Repeal of race preferenceprograms:EffectsonAsiansandpublicreactions

Barksdale, Yvette 7barksda at jmls.edu
Tue Nov 28 21:04:16 PST 2006


Eugene Volokh writes: [Re Sanders statistics]

" .....Rick Sander reports that in "Tier 1" schools, the median black
student got grades at just below the 10th percentile in the whole class.
"52% of all blacks, compared to 6% of all whites, are in the bottom
decile....  Only 8% of the black students placed in the top half of
their classes."

Hi Eugene: 

  In citing these stats above (which were based upon 1991 numbers), you
neglected to state that blacks were less than 8% of the students at
these schools.   [I suspected this, because the disparities were so
stark - these grossly disproportionate percentages are almost always are
the result of small sample sizes. And, I was right :-)] 

First, the low number of minority students means that even slight
changes in performance by a handful of minority students would
significantly affect the percentages. In a class of 100, if two of the
four black students in the bottom 10% did better  - the 50% number would
drop to 25% . 

We also don't know  the distribution of these numbers among schools.
Perhaps minority students did better at some schools than others. 

Nor do we know how minority students did in other years.  Perhaps
Sanders picked the year with the greatest disparities - something that
would be easy to do if small sample sizes resulted in large percentage
differences between years. 

Secondly, your post implies that the minority students' poor academic
performance was the result of their presumably weaker credentials. IOW,
they did poorly because they were too stupid or ill-prepared to succeed.


However, nothing in these numbers supports your conclusion. 

Perhaps instead, it was in fact their small numbers, and their likely
isolation from the larger student body (a typical complaint of minority
students who are almost always largely locked out of mainstream student
networks) that adversely affected their performance  . Such isolation is
particularly damaging in law school, since as we know students trade
lots of institutional knowledge about how to succeed in law school that
greatly contributes to their success.  Students locked out of these
networks (even if it was a sin of omission, rather than commission),
face significantly higher hurdles to success than those who are clued
in. 

These concerns lead many schools  (such as Michigan in Grutter, for
example) to admit a "critical mass" of minority students  [ that is
-more not less]  - so that their experience is not so alienating.  

If black student's social and intellectual isolation is the problem -
then your solution - admit even fewer black students - would make it
more difficult for those who are left to succeed. 

Of course, the subtext of  your post is that black students are too dumb
to succeed in elite schools.  But nothing in your numbers supports that
conclusion.

Ciao,
yb 
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