Affirmative action

5/27/2011: Interesting story in the Chronicle by Richard Kahlenberg reporting that LBJ’s 1965 AA proposals were explicitly based on class, not the race and ethnicity that are its current focus, and the focus of UO’s Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity. Perhaps the new OIED director will have a  view more consistent with LBJ, but it seems unlikely.

But as I outline in my book, The Remedy, Johnson’s speech, written by Richard Goodwin and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, never mentioned the idea of using racial preferences, and media reports at the time explicitly noted the omission. Instead the speech called for a number of race-neutral class-based programs to provide better jobs, housing, education, and health care. Johnson’s subsequent executive order (11246) called for federal contractors to take “affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color or national origin.” In an interview, Moynihan told me, “It always seemed to me that you would take care of this race problem in the context of a class problem.”

 Likewise, Chace cites large gaps in math and verbal SAT scores between blacks and whites as a rationale for continued affirmative-action programs. On average, black students scored 209 points lower on the critical reading and math sections than white students in 2008. But Chace never probes the question of why blacks score lower than whites on average. Research that does examine this issue points primarily to the role of economic disadvantage. In a 2010 Century Foundation study, for example, Anthony Carnevale and Jeff Strohl found that controlling for socioeconomic factors, the black/white gap on the combined math and verbal sections of the SAT shrinks to 56 points, while the gap between rich and poor is seven times larger, at 399 points.

Here’s the speech, Howard University, 1965: “My fellow Americans …”

college athletics and race

4/23/2011: At a recent “visioning session” for the UO diversity office, a speaker from the local minority community made the very accurate point that UO’s outreach efforts were mostly focused on the athletic department – not on recruiting high academic performing minority students interested in college. The economist Charles Clotfelter, at Duke, has a new book: Big-Time Sports in American Universities. One of the commentators on the Marginal Revolution discussion on it makes the point even more bluntly:

… I enjoy college sports thoroughly, but the whole deal is based on young cheap labor being unfairly and inappropriately compensated; “black” sports (football and basketball), to put it crudely, subsidize “white” sports (swimming, golf, etc). The whole thing makes me queasy…and yet I still watch.

I’ve heard UO administrators argue that UO sports are important in part because they bring racial minorities to campus. And in truth a large fraction of UO’s African-American students are football and basketball players. Of course, these students are not selected on the basis of academic effort or achievement, which creates some pretty bad high school incentives, and low college graduation rates. (Read Schroeder’s RG story for examples – these “student athletes” are transferring for more playing time – or perhaps because coach Altman told them they weren’t good enough players to keep their scholarships. Nothing to do with academics.) While they are here we segregate them away from the regular students in the Jock Box. (Better than UVA at least, where the tutoring center is actually inside the basketball arena.) The whole thing makes me queasy too.

From Inside Oregon, Nov 2010:

* federal graduation rates – those that include transfers from the university but exclude students who transfer in – the UO football team improved to 53 percent from 45 percent, men’s basketball improved to 79 percent from 78 percent, women’s basketball improved to 71 percent from 69 percent and volleyball improved to 62 percent from 50 percent. Softball student-athletes had a federal graduation rate of 87 percent, women’s track & field 85 percent, men’s golf 82 percent, women’s tennis 80 percent, women’s golf 78 percent and women’s soccer 70 percent.

 The overall UO rate was 70 percent. All these data are old: for the students entering fall of 2003.

OIED/OMAS and the peace of God

4/20/2011: There are a lot of things about UO’s OIED I do not understand. Like this email. Apparently VP for Diversity Charles Martinez hired Abernethy for $2500, to mediate a dispute between the OIED/OMAS staff and himself. Abernethy is a psychologist at Fuller Theological Seminary. Fuller is a fundamentalist divinity school:

“In all of our activities, including instruction, nurture, worship, service, research, and publication, Fuller Theological Seminary strives for excellence in the service of Jesus Christ, under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of the Father.”

Fair enough. So what’s wrong with the tag line on the email? Not exactly ecumenical – not that I’m a theologian. Suppose it said “the peace of Allah.” Or “Yours in religious skepticism”. Or “May Wicca bless your daughters”. From a mediator, sending this around to the people in a dispute that she has been hired by a public institution to neutrally resolve? A reasonable person might stop and think about how open to be with such a mediator – which sort of destroys the point of it. And maybe that was the point of this contract.

From: Alexis Abernethy []
Sent: Friday, April 15, 2011 2:42 PM
Subject: Re: Meeting Confirmation

Dear OMAS Staff,

I am looking forward to our time next week on Thursday and Friday. Please see the attached schedule. There may be minor adjustments, but this is my current plan. I will see you next week!!

May the peace of God be with you,


Alexis D. Abernethy, PhD
Professor of Psychology
Graduate School of Psychology
Fuller Theological Seminary
180 North Oakland Avenue
Pasadena, CA  91101
Phone – (626) 584-5359
Fax – (626) 584-9630

Mandatory diversity training for faculty on search committees?

4/20/2011: That’s what I think I heard CAS Dean Scott Coltrane say Academic Affairs is considering requiring, starting next year. Anyone know more – such as how much we paid the consultant who recommended this, and who presumably knows just the right people to provide this training? (Update: apparently no consultant, as of yet, this is all in the discussion phase.)

If this program involves abolishing the $90,000 per listed minority UMRP and giving that money to departments to use as they see fit – regardless of the race or ethnicity of the person they hire – I’d be willing to talk about it.

Oregon Professor on discrimination against Asian-Americans:

4/18/2011: Physicist Steve Hsu in the Boston Globe:

Even though the Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that universities can continue to consider race in admissions in the interest of diversity, admissions officers deny they’re screening out Asian-Americans. However, in researching their 2009 book No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal, Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade and researcher Alexandria Walton Radford examined data on students applying to college in 1997 and found what looks like different standards for different racial groups. They calculated that Asian-Americans needed nearly perfect SAT scores of 1550 to have the same chance of being accepted at a top private university as whites who scored 1410 and African-Americans who got 1100. Whites were three times, Hispanics six times, and blacks more than 15 times as likely to be accepted at a US university as Asian-Americans.

What about the argument that, in relation to the general population, Asian-Americans are already overrepresented at universities? “It’s both true that Asians are overrepresented and that they’re being discriminated against,” says Stephen Hsu, a professor of physics at the University of Oregon who speaks out against discrimination he says Asian-Americans face in university admissions. Both things can happen at the same time, he says.

Hsu and others allege that universities are more concerned about boosting black and Hispanic enrollment than admitting qualified Asian-Americans, and that old-fashioned xenophobia comes into play as well.

Given UO’s low admissions standards relative to top schools, this discrimination is a chance for us to pick up some very good students. As Brandeis did when the Ivies discriminated against Jews. Professor Hsu is not on UO’s VP for Diversity search committee. Here is a post from his blog on an earlier story in the Times of London.

Admissions wants a Spanish speaking recruiter

4/13/2011: A very good idea:

Preferred Background

  • Experience in student recruitment, education advocacy, or college counseling
  • Proficiency and fluency (grammar, spelling, syntax, structure) in both written and spoken Spanish
  • Experience with, or graduation from, the University of Oregon

This is a full time, 12-month, fixed-term appointment. Salary range is $29,000 – $32,000 annually commensurate with experience.

Cancel the VP for Diversity search, eliminate OIED, and spend their $1 million budget on this recruiter’s salary and 48 full-ride $20,000 scholarships for good low-income Oregon students from all ethnic groups. Now that would get UO some attention and good-will from the state.

VP for Diversity visioning session report

3/30/2011: My report from the diversity meeting today. This was billed as the session for faculty and staff. Turnout was low – there were about 8 search committee people, maybe 5 faculty, and about 40 staff. Make what you will of the disinterest on the part of the faculty. If the search committee is serious about faculty input they will need to try another avenue.

The search firm is – I think – “Diversified Search”. The session was ably moderated by CAS Dean Scott Coltrane, and everyone got a chance to speak their piece. The agenda points, with my comments, were as follows.

  • What are the most important issues for the campus to focus on over the next 5 years? Or, if you accelerate into the future 5 years from now, what do you hope for our campus in terms of our diversity efforts? What will the campus look and feel like?

David Frank of the Honors College spoke first and took this head on: We do not want another 5 year diversity plan! He advocated for concrete efforts to prepare and recruit low SES kids while they are still in middle school, and noted the growing Hispanic population as an example of the importance of this.

 Dean Coltrane used his summary on this point to defend Charles Martinez’s 5 year diversity plan process and the yearly updates and make clear that they were here to stay. Anyone who has ever read or prepared one of those plans knows they are a bureaucratic time-wasting soul-destroying exercise in futility. Check them out here. Last I looked UO had 1307 pages of diversity plans.

  • What do you see as our greatest challenges and threats to our current and future efforts?

 “Eugene is so white. People of color don’t stay because of this.” This is not something UO can solve. It is also a very narrow definition of diversity – not irrelevant, but narrow. Other people made comments that tried to broaden the definition to include SES etc. The committee does not seem to include representation from these groups.

Someone made a pitch for mandatory training in “cultural competency” for all UO faculty. Dean Coltrane pointed out that many other universities require this training. I’ve had this. Trust me, there is *nothing* that will destroy the faculty’s respect for this idea or for the importance of diversity in general than 4 hours of mandatory re-education and inane role playing exercises. Big $ for the trainers though, I hear.

  • What do you see as our greatest opportunities? What is going well and should be continued?

There was response from several people about the effect of the increasing diversity of international students on diversity. Good point – it’s huge. Someone else noted SES diversity, and physically handicapped. Some economist went on and on about UO’s SAIL program, and how it was bringing local minority and low SES High School students to campus and preparing them for college, involving faculty and student volunteers in an effective diversity program, and was an example of the sort of innovative thinking UO could become nationally known for. Enough already friend, give it a rest.

  • What are the types of qualities and characteristics needed in the next VP for Diversity?

Someone pointed out it was an impossible job with all these expectations. Someone said building bridges to the community. Someone said experience with “fill the pipeline” diversity. A few people said we needed a troublemaker who would stir things up and make change happen.

Rural HS students and college

3/30/2011: Bill Graves of the Oregonian has a good story about a successful effort to encourage students from a small rural Oregon HS to go to college. The raw stats are pretty striking:

An analysis by The Oregonian found the percentages of 2009 graduates who went on to one of the state’s seven public universities was 23 from urban schools, 21 from suburban, 15 from small town and 18 from rural schools.

Diversity: It’s Back.

3/28/2011: UO’s Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity needs a new Vice President. It’s a big job, with a large budget and staff, control of a lot of dedicated funds, and in the right hands it has the potential for a lot of positive impact.

The hiring committee was appointed in January and is chaired by Scott Coltrane and co-chaired by Robin Holmes. They will hold their first public meeting, a “visioning session” that will solicit input on a new job description for the VP position, this Wednesday, from 2:00-3:00pm in the EMU Fir Room. There are some good people on the committee and starting from scratch seems like a good sign.

Oregon has way too many bright kids from low SES families – of all races/ethnicities etc. – who are not ready for college. With the coming K-12 cuts this is going to get way worse. I think developing effective programs to help these students get ready for UO and succeed at UO should be job #1 for OIED. To do this we will need a VP with a lot of energy and expertise in “fill the pipeline” programs.

I started this blog a few years ago in large part because of my strong feelings about how badly UO had been handling diversity issues. I think there is a lot that could be learned from an honest appraisal of UO’s many past mistakes with this office. But there are also some reasons to not dwell on those mistakes. I intend to give this new start for OIED every chance to succeed.

What I learn from Diversity

3/19/2011: My grades are in, and I just graduated two Saudi students, with C’s. One from a town near Yemen, another from near Bahrain. I asked them about the uprisings – what were they going to do when they got back to Saudi Arabia? “It is a Kingdom. We have a King. Do you know what that means?” It was a serious question, no hint of sarcasm. “I have been gone 4 years. I will stay at home, with my mother.” The first one nodded. “It’s not like America. You are so lucky here.”

UO’s Summer Academy to Inspire Learning

8/10/2010: Ryan Buckley of the Daily Emerald has an article on an all-volunteer program some UO faculty started to encourage local low-SES students to go to college.

KEZI has a brief clip on President Larviere’s talk at the camp, here

Mark Baker had an earlier article on this in the RG. Carla Gary, AVP for Diversity, has a letter to the editor on 2 programs OIED runs that do similar work. From what we can tell these are OIED’s only substantive programs. They have about 45 students, and a $905,000 budget.

UO faculty does something about diversity

8/5/2010: Imagine what they could do with the $905,000 the VP for Diversity budgets for administrative expenses and reviewing “diversity action plan strategic reports”.

Camp for a cause | A series of University of Oregon summer programs aims to give low-income high school and middle school students a taste of college life

The Register-Guard

Appeared in print: Thursday, Aug 5, 2010

And they say there’s no free lunch in this world. Not only are about 90 area high school students getting a free lunch every day this week and next week on the University of Oregon campus, they’re getting a free education, too, thanks to a unique summer camp program.

“It’s a big win-win situation because we get to come here and learn for free and all have all these hands-on activities,” said Dylan Johnson, who will be a junior at Eugene’s Sheldon High School this fall. “And you get $50,” he said, referring to the gift certificates given to all the students in the UO’s Summer Academy to Inspire Learning, or SAIL, program.

The program was started in summer 2006 by UO economics professors Bruce Blonigen and Bill Harbaugh as a one-week day camp focused on economics for 15 Springfield Middle School students. Its aim is to increase college enrollment among students from low-income families by introducing them to college life before they’ve even taken their first high school class.

The program recruits bright students its organizers say belong in college but who are unlikely to get the opportunity. About 25 students are recruited every spring.

SAIL has a four-year focus and includes not just the economics camp for incoming high school freshman but also the psychology and neuroscience camp for soon-to-be high school sophomores, the physics and human physiology camp for juniors and the creativity and persuasion camp for seniors. The program is free and run by volunteer UO faculty and graduate and undergraduate students.

It also has received about $150,000 in donations over the years, the vast majority from Shirley Rippey, a 1953 UO graduate from Portland and longtime major donor to the university, and her husband, James Rippey, also a ’53 UO graduate.

“We started (the camp), really, just as an experiment,” Harbaugh said. It was a reaction to the UO’s diversity plan of 2006, “Which we thought was just a bunch of talk,” Harbaugh said. “We wanted to do something a little bit more relevant.”

At 10 a.m. today, that relevancy will take the dozen students in the physics and human physiology camp that began Monday to the cadaver lab in Willamette Hall to learn about anatomy. And won’t that go well with that free, all-you-can-eat cafeteria lunch?

Actually, Johnson and the other students are quite excited to meet some nonliving folks who donated themselves to science.

“It’s all good,” said Johnson, who is thinking about attending Northwest Christian University in the fall of 2011 if he can figure out a way to pay tuition.

It’s not only the financial donations from the Rippeys but also the volunteer time provided by UO faculty and students that have allowed the program to exist, Harbaugh said. Almost 30 professors are listed as volunteers for the two camps running this week and the two next week. Even UO president Richard Lariviere is scheduled to give students a lecture on Sanskrit, the ancient language of India, in which Lariviere earned his doctorate.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Paul van Donkelaar, an associate professor of human physiology, on why he chose to volunteer his time starting last summer. Van Donkelaar is leading this week’s camp for incoming high school juniors, along with Raghu Parthasarathy, an assistant physics professor.

On Wednesday, students descended into the motion analysis laboratory in the basement of the UO’s Gerlinger Annex to learn why human beings walk the way they do.
Four human physiology graduate students led the students through four different stations, including one in which reflective markers were attached to the students’ bodies as they walked through an area beneath eight infrared cameras that can shoot up to 200 photographs a second. The markers appear as dots floating on a large screen that enables researchers to study such things as falls in the elderly and locomotion of track athletes.

At another station, doctoral student Scott Breloff encouraged Springfield High School student Halla Walton to push as hard as she could on what looked like an exercise machine for biceps curls. The Biodex machine measures the amount of force produced by certain joints — the elbow in this case.

The SAIL program recruits eighth-grade students every spring for the economics camp in the hopes they’ll attend four straight summers. Students this year were recruited from Springfield and Hamlin middle schools in Springfield, and Prairie Mountain School and Cascade Middle School in the Bethel School District, said Lara Fernandez, who became SAIL’s first full-time employee this year as the program’s associate director.

“Eventually, we want to serve all of Oregon,” Fernandez said.

To be eligible for SAIL, students must be part of the federal free and reduced price lunch program for students from low-income families, Fernandez said.

Katie Castro, a 2010 Springfield High School graduate who attended the SAIL camp all four summers, is the program’s first graduate to go on to college. She will be a freshman at the UO this fall and was hired to be a camp counselor this summer.

“I wasn’t super interested in it, but my parents thought it would be a good opportunity for us,” Castro said. Her brother, Anthony, also was in that first camp four summers ago.
But Castro, who has received two scholarships to attend the UO and applied for financial aid through programs she learned about in SAIL, is glad she attended the camp.
“It gave me the incentive to go to UO,” she said.

Are racial and economic diversity substitutes?

7/19/2010: From Ross Douthat in the NYTimes, discussing this book on who gets into elite colleges:

For minority applicants, the lower a family’s socioeconomic position, the more likely the student was to be admitted. For whites, though, it was the reverse. An upper-middle-class white applicant was three times more likely to be admitted than a lower-class white with similar qualifications.

Rewarding Strivers

6/18/2010: From the blurb from the new Century Foundation book on access to higher education, Rewarding Strivers:

Obstacles are more closely associated with class than race, suggesting affirmative action should be primarily about socioeconomic status.

Racial discrimination continues to play a role in education, but its influence is dwarfed by the role of socioeconomic status. Of the 784-point SAT gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students, Carnevale and Strohl found that just 56 points are solely attributable to race per se (being black as opposed to white). (See Figure 2.) By contrast, 399 points of the gap are from factors that are socioeconomic in nature—such has having a father who is a laborer as opposed to a physician (48 points), attending a school where 90 percent of classmates are low-income compared to one where no peers receive subsidized lunch (38 points), and having a parent who is a high school dropout as opposed to highly educated (43 points). Another 228 points are associated with factors that are sometimes matters of choice but are constrained by socioeconomic status—items such as working at a job during high school (13 points) and not taking any AP courses (81 points), which some low-income schools fail to make available.

The book seems mostly about access to highly selective universities. The review by Doug Lederman at is more nuanced on the race/income issue. Support for a shift away from affirmative action based on race and towards SES is clearly becoming mainstream. President Obama has argued in favor of it, and the recent AAU/AAAS book on what universities can legally do to increase diversity repeatedly makes the point that, particularly since the Grutter decision, affirmative action that emphasizes SES is much more legally defensible than approaches that are based strictly on race.