NYT`S Leonhardt Misses The Real UCLA Quotas Story

The most publicized frontline in the fight over the

ethnic spoils system

affirmative action,

, or

) is freshman admissions to the
University of California.

Sunday`s New York Times Magazine article

The New Affirmative Action
,  by David Leonhardt,
praising the (illegal) push to get more minorities into
UCLA is only the latest example (September 30, 2007).

Heck, I`ve

about this issue more

than I care to remember.

In the early 1970s, the University of California
system quietly put in place a quota system for lower IQ
minorities. In the 1978

Bakke decision
over the UC Davis medical
school, Supreme Court

Justice Lewis Powell

"quotas" but permitted
. In practice, this merely turned
out to require a semantic change.

In 1995, the UC Board of Regents, led by

Ward Connerly
, abolished

racial and ethnic preferences
in admissions. In
1996, California voters approved
Proposition 209,
authored by

Thomas Wood and Glynn Custred
, which inscribed a
general ban on preferences into the state`s
constitution. UC administrators have

met this anti-discrimination law
with "massive
—the tactic invented in the South`s
school desegregation wars fifty years ago. They have
been conniving to get around California`s constitution
ever since.

Why has fighting over who gets a cheap but
prestigious college education been so intense in
California? It`s worth considering in detail because the
Golden State is where America`s future gets test-driven.
The rest of the country can look forward to similar
developments very soon.

By 1965, the state of California had built for its
best high school graduates eight lovely campuses (most
in famously desirable locations such as Santa Barbara
and La Jolla), or one for every

2.2 million residents
. Since then, however,

20 million
more people have crowded into
California—but the state has added only

one additional UC school
, in

not-so-lovely Merced
in the Central Valley.

California`s population growth and its worsening
inability to add the infrastructure that the new
residents need—whether


, or

power plants
—are intimately related.

  • First, more people mean higher land
    prices. So paying for needed property is more expensive
    than back in the early 1960s.

  • Second, the

    movement inevitably gathers
    political strength as the number of backyards increases.

California has passed famously stringent
environmental laws as

try to

prevent new developments
from overcrowding them. The
construction of UC Merced turned into a 17-year-long
ordeal stretching from 1988 to the first day of classes
in 2005, with the whole campus having to be moved to
protect a half-inch long


Considering that minorities already make up

of freshmen at UCLA, you might think the
topic of today`s NYT essay is moot by this point.
That UCLA is enormously diverse, yet still wracked by
complaints that it lacks diversity, shows that
isn`t really the issue. Instead,

ethnic activists
just want to pack more members of
their races

into each college
to display their raw political
muscle. Whether this is in the interests of the general
public or even of the

minority students themselves
is irrelevant.

Affirmative action is much like its
campus counterpart:

football recruiting
. They`re both close to a zero
sum game.

UCLA`s football team,
for example, has scored a coup
in getting a letter of commitment from Birmingham High
School`s star running back

Milton Knox
. This allows UCLA fans to thump their
chests and gesticulate with contempt at Berkeley`s fans.
But so what? Similarly,

annually flies up from Los Angeles 500
black and Hispanic high school students, primarily to
keep them from going to UCLA.

The vast amount of time and money
expended on recruiting high school football players
doesn`t create much new talent; it just redistributes it
among colleges. And the same is true for affirmative

The liberal dispensation that has ruled America for
over three decades presumes the existence of a

white majority
that can easily afford to dispense
preferences to minorities because the "racial
of payer to payee is high. But when
everybody is a minority, the

cost of ethnic preferences
per disfavored individual
becomes unbearable.

One general lesson illustrated by this new NYT
article about the effort to pack more blacks into UCLA:
nobody in the MainStream Media cares much about the
truly big demographic stories, which are driven by

Indeed, the reason few Americans realize that many

immigrants are eligible
for affirmative action

the moment they get off the plane
is that everyone in the media instead
wants to


quotas for African-Americans
for the one-millionth

Yet immigrant groups eligible for affirmative action
are the fastest growing—and thus the most destabilizing.

Granted, some of the more famous blacks of the
post-War era had attended UCLA, such as

Jackie Robinson,
Nobel Peace Prize laureate

Ralph Bunche,

Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley,
decathlete Rafer
Johnson, and basketball player Lew Alcindor (later
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).

To be frank, though, in California, African-Americans

yesterday`s news.
Blacks are now down to only

6.7 percent
of the population of California, while

are 35.2 percent and

are 12.2 percent. However, the press just
isn`t all that interested in brown and yellow people. It
still sees everything in black and white.

Leonhardt`s NYT piece begins with the typical
human interest profile of a black student who is assume
to deserve to displace somebody else because she`s,
well, black:

"In another time, it
wouldn`t have been too hard to guess where Frances
Harris would have ended up going to college. She has
managed to do very well in very difficult circumstances,
and she is African-American. … She decided her dream
college was the University of California, Los Angeles."

Of course, the writer never interviews the

unknown 18-year-old
who would be at UCLA if Ms.
Harris hadn`t been

a sub rosa racial preference.
Although UC admissions are a zero sum game, the reporter
doesn`t actually know the name of the young person who
was cheated out of admission. So, to the New York
, he or she is literally an “Invisible Victim”
– to
adapt the title of

Fred Lynch`s
book about the

impact of affirmative action on whites.

Ms. Harris had an A-minus average. Which sounds very
good – but

of UCLA`s accepted applicants have straight A
GPAs of 4.0 or higher.

She scored a 22 on the ACT, which is roughly the
equivalent of a

1030 or 1040
on the SAT (Math plus Verbal, but not
counting the new Writing test). For us oldsters, that`s
like a 930 on the SAT before they made the scoring
easier in 1995. The mean accepted applicant at UCLA
scored a 1341 on the SAT. Only

5.5 percent
of all UCLA admits scored below 22 on
the ACT, so Miss Harris must rank at about the 10th

There`s no evidence that SAT or ACT scores under
predict performance. Indeed, it`s been shown that black
and Hispanic college students get

even worse grades
than their low average test scores
would predict.

In other words, Miss Harris might well wind up in
over her head at UCLA, which is a

gigantic, bureaucratic, unsupportive megacampus
huge lecture halls full of bright, highly competitive
workaholics. (And this is a loyal alumnus of UCLA

Leonhardt never explains in his article why UCLA
would be the ideal college for Miss Harris, other than
noting that UCLA has a beautiful campus. Having earned
an MBA at UCLA many years ago, I can confirm that. But I
can also confirm that beautiful campuses are a dime a
dozen these days—America is currently spending vast
amounts on academic architecture and


The NYT reports that after "a six-week
voluntary summer school that is officially open to
incoming freshmen of all races but is dominated by black
and Latino students …she`s thinking about becoming a
pre-med student"
. But once UCLA`s real school year
starts tomorrow, she is likely to find the competition

Asian pre-meds

Before Proposition 209, the black dropout rate at the
top UC schools was about double the white and Asian
rates. The NYT essay celebrates a new ploy by
UCLA to get back to those good old days:

"In the
past, the admissions office divided every application
between two readers: one evaluated a student`s academic
record, the other looked at extracurricular activities
and `life challenges.` Berkeley, by contrast, had taken
a more holistic approach, with a single reader judging
an entire application, and Berkeley was attracting more
black students than U.C.L.A. Why? Maybe the holistic
approach takes better account of the subtle obstacles
that black students face — or maybe the readers, when
looking at a full application, ended up practicing a
little under-the-table affirmative action.

"Last fall, U.C.L.A. made
the switch. … In all, about 200 African-American
freshmen started classes last week, double the number
the year before… The big question that hangs over
U.C.L.A.`s success, of course, is whether the university
broke the law."

As the Daily Bruin reported:

"In fall 2006, before
UCLA switched to holistic admissions, black and Latino
applicants` average SAT scores were 255 and 246 points
lower than the average for their


Asian counterparts.
… In fall 2007, black
applicants` SAT scores were on average 293 points lower
than those of white and Asian students, and Latino
applicants` scores came up 249 points short.”
[Score gaps stir dispute over holistic approach,
By Julia Erlandson,  May 2, 2007]

Leonhardt does make one good point:

is almost an iron law of higher education: the more
selective a school is, the fewer low-income students it
has. … There are really only two exceptions to the rule,
two universities that are both elite and economically
diverse: U.C.L.A. and Berkeley. …

Of course, those are the two elite
colleges that are legally banned from using ethnic
preferences! This demonstrates that the

beneficiaries of affirmative action
are almost all
middle class or higher. (Miss Harris, for example, comes
from a two-parent home.)

Leonhardt explains:

University of California accepts far more transfer
students, mainly from community colleges, than most
colleges. At U.C.L.A., about one-third of the admitted
students arrive as transfers instead of as freshmen."

Unfortunately, Leonhardt doesn`t
realize that this renders his article about freshman
admissions at UCLA close to pointless. All these
struggles over who gets admitted as a freshman to UCLA
are peculiarly phony because the school flunks out
many freshmen and sophomores
and replaces them with
transfers from community colleges.

It makes no sense at all to have an
affirmative action policy of admitting a black kid with
an SAT score in the bottom decile just to boost the
of the freshman class, and then burning
her out and flunking her, replacing her with a community
college grad with an even lower SAT score who winds up
getting the UCLA degree instead of the smarter black.

But when it comes to blacks and
affirmative action, emotion obliterates logic.

So, let me propose a Grand Bargain,
a Comprehensive Affirmative Action Reform to at least
stabilize the scale of the problem: We

permanently authorize racial quotas for
in return for permanently banning

preferences for any other ethnic group.

Unlike a certain


“Grand Bargain”

in the news

earlier this year,
that would be a reasonable

So don`t expect anyone to pay any
attention to it.

[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and

movie critic

The American Conservative
His website

features his daily