Pitting the state of Texas against four students who had been denied admission to the University of Texas School of Law because of their skin color, the recent Hopwood v. Texas case could spell doom for racial preferences in public education if affirmed by the Supreme Court. The Sth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction covers Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, ruled in Hopwood that the use of race as a factor in admissions at public educational institutions violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, sending into panic an academic establishment already reeling from the University of California Board of Regents’ decision last July to eliminate racial preferences on state campuses. Though Hopwood may very well be overturned by a higher court, or like the Bakke case (1978), be subverted by university administrators who operate outside the law, it’s already succeeded in exposing the ugh truths about affirmative action.
In the spring of 1992, Cheryl Hopwood was rejected from the University of Texas School of Law despite posting near perfect test scores and a 3.8 grade point average (GPA). This 32-year-old mother who had to raise a severely handicapped child while working her wav through college apparently lacked a “diverse” enough background for UT Law admissions officers. While her test scores and GPA outranked 40 of 41 black students accepted by the school, and all but three of 55 Chicanos offered admission, Cheryl’s placement on the “diversity” test lagged far behind the Mexican and African-American students, and she was denied a spot at the law school.
The general impression in academia is that affirmative action gives minorities a “helping hand” while not really harming whites and other non-preferred groups. The reality is quite different, as a large number of Cheryl Hopwoods across the country can attest. So disadvantaged were the non-preferred groups at the University of Texas that approximately 700 higher-scoring whites were rejected along with Cheryl Hopwood before the first in-state black resident was denied admission.
UT Law admissions records, made public only after Hopwood’s four plaintiffs filed suit, reveal sizable discrepancies between the grades and test scores of whites and those of preferred minorities accepted by the school. In 1992, the year Ms. Hopwood and her three co-plaintiffs were rejected by UT Law, white students accepted by the school had a mean CPA of 3.56 and LSAT scores in the 91st percentile, while black students offered admission posted a mean CPA of 3.25, with LSAT scores below the 75th percentile; Mexican-American accepted applicants’ mean GPA was 3.27 with LSAT scores in the 78th percentile.
Texas Law admits students on a scale known as the Texas Index, which combines CPA and law school entrance exams. Students fall into three categories on this index: “presumptive admit,” the “middle discretionary zone,” and “presumptive deny.” For whites, Texas Index scores of 192 or lower fell under the “presumptive deny” category. Preferred minorities who scored 189, three points lower than the threshold for denying admission to whites, were classified under “presumptive admit.” Among applicants who fell within the 189-192 range on the Texas Index, 100 percent of blacks, 90 percent of Mexican-Americans, but only six percent of whites were offered spots at the school.
So immersed in special-interest polities is the school’s admissions policy that Native Americans, Asians, non-Mexican Hispanics, and even foreign-born blacks are penalized in favor of Chicanos and blacks. Such UT Law admissions officers do not view Nigerians as adding less diversity to its campus than American-born blacks? Or Vietnamese refugees as having experienced any less hardship and discrimination than Mexican-Americans?
Many sympathetic to the aims of affirmative action have even suggested that the University of Texas may have gotten its just due in court because of the extreme nature of the school’s admissions program. But there is no reason to believe that Texas’s admissions program was any more rigged than the programs of other schools. In fact, administrators from law schools around the country refuted this argument in an effort to tilt the court to UT’s side by testifying that their affirmative action policies were nearly identical to those at Texas.
Repeated assurances by “civil rights” activists that affirmative action does not discriminate against whites but rather serves as a boost to minorities in competition with whites of roughly the same qualifications have repeatedly been proven false whenever academic institutions have been forced to open their admissions policies up to outside examination. At UT Law, Georgetown Law, the University of California, and other institutions that have had their admissions data pried open in recent years, affirmative action programs have been shown to be little more than punishment for having been born white, Asian, or any other non-preferred group.
In those rare eases when the public is allowed to view the true nature of affirmative action programs, it is seldom the case that they do so with the approval of university administrators. More often, the reality of affirmative action is brought to light by renegade students with access to admissions data or through lawsuits. The latter was the ease at both UT Law and the University of California schools of law and medicine, which released data only after being sued for consumer fraud by attorney Allan Favish, who misled applicants into believing that the university system did not discriminate on the basis of race.
As the affirmative action debate heats up in the coming months, it is likely that the admission practices of many more schools will be made public. In the wake of the disturbing facts revealed in Hopwood, is it any wonder why academics, the most vehement defenders of affirmative action, fight tooth and nail to keep admissions data from the public?