In my Wall Street Journal op-ed today, "Why Aren't There More Black Scientists?: The Evidence Suggests that One Reason Is the Perverse Impact of University Racial Preferences," I urged Congress to prohibit accreditors from bullying colleges and universities into engaging in greater racial preferences than they would otherwise feel comfortable with. These preferences are hurting rather than helping African-American students to achieve. I particularly call on Lamar Alexander, Virginia Foxx and John Kline, who are the leaders in the re-authorization of the Higher Education Act, to act. I think the best part of my proposal is that it uses a relatively light touch. No college or university that wants to engage in race-preferential admissions would be prevented from doing so. The only effect would be to prevent accreditors from forcing schools to go further than they feel appropriate.
I didn’t get much opportunity to detail how these federally-recognized accreditors function as enforcers of the higher education “diversity cartel.” Let me do that here for medical schools:
In the academic world, accrediting agencies are frequently the most active enforcers of diversity. In the 1990s, fully 31% of law schools and 24% of medical schools admitted to political scientists Susan Welch and John Gruhl that they “felt pressure” “to take race into account in making admissions decisions” from “accreditation agencies.” (See Susan Welch & John Gruhl, "Affirmative Action in Minority Enrollments in Medical School and Law School" 80 (1998)).
When accreditors speak, the institutions they govern must listen. For example, the Council of the American Bar Association’s Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar (ABA) and the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) are the U.S. Department of Education’s designated accreditation agencies for law schools and medical schools respectively. They get to decide whether a school will be eligible for federal funding, including funding for student loans. Effectively, these accreditors are the federal government.
Note that neither the ABA nor LCME is an academic institution itself. LCME, for example, describes itself as consisting of “medical educators and administrators, practicing physicians, public members and medical students.” See "About the Liaison Committee on Medical Education" (LCME). More importantly, neither is an individual institution. If centralizing forces like the ABA and LCME are given their own “academic freedom,” they have the power to destroy the academic freedom of individual college and universities in those situations where academic freedom is truly appropriate.
There is considerable evidence that the pressure from accreditors to increase diversity is growing (and no evidence of which I am aware to the contrary). I recently conducted a round of state public records requests of state medical schools in cooperation with the California Association of Scholars and the National Association of Scholars. (I sit on the boards of both.) Out of the sixteen schools that have responded or partially responded, half have been cited for problems with diversity. At the University of Nevada Medical School at Reno, for example, the 2009 Survey Team found that “the numbers of students and faculty of diverse backgrounds have been consistently low,” and the 2012 Survey Team found the school to be “noncompliant” with diversity accreditation standards. (Ad Hoc Survey Team, "Report of the Secretariat Fact-Finding Survey of the University of Nevada School of Medicine" 4, 9 (April 1-3, 2012)).
Similarly, the 2009 Survey Team for Wright State University School of Medicine reported:
“Diversity of the student body has been somewhat problematic. There has been a steady decline in the number of African-American student applicants and students from 309 applicants in 2001 to 241 in 2007, and from 50 total African-American students in 2001 to 32 in 2007. At the same time there are no Hispanic students. The number of Asian students has increased.” [...]
(Ad Hoc Survey Team, "Team Report of the Survey of Wright State University, Boonshoft School of Medicine" 2-3 (Hopkins Letter), 38 (March 22-25 2009)).
As a result, the accreditor classified Wright State’s diversity as an area “of transition, whose outcome could affect the school’s ongoing compliance with accreditation standards.”
At the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, the accreditor named diversity as an area of “partial or substantial noncompliance,” finding that “[d]iversity among faculty and students has not increased notably in the past seven years.” (Ad Hoc Survey Team, "Team Report of the Survey of University of South Alabama College of Medicine" 2 (Moulton Letter) (September 26-29, 2010)).
You can bet that medical schools respond to such pressure by beefing up the level of preference given to under-represented minority students. They have to in order to stay in business. You can also bet that LCME representatives believe this is good for under-represented minority students. But as I explain in "A Dubious Expediency: How Race-Preferential Admissions Policies on Campus Hurt Minority Students," the opposite is true. We would have more African-American physicians (and more African-American engineers, scientist, college professors and likely lawyers) if schools practiced race-neutral admissions policies.
If anything, the ABA has been even more aggressive in pushing schools toward greater (and more destructive) racial preferences. But I will demonstrate that in another blog post (coming soon).
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