Paul R. Lehman, Roger Clegg and charges of racial discrimination in OU’s admissions policyNovember 4, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, blacks, college admission, desegregation, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, integregation, justice, Michael J. Sandel, minority, Oklahoma education, Prejudice, public education, Race in America, The Oklahoman, whites | 2 Comments
Tags: admission policy, Affirmative Action, African Americans, American Education, american indian students, black, discrimination, European Americans, GPA, Lsat, medical school admission, Michael J. Sandel, Mismatch, politics, racial preferences, research, Roger Clegg, Sander and Taylor, science, some statistical data, The Oklahoman, University of Oklahoma, white
Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, presented some statistical data in an article “On racial admission preferences at OU,” in The Oklahoman recently (10-26-12). The article and data suggests that African American and American Indian students receive preferential treatment when admitted to The University of Oklahoma (OU). In addition to presenting the information, Clegg makes a certain charge:”A study released this week by the Center for Equal Opportunity has found evidence of racial discrimination in law, undergraduate and medical school admission at the University of Oklahoma.”
Clegg continues by noting that “The study, which analyzes data obtained from the university, found that blacks were admitted to all three schools with lower academic qualifications than students from other racial and ethnic groups. Some evidence of preferential treatment for American Indian applicants was noted as well.” The fact that African American and American Indian students submit applications for admission with lower academic qualifications than other ethnic American groups should not come as a surprise when we consider from whence they come. Common knowledge underscores the fact that African American as well as other ethnic American students who come from socially and economically challenged communities do not receive an educational experience equal to that of more affluent students. So, why would the test scores lower grade point averages come as a surprise, especially from African Americans considering their special experiences in a biased society?
The article got specific regarding the charge of discrimination: “At the law school, we found black-white median LSAT gaps of 6 (equivalent to a combined math-verbal SAT gap of over 100), and a gap in undergraduate GPAs. Indeed, 105 whites were rejected despite higher LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs than the median black admittee in the two years studied.” What exact ally is the point being made here? If admittance was based only on examination scores of the LSAT and GPAs, the number of African Americans and American Indians would not exist at all, except for those students coming from upper-middle-class or affluent communities and schools. Statistics show that schools in the lower socio-economic communities generally produce poor to median students. All we have to do to verify this information is to take a look at the schools in Oklahoma where the applicants graduated.
Let us be clear about what is being suggested in this study. Data concerning admittance at the University of Oklahoma was given to the Center for Equal Opportunity. The Center released the data along with the charge of “racial discrimination” and “racial preference” with a special focus on African Americans. For years, beginning with statehood to 1948, African Americans were denied admittance to all of Oklahoma’s institutions of higher education with the exception of Langston University, a predominantly undergraduate African American school. The primary reason for denying admission to the African Americans was their ethnicity or as noted, their race. If that was the primary reason for their being denied entrance, should not part of the resolution take in the fact of their ethnicity? Just how would Clegg suggest the problem be addressed that provides an equal opportunity to all?
Whether intended or not, Clegg characterizes African American students as villains for seeking admission to the school at OU knowing full well that their scores and GPAs are not as high as the European American students. What are these students supposed to do when their society and academic experiences do not adequately prepare them to compete equally at the college and university level? One of the problems with these kinds of studies is created via the language used. The very name of the Center for Equal Opportunity is an oxymoron; since “opportunity” is based on chance or break, how can that be equal? Unfortunately, the word equal is a mathematical word, not a social one. The possibility of two people being equal does not exist. To use it with respect to college and university admittance suggests that all students must be treated the same. The problem with using that word is the creation of unequal experiences for some when attempting to correct the admittance problem for others. The appropriate word and action to use is fair or fairness because it allows for changes to be made without the restrictions associated with being equal.
As in my previous blog regarding Affirmative Action, the book Mismatch, by Sander and Taylor is referenced to show that preference is given to African American students. Clegg says “None of this is surprising: Nearly every selective school in the country uses racial preferences unless a court or state has told it not to.” If the schools want to treat the once denied African American students fairly, then they must show preferences; that is just plain common sense. Simple admittance will not address the over-all problem. Attention to the students’ education prior to college or university must be given serious and necessary attention as the book Mismatch suggests.
Concerning the charge of discrimination by Clegg we must wonder who else is being discriminated against. We know the African American and other ethnic American students are who are forced to compete unfairly with students from more affluent families and communities. We know the European American students with the high test scores and GPAs are who are rejected in favor of students whose parents attended OU. We do not know for certain, but Clegg seems to place the blame on the university and the African American students, but we wonder why.
Maybe we can find some food for thought in the words of Michael J. Sandel, author of What Money Can’t Buy when he says “Democracy does not require perfect equality, but is does require that citizens share in a common life. What matters is that people of different backgrounds and social positions encounter one another, and bump up against one another, in the course of everyday life. For this is how we learn to negotiate and abide our differences, and how we come to care for the common good.” Sometimes a simple word is sufficient.