The Sausage Factory


The Supreme Court assumes that race-preferential admissions policies are the result of a careful academic judgment by colleges and universities that racial diversity has pedagogical benefits for students generally. But evidence shows that the usual motivation for these policies is quite different. In part it is ideological: Such policies are an effort to pay a debt for past or present societal discrimination—a motivation the Supreme Court has rejected as unconstitutional in the past. In part it is practical: Pressure for these policies comes from state legislatures, private foundations, the federal government, accreditors, and other similar sources. Why respond to such pressure? Frequently, that’s where the money is. There is little reason to suspect that the Court would be deferential to academic institutions on this matter if its members understood how admissions policies are really made. The American poet John Godfrey Saxe wrote in 1869, “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.” He could have been speaking of modern admissions policies.


accreditation.; affirmative action; college admissions; diversity; Grutter deference; higher education; race discrimination; race-preferential admissions

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