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March Madness On The Campuses
March was quite a month for college craziness. Besides the annual contest to see who can be most hypocritical over college athletes, the University of California Board of Regents denounced their own Chairman for telling the truth about the system's efforts to violate the Constitution of the State of California, and the Claremont Colleges were pranked by one of their leftist professors committing a hate crime against herself in order to frame white male conservative students.
Like the crocuses emerging from snow, complaints about what a small percentage of black players in the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament actually, well, graduate from college are an annual March tradition.
This year, New Republic blogger Gregg Easterbrook began the complaints by noting that graduation rates for African-American male hoopsters run between 28% and 38%. He seems to feel it's shameful evidence that taskmaster basketball coaches are preventing their players from getting the degrees in microbiology or whatever that would rightfully be their's if they didn't have to practice so much. The New York Times soon followed up with a thumbsucker on this perennial crisis.
My concern is the opposite: How exactly can otherwise rigorous state flagship universities like Illinois or Michigan provide "meaningful educations" and bachelors' degrees to the majority of their basketball players … without corrupting the university?
After all, the median IQ of college graduates is around 115, while the average IQ of African-Americans is 85.
There's no reason to assume the typical basketball player has more book smarts than is the average for his race. In contrast, pro football prospects (black and white) score about 5-10 points higher than their race's average on the NFL's mandatory Wonderlic IQ test.
Football, however, is an increasingly complex game. But basketball has been dumbed down strategically, especially on offense (as Easterbrook himself recently noted). Players who grew up idolizing egomaniacal gangsta rappers don't like to subordinate themselves for good of the team. So the game increasingly emphasizes simply isolating one player with the ball and hoping he uses his superior athleticism to improvise a way to get the rock in the hole.
So what do colleges do? Mostly, they corrupt themselves by winking at cheating and by creating pushover classes, such as Rocks for Jocks (geology) and Clapping for Credit (music), as that hilarious University of Georgia final exam for basketball players recently illustrated. (Sample question: "How many quarters are in a high school basketball game?")
Sometimes, though, the universities do get righteous, and crack down on recruiting dim bulbs. This is admirable for individual colleges. But what if every college refused to admit gifted athletes just because they were born dumb as a box of rocks? A kid who inherits a 36" vertical leap and a 72 IQ didn't ask for that combination. That's just what he was handed in the genetic lottery. Playing college basketball would probably be the best thing he ever does in his life. It would be cruel to deny him all opportunity to play.
The best solution I've ever come up with is that there should be two divisions: the Academic and the Open.
Colleges choosing the former would live out the amateur scholar-athlete ideal. Players would have to carry a full class load and even pass a national exam annually.
In the Open Division, in contrast, colleges would simply license their famous names to profit-seeking team operators. Any athlete under 24 could freely negotiate for the most lucrative contract available, without fear of having to set foot in a classroom. And some portion of payments to athletes under 21 could go into the players' trust funds until they reached a more mature age.
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Wouldn't it be great to be a billionaire? You'd have so much money that you could afford to tell important but taboo truths.
Yet, much as they abuse their personal staffs, real billionaires in their pursuit of respectability generally present a disappointingly craven face to the world.
Thus it is particularly surprising that John Moores, the software magnate, owner of the San Diego Padres, and lifelong Democrat who was appointed Chairman of the UC Border of Regents by former California governor Gray Davis, has decided to rock the boat. He bravely wrote in the March 24th Forbes:
"The California electorate voted to stop racial preference in college admission in 1996. Since then UC administrators have been manipulating the admissions system and, I believe, thwarting the law. (Although I have been the board's chairman since 2002, I'm just one vote.) UC, Berkeley, the top school in the UC system, is admitting 'underrepresented minorities' with very low SAT scores while rejecting many applicants with high SAT scores."
A statistical study he personally sponsored led him to conclude: "Sadly, today's UC admissions policies are victimizing students--not just those unfairly denied admission but also many with low college entrance exam scores who were admitted and can't compete."
The San Diego Union Tribune reported: "In an unusual move, the regents censured Moores by voting 8-6 to pass a resolution stating that the views he expressed in a Forbes magazine opinion piece aren't the views of the board."
UC officials, however, were forced to admit, in the words of Stuart Silverstein of the Los Angeles Times:
"Even though state law bans preferences for minorities, black and Latino high school seniors who applied to University of California campuses last year were accepted for admission in numbers somewhat higher than appear warranted, UC officials reported Monday."[UC Officials Note Racial Disparity in Admissions, March 9, 2004]
You should note that the UC apparatchiks found discrimination even though their study was cleverly designed to minimize it by comparing the admission rates of students with not just their peers with same high school grades and test scores, but also the same family income and parental educational background. The latter two items reflect the end-run that the system tried to make around Proposition 209 by giving lower class students a big break in admissions. (Incredibly, having been shot now helps you get into UCLA!) Yet, even that isn't good enough. So UC is still putting its thumb on the scales to benefit blacks and Latinos at the expense of whites and Asians.
Affirmative action in freshman admissions at UC is a particularly stupid policy because UC schools traditionally flunk out a lot of freshmen and sophomores, and then replace them with transfers from second tier Cal State colleges and third tier community colleges. This means that a lot of the more promising black and brown high school seniors get admitted due to racial preferences—then get tossed out within a couple of years in favor of less-talented students from community colleges.
That the UC schools are cheating is made clear by the experience of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. This is the finest college in the second-tier Cal State system, with test score averages above several of the nine UC campuses. The LA Times sniffed:
"Only 12.9% of Cal Poly's undergraduates belong to those traditionally underrepresented minority groups … That is the lowest rate among the 30 California public universities with comprehensive undergraduate programs. Even with a state ban on affirmative action, enrollment of underrepresented groups has risen at other Cal State and UC campuses in recent years. At Cal Poly, the numbers started tumbling from a high of 18.9% in the late 1990s and have never rebounded."
Diversity Lagging at Cal Poly By Stuart Silverstein and Doug Smith, March 21, 2004
Being an underfunded Cal State school, Cal Poly SLO admits students by GPA and test scores—the way the UC schools did before Prop. 209 encouraged them to implement expensive "holistic" admissions in order to make the criteria so fuzzy that they could get away with violating the law against racial preferences.
Paradoxically, Cal Poly's law-abidingness has gotten it into legal trouble:
"In January, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund sued Cal Poly for discrimination, contending that the campus' heavy reliance on the SAT penalizes Latinos because they generally score lower than whites on the exam… Victor Viramontes, a defense fund lawyer handling the case, said the university compounds the problem by trumpeting the high average scores its students earn—a factor that could turn off potential Latino and black applicants."
UC Regents Chairman Moores also doesn't think much of the sacred cow of minority outreach. According to an insightful LA Times article by Alan Zarembo, "Putting Them to the Test: The head of the UC Board of Regents wants low SAT scorers—even his own sons—kept out of the system. Hardship doesn't matter, he says," Moores
"…accuses university outreach programs of unfairly planting dreams of Berkeley in the minds of poor minority students at underachieving high schools. He'd rather spend the money on improving their elementary education."
Many pundits simply assume that outreach programs, such as flying black and Hispanic high school seniors from LA to the Berkeley campus for the weekend at taxpayer expense, somehow creates more talented minority students. Instead, it simply shuffles the existing ones around. A 2003 LA Times article by Carol Pogash makes clear that the chief goal of the "Fly to Berkeley" program is to lure minorities away from the UC system's other flagship school, UCLA. How this expensive zero sum game benefits the taxpayers is not explained.
Perhaps even more heretically, Moores thinks the academic-industrial complex should keep its mitts off the less bright half of the population. As the LA Times' Zarembo reports:
"When it came time for college last year, John J. Moores encouraged his twin sons to aim low.'I'm fairly indifferent about college for a lot of kids,' said Moores, chairman of the University of California Board of Regents. 'I don't think it's all that important.' The boys were more suited to the football field than the classroom, Moores said. They would have no place at UC. Neither would thousands of other students already there, if he had his way."
Fascinatingly, Moores has in effect been conducting his own personal nature and nurture study: his identical twins are adopted. A venture capitalist friend who worked for Moores told me:
The Claremont University Consortium consists of seven linked private colleges east of Los Angeles. They are best known for some venerable scholars, such as the greatest management guru, Peter F. Drucker and the famed political philosopher Harry V. Jaffa, at the Claremont McKenna campus. In recent years, however, the administrations of the campuses have been trying to shed the conservative reputation that Drucker and Jaffa brought.
Many students appear to have responded to these administration cues by developing a politically-correct paranoia about purported racist white students secretly infesting the idyllic campus. On March 9, Kerri Dunn, a white female visiting professor of psychology at Claremont McKenna, dramatically announced at anti-"hate" forum that she had just become the victim of a hate crime: her car was covered with racist and anti-Semitic graffiti.
The administrations canceled classes the next day, at a cost of approaching one million dollars in wasted tuition, and staged a huge rally where students shouted out how much they hated hate. Dunn gave a rapturously received rabble-rousing speech in which she claimed:
"This was a well planned out act of terrorism. (Applause) And I don't believe for one second it was one person. I think that there's a group here, a small group, but I do believe that there is a group here that perpetuates this in all different kinds of ways."
Not surprisingly, the police soon announced that Professor Dunn had vandalized her own car. Claremont McKenna put her on leave— paid—although the FBI may charge her with the felony of lying to a federal officer.
The college presidents expressed hope that students wouldn't be disillusioned. Nancy Y. Bekavac of Scripps proclaimed: "Above all, we must focus on this: even if the vandalized car and slogans were a hoax, our responses last week were right and appropriate…"
In the aftermath, I exchanged emails with the presidents of three of the seven campuses. Here is a typical dialogue:
Sailer: "Here is my
concern. I have two adolescent sons, both fine students,
and I had been casually considering the Claremont
colleges for them when the time comes, but the events of
March have left me shaken. Not just the exposure of that
criminal professor -- after all, that was hardly
unexpected. You and I both know from the
long chain of collegiate hate hoaxes that when the
timing and details of a college hate crime are almost
too good to be true, it
typically is too
good to be true.
"But reading in the Pomona student newspaper about the cancellation of classes on March 10th, and the details of the Red Guard-style rally was enough to leave me deeply fearful of exposing my two white male children to such an atmosphere of anti-white male hysteria. Reading about chanting mobs of Blackshirts protesting this obvious Reichstag fire incident also left me feeling sorry for poor Professor Drucker. He probably had a flashback to his days in Europe in the 1930s.
"Reading the student message boards as well, I am struck by overall atmosphere of emotion triumphing over reason, of hate over logic, on your campus. A remarkable fraction of your students appear to see themselves (even before the hoax) as victims, oppressed by white males like my sons. I guess college students shouldn't be blamed too much for childish emotions, but I haven't seen anyone in a position of authority telling them to grow up, that they are among the most privileged young people in America. The various administrations seem intent on coddling the whiners and validating their anti-white male hysterias. In summary, what do you and your colleagues intend to do to make the Claremont Colleges less of a hostile environment for white males like my sons?"
President: "I really do not think that there is in any sense 'anti white male hysteria' here at XXX or the other Claremont Colleges, nor are your allusions to the Red Guard or the Reichstag in the least bit appropriate. The activities on the day when classes were cancelled were fully inclusive (and many white males played particularly active roles) and the full campus community felt that this was a very positive day for everyone involved. If you had been here you would have felt the positive energy in the student body, as well as a commitment to change that I share. Building a stronger college community is an important job for all of us."
I fired back.
Sailer: "As a potential paying customer, I can't say I'm reassured by your stating that having your entire university jerked around by a criminal was a 'very positive day for everyone involved.' I don't know what this 'commitment to change that I share' entails, but I haven't heard anything that suggests it would be positive for my sons, especially since the basic agenda was driven by a criminal identity politics warrior. What I saw was a professor at the Claremont Consortium trying to frame the white male conservative students in her own classes (such as my sons might be in a few years time) for her own crime ... with the FBI! (Look at her statements implying it was probably somebody in one of her classes.) Yet all I'm hearing from you college presidents is that this turned out to be a very positive day for everyone involved.
What if there had been no witnesses to prove Professor Dunn a liar? You all at the top certainly didn't show any reasonable form of skepticism considering the huge number of campus hate crime frauds very similar to this that have been perpetrated over the years. You're lucky some obnoxious rightwing kid in one of her classes didn't get beaten up by a mob or sent to prison in her place.
I've read lots of your student online discussions and the theme that keeps coming up is that lots of your students claim to be scared of physical violence by white male conservative students (e.g., my boys). Obviously, this is absurd. You've got a major problem on your campus with hysteria driven by identity politicians, and you need to clean house. Your colleges are already the laughingstock of America, and your reputation will only get worse if you don't take strong steps.
I haven't gotten a reply to that. Funny thing.
[email Paula Gann, president of the seven-college system]
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