about, you know, since the 1950s the expansion of higher education.
We sort of look to higher education as a mechanism for bettering ourselves and our futures.
And I think that colleges really need to make this goal to prospective and current students explicit.
This is the argument that the U.
Supreme Court, starting in the 1978 Bakke decision has said is allowable under the law.
So Justice Powell in the Bakke decision said: Well, as long as you have a narrowly tailored version of attention to race, then, you know, if you are looking at race in order to fulfill a university mission of having a diverse learning environment in which everyone flourishes, then that is allowed.
So we know that affirmative action works in this way.
Now, I highlight in my book, The Diversity Bargain, the problem with solely talking about this kind of diverse learning environment argument is that it ignores inequality.
So we also need to talk about inequality.
And colleges, I think, need to do a lot better job of talking about racial inequality, the racial inequality that is really the root of—and the history of affirmative action.