Monday, June 08, 2009

Bowen on Sotomayor & Racial Preferences

Few high-profile figures who involved themselves in the lacrosse case embarrassed themselves more than did William Bowen. The former Princeton president, invited with the NAACP’s Julius Chambers to review the Duke administration’s response to the case by Duke President Richard Brodhead, produced a report that could have passed as a parody of political correctness. Bowen, a longtime defender of racial preferences and colleges promoting “diversity,” chastised Brodhead for having an insufficient number of minorities and women in his employ. The Bowen/Chambers report also contended that the administration should have heeded more the viewpoints of faculty extremists such as Houston Baker, the English professor who, in a March 29, 2006 “open letter,” had stated unequivocally that the accuser had been “harmed” and mentioned ten times in fifteen paragraphs the race of the lacrosse players.

Of course, we now know that the administration’s failures were not derived from insufficient fealty to concerns of race, class, and gender—indeed, Brodhead all but prostrated himself before faculty advocates of the agenda. The University, nonetheless, has already shelled out a reported $25 million in legal fees and settlement costs, and Duke still faces two massive federal suits filed by most of the unindicted lacrosse players and their families.

What caused such legal exposure? Among other things: (1) The administration’s failure to enforce the university’s own anti-harassment policies; (2) The administration’s failure to enforce the Faculty Handbook; (3) The administration’s disregard of student FERPA rights; (4) The administration’s allegedly one-sided public statements; (5) The president’s failure to properly supervise one of his employees, former SANE-nurse-in-training Tara Levicy, who offered unsubstantiated and varying versions of events to local law enforcement; (6) The firing without due process or cause of former lacrosse coach Mike Pressler.

Earlier this year, I asked Bowen why his report failed to address any of these issues. He responded that no part of our charge involved the conduct of the local prosecutor, the merits of the case, etc.” But none of the above issues involved either the conduct of Mike Nifong or the merits of the case—Duke, after all, didn’t pay out settlement money because of mistakes that Nifong made.

Despite his stated charge—reviewing what the administration did wrong and recommending changes—Bowen appeared to have no curiosity as exactly what the administration did that has cost the University $25 million. All that mattered to him was viewing the lacrosse case through the ideologically comfortable prism of his “diversity” agenda.

I was reminded of this closed-minded obsession with “diversity” in reading Bowen’s recent remarks on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, who attended Princeton during Bowen’s tenure as president. Bowen described Sotomayor in glowing terms, noting her “exceptional” record of “excellent academics” and “being a responsible citizen of the university community.”

So why, the former president was asked, would higher education need a system of racial preferences, given that a student of Sotomayor’s seeming brilliance would have been admitted to Princeton in any case? Bowen parried the question, noting that “the whole purpose of affirmative-action programs isn’t to find the one-in-a-thousand Sonia Sotomayor, but to diversify campus communities and to identify people of promise who would do well, but who didn’t necessarily have all the qualities and characteristics that she had. I think the book that Derek Bok and I wrote demonstrates empirically how well the minority students who were recruited to these selective universities performed.” (In fact, recently released figures from Duke show exactly the opposite—that African-American students entered Duke with a lower average SAT than their colleagues, and graduated from Duke with a lower average GPA.)

In some ways, Sotomayor’s experience (as described by Bowen, at least) would seem to bolster more the Clarence Thomas critique of affirmative action than the defense offered by establishment figures such as Bowen or Bok—namely, that the existence of racial preferences creates a burden for otherwise qualified minorities, who are presumed to have benefited from differing, and lower, standards.

That’s not a line of argument, of course, Bowen desired to engage.

Bowen also seemed disinclined to acknowledge the reality of some aspects of Sotomayor’s Princeton record. He dismissed those—such as Stuart Taylor, my colleague for Until Proven Innocent—who have noted that Sotomayor seemed to harbor a great deal of resentment toward an institution from which she benefited enormously. Bowen’s reply? “I don’t think she resented the university at all. I think she saw the university as an excellent university, but she thought it could be better! And it needed to be better. So did I.”

Stuart tracked down a 1974 complaint filed by a student group that included Sotomayor, which asserted, “The facts imply and reflect the total absence of regard, concern and respect for an entire people and their culture. In effect, they reflect an attempt -- a successful attempt so far -- to relegate an important cultural sector of the population to oblivion.”

Can Bowen seriously contend that the sentiments expressed above didn’t constitute resentment toward the university?

Bowen closed out his interview with New Yorker with a ringing defense of the racial preferences scheme he has so aggressively promoted throughout his career—and which, given her conduct in the Ricci case, a Justice Sotomayor almost certainly would endorse on the Supreme Court.

Asked why racial preferences remain needed, Bowen responded, “You might find interesting the last speech that Lyndon Johnson ever gave, right before he died. I won’t get the quotation exactly right, but it’s worth getting right, because it’s a great quotation.

“He said, ‘Yes, today blacks and whites do stand more or less on a level playing field, but they’re not in the same place. Whites see the world from the mountain place, blacks see the world from the hollow of history.’ It’s a great phrase: ‘from the hollow of history.’ It affects the way the world works today. You can’t just be ahistorical and forget all of that, and think that you’re going to get the best outcomes.”

But, of course, Lyndon Johnson died in 1973, one year after Sonia Sotomayor entered Princeton. Even if Bowen doesn’t quite want to admit it, racial conditions in the United States have significantly changed in the last 36 years. Among the most significant changes: as debates over racial references in California have revealed (and as Duke’s admissions figures show), Asian-Americans are the prime victims of the racial preferences scheme that dominates contemporary university admissions processes. It’s hard to see how LBJ’s binary racial analysis helps us deal with this problem.

Bowen also dismissed the possibility of class-based affirmative action substituting for racial preferences, contending, “It’s not a substitute for race-sensitive admissions because, again, if you look at the data, you find that if you focus just on socio-economic status you’re not going to begin to address the disparities in outcomes [emphasis added] by race that we see in America today.” And challenging those who ask why we still need racial preferences in an age when a black man can be elected President, Bowen reasoned, “The fact that you have one success story is terrific, wonderful. But it doesn’t mean that the same outcomes or the same opportunities are going to be there for everyone else. They’re not.”

But there’s an enormous difference between “the same opportunities” and “the same outcomes.” That Bowen seems to view equality of outcomes and equality of opportunities as interchangeable concepts provides considerable insight into the basic philosophy behind racial preferences.


Anonymous said...

". . . has already shelled out a reported $25 million in legal fees and settlement costs . . ."

That's 500 years of full tuition, room and board! Or 125 full-ride scholarships for all 4 years! Or about 12 endowed chairs.

Duke Prof

Anonymous said...

Does the latest Supreme Court ruling in Boyle v. United States have any impact on the suits before the federal bench?
following taken from "white collar crime prof blog" from 8Jun09:
"In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court held that yes-RICO association-in-fact enterprises require an "ascertainable structure beyond that inherent in the pattern of racketeering activity in which it engages, but no-"an instruction framed in this precise language is not necessary"..."The Court held that an association-in-fact enterprise needs to have"three structural features: a purpose, relationships among those associated with the enterprise, and longevity sufficient to permit these associates to pursue the enterprise's purpose"..."Such a group need not have a hierarchical structure or a "chain of command";decisions may be made on an ad hoc basis and by any number of methods=by majority vote, consensus, a show of strength, etc.... The group need not have a name, regular meetings, dues, established rules and regulations discipilnary procedures, or induction or initiation ceremonies."

Anonymous said...

Bowen is a good example of someone who sees the US through a rear view mirror. Like so many on the left, he lives in the past, thinking it is still 1965. (Others, like Houston Baker, think it's 1865!) He is like Don Quixote charging after illusory demons, bristling with righteous indignation. Meanwhile, back here in the real world of 2009, there is a large and successful black middle class that is the principal beneficiary of affirmative action. Having worked for several years at two Ivy league universities, I know that they are very racially diverse, but not very socially diverse.

As for the Lyndon Johnson quotation, it is highly misleading. It gives the impression that, because the top of the mountain is disproportionately white (assuming that is even true now), everyone who is white is on the top of the mountain. But there are many white people in the US who are poor (over 20 million of them), and many black people who are not. (Most blacks in the US are not poor.) If affirmative action exists, it should be based on income, not colour. Colour is no longer a reliable marker for social class. Bowen hasn't realized this because, well, he probably doesn't know any poor people.

Anonymous said...

A very pointed analysis of the issue of racial quotas and why, if some like Bowne have their way, we will always have them. Make no mistake, affirmative action is just the pc phrase for quotas.

Debrah said...

Duke's fall admission up despite economy

By Neil Offen : The Herald-Sun
Jun 9, 2009

Durham -- Despite the faltering economy, around 40 percent of the students accepted by Duke University still plan to attend the school this fall.

Although admissions officers at private institutions across the nation had been concerned that accepted students this year might choose lower-cost public alternatives, Duke's "yield rate" -- the percentage of accepted students who actually choose to attend -- has remained stable.

For the Class of 2013, Duke's rate was 41.5 percent. That compares to 40.6 percent the previous year, 42 percent the year before and 40.8 percent in 2007.

To maintain that yield rate, Duke Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag said the university launched a number of new efforts this year.

"We did host about half a dozen programs for admitted students in some larger cities on the East Coast," he said, "and we contacted students and parents more frequently in April than we did before."

Duke originally accepted 3,517 students this spring, only 17 percent of a record 23,843 applicants. It was the lowest acceptance rate in the university's history. About 1,700 of those student are set to enroll this fall.

"I think the economy certainly pushed the yield down somewhat," Guttentag said. "While it's hard to measure that at this point ... I think it's safe to assume that for some percentage of them, they felt financially safer choosing a public university."

A survey released today by the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that 70 percent of high schools reported an increase in the number of students who felt the need to modify their ambitions and choose more affordable options over their "dream schools." Meanwhile, according to the survey, 45 percent of colleges nationwide reported a decrease in the number of students accepting admissions offers.

"Because of the severe economic circumstances, we were quite concerned about surging demand for limited available seats at public institutions while available places at selective private institutions might have gone empty," said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of College Registrars and Admission Officers. "In fact, we did see in some cases shifts of 10, 20 and even 30 percent increases in applications at public institutions."

The shift in applications made yield rates even more important this year, he said.

"It's generally viewed as a sign of institutional brand strength," Nassirian explained. "Most importantly, it's a fairly critical indicator for planning and budgetary purposes."

According to a table compiled by U.S. News & World Report, Duke's yield rate in 2008 put it about in the middle of the pack. It was below a number of public institutions -- including UNC Chapel Hill, at around 56 percent -- and many of its peer, selective private schools, such as the University of Pennsylvania (66 percent) and Cornell Unversity (47 percent).

But yield rates shouldn't be viewed in a vacuum, Nassirian cautioned. "It's very misleading to just focus on yield without understanding the importance of selectivity," he said. "Yield can be very high at a non-selective institution. You need to take both criteria together."

what does this have..... said...


How many of those students are costing Duke money and how many of those students are paying Duke money. That could make a difference in how many are coming to Duke.

Anonymous said...

Did LBJ ever comment on Mexican Americans? I was under the impression that they were discriminated against more often in Texas that other non-whites.

Debrah said...

TO (8:27 AM)--

I don't have the numbers on that; however, there have been many articles written and many statements made by Brodhead in the local media beaming with pride over Duke's increased admissions rate regarding minorities and the poor.

And how Duke is providing financial aid to those students.

It's probably safe to say that while Duke's "admissions are up despite economy", those admissions are comprised of many students to whom Duke has given a free financial ride.

And, of course, if those students have an authentic stellar scholastic background, financial assistance is wonderful for all involved.

However, one has to wonder how many untold millions, or billions!, Duke has surrendered because it is tethered to a very dated "diversity" agenda.

Anonymous said...

$25 million is a drop in the bucket for Duke with its $4 billion endowment. No doubt Brodhead and company would rather pay the lawyers to obfuscate and delay. If that doesn't work they will undoubtedly subsequently pay huge settlements rather than allow discovery to shed the light of day on their actions.

Debrah said...

The Sotomayor confirmation hearings are to begin July 13th.

William L. Anderson said...

The great irony is that income disparities between blacks and whites were narrowing even more before the Civil Rights and Affirmative Action eras than afterward. Bowen seems to believe that incomes just appear, and that income-earning positions of employment are automatically interchangeable. They are not, which is something that we find out time and again, but the powers that be choose to ignore it.

Bowen really was a disgrace during the lacrosse crisis. His co-authored report was a sham, something in which the conclusion already was in place before he and Mr. Chambers did their "investigation." Like so many things in higher education these days, we saw fixed outcomes and a sham investigation. Once upon a time, the ancients called this "corruption."

Debrah said...

NYTimes' David Brooks on Sotomayor:

Sonia Sotomayor had bad timing. If she'd entered college in the late-1950s or early-1960s, she would have been surrounded by an ethos that encouraged smart young ethnic kids to assimilate. If she'd entered Princeton and Yale in the 1980s, her ethnicity and gender would have been mildly interesting traits among the many she might possibly possess.

But she happened to attend Princeton and then Yale Law School in the 1970s. These were the days when what we now call multiculturalism was just coming into its own. These were the days when the whole race, class and gender academic-industrial complex seemed fresh, exciting and just.


The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan:

It isn't the judicial rulings that trouble me so much as her non-judicial opinions and mindset. The constant, oppressive consciousness of her identity - racial and gender - and the harping on it so aggressively so often does strike me as a classic mode of victimology deeply entrenched in her generation. I don't think it's disqualifying and I don't see any crude racialism in her rulings, but I do think it shows that for Obama, this kind of racial/ethnic view of the world is so endemic it's invisible to him. And it's off-message for his candidacy and life. But, hey, maybe he feels Scalia needs to get as good as he gives.

Art Deco said...

Three speculations about Dr. Bowen:

1. He likely has not been for some time in a matrix where he had to defend his ideas or actions with any degree of vigor;

2. He is highly invested in what he had advocated for decades, and likely very resistant to acknowledging even its manifest falsity;

3. The utility of affirmative action for Dr. Bowen is that it places blacks in a patron-client relationship with persons such as himself. Material benefits and prestige for the client and ego satisfactions for the patron. The agreeable equilibrium that it provides to both sides of the contract is unaffected by changes in social conditions.

Debrah said...

LOL!!! LOL!!! LOL!!!

Anonymous said...

David Brooks forgets that Princeton was not open to women until 1969- doh!

William L. Anderson said...

Here is something on Sotomayer that is very, very troubling, and it has nothing to do with racial preferences but rather goes to the very heart of justice. Indeed, it seems that the "wise Latina woman" was just as pro-government as any white male:

Gary Packwood said...

I can understand how Bowen, Brodhead and the G88 types across the country could become lazy and adopt a 'Big-Bob's-Hamburger-Shack' type advertising narrative to get what they want with their DIVERSITY hocus pocus.

But I don't understand how they can sacrifice and harm their own students as part of that advertising narrative.

And I especially don't understand why they get away with it.

What do these people know that gives them so much power over members of their Board of Trustees and Faculty Senate?

Anonymous said...

GP wrote:

"But I don't understand how they can sacrifice and harm their own students as part of that advertising narrative."

You stated the answer -- because they believe in sacrifice. They act on the altruist-collectivist premise that the individual (in this case, the "privileged" students) is a means to the ends of the group (in this case, the anointed minorities).

It is their concept of what is morally "right" -- and the degree to which others accept it -- that allows them to "get away with it."

Note that the prominent voices trying to keep them from getting "away with it" argue from a different premise -- the premise of individualism.

"What do these people know that gives them so much power over members of their Board of Trustees and Faculty Senate?"

"These people" are the Faculty Senate. BOTs usually have a superstitious awe and fear of them. They are viewed in the same way, and for the same reasons, people in the Dark Ages blindly worshiped High Priests.

AMac said...

--- begin quote ---

Asked why racial preferences remain needed, Bowen [quoted or paraphrased Lyndon Johnson]: “Yes, today blacks and whites do stand more or less on a level playing field, but they’re not in the same place. Whites see the world from the mountain place, blacks see the world from the hollow of history.’ ... You can’t just be ahistorical and forget all of that, and think that you’re going to get the best outcomes.”

--- end quote ---

There are two justifications for racial diversity on the campus (and elsewhere).

(1) To make up for their longstanding roles as victims of white racism in the U.S., blacks and other minorities should be compensated to create a level playing field.

(2) Diversity benefits everybody. By creating common ground for white students to share with young people of color, the diverse institution fosters the development of empathy and skills that lead to good citizenship and career success.

Note that Bowen places himself squarely in camp #1.

Yet, in their defenses of diversity (e.g. the Grutter case), university administrators emphasize #2. I believe (but am not sure) that the Supreme Court has disallowed #1's rationale for race-based discrimination, at least for public institutions.

#1 is not interchangeable with #2. For instance, should immigrants from the West Indies benefit from racial admissions quotas? How about the children of millionaire black stockbrokers?

An instance of diversity and the law of unexpected consequences, here.

Will Pres. Bowen's stance on diversity be principled and consistent, or should we expect more doubleplusgoodthink over time, as the quotas issue takes its twists and turns?

I'm holding my breath!

Debrah said...

"And I especially don't understand why they get away with it."

They get away with it because no one in a position to make them feel ashamed or make them take responsibility will say or do anything.

They have a comfort zone for anything they do.

A buffer.

Even the really dumb ones.

I've never experienced anything so close to a Stepford existence since childhood when adults---many of whom were clueless, but children weren't yet aware---would always smile and make small talk among their colleagues and neighbors knowing that some were scoundrels.....

.......because---that's just what you do!

The one and only time my father ever "paddled" me in my life was around age four. My sister and I were sitting in some auditorium. I don't remember what the program was about, but it was a really boring event and I wanted the speaker to stop talking.

I sat there the whole time raising my arm to ask him a question---which was not on the agenda. Ha!

My older sister spent the whole time pulling my arm back down each time I raised it.

When we got home and she told my father what I had done, he literally paddled me on the legs.


Colleagues inside the academy know they will be "paddled" for the duration of their careers if they question the "activists" of the faculty.

It's one huge club.

Like attorneys.

Like doctors.

But I think it's beginning to change.

No justice, no peace said...

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." - Aldous Huxley

Anonymous said...


I hope that you are correct that things are beginning to change. Although I try to remain optimistic, I find little reason to believe that there will be much movement - primarily because the pc mentality has permeated through all levels of the academy.

One Spook said...

GP writes @ 10:22AM:

"What do these people know that gives them so much power over members of their Board of Trustees and Faculty Senate?"

What they "know" is that the race card is the highest trump card in the deck, and that they can play it with impunity.

Race baiters like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have made careers and a good deal of money for themselves playing the race card at every available opportunity in front of corporate boards, and governmental bodies.

The first step in that process is to establish victim hood status, and that was the sole and only purpose of the original Group of 88 "Listening Statement."

The fact that the supposed "victim" was a liar and a false accuser had no bearing on the larger concern of using her as a tool to accuse and charge innocent people of crimes, solely because of their race, class, and gender.

But for competent legal counsel, the voices of KC Johnson and others, and a NC Bar Association that acted with courage, the race baiters almost got away with it.

When I read Attorney General Eric Holder's comments accusing Americans of being "a nation of cowards" on matters of race, I had to agree, but for a very different reason than Holder's.

In many respects we have become a nation of cowards because we do not speak out against injustices like the Duke lacrosse rape hoax.

In the early 1960s, there existed deep-seated systemic and structural barriers specifically directed toward racial minorities and women in employment, education, housing, and accommodations in this country.

The Civil Rights movement fought for equality in opportunity in those arenas. Thankfully, those opportunities were gained to the extent that today, it is virtually impossible to find any venue in America that does not provide equal opportunity.

And yet, very well meaning, honest, intelligent and reasonable people (and many notable institutions) continue to cower at even the most remote hint of "racism" whether it is valid or not, and do not even question those who perpetuate this "false victim" status we see time and time again.

That is cowardly behavior, and it is that behavior that must change or this victimization of demonstrably innocent people will never stop.

It takes courage to speak out against injustice directed at any person.

Cowards remain silent.

We have seen far too many cowards at Duke in its administration and faculty; at the Durham Police Department and City/County government and Legal staff; and in local and national media to last us a lifetime.

Speak out, raise hell, and don't trust anyone who has not evolved from the 1960's.

One Spook

Debrah said...

I'm sure Gang of 88 devotees will want to tune in for this live presentation, which will undoubtedly be rerun again and again.

Mary DBTS and her blessed Dickie will be appearing alongside ex-Prez Billy Jeff.

It should be a wondrous experience for all.

John Hope Franklin left behind an important chronicle of history. I don't fault him for never moving beyond the old rhetoric.

With every presentation came an endless list of grievances and repetition of episodes that happened to him as a boy.

I've heard the one about the old white woman he tried to help across a street and what she said to him about a hundred times.

Franklin always called for lowering standards and other forms of gross largesse for "minorities".

Because of his age and the environment in this country when he was growing up, I don't fault him for the wasted opportunities for real change that could have been realized with his leadership.

Anyone born in the early years of the 20th century had an entirely different world to negotiate.

However, I wish someone would chronicle the life of a non-black person born poor in the year 1915 as well.

Someone explore the lives of people in Appalachia in 1915 or in the tenements of the gritty cities of 1915.

How many of those people who were just as intelligent and who had the same capacity for learning were given a free ride through Harvard and treated with kid gloves throughout their lives because of what their race happened to be?

The exasperating and disappointing thing I always experience when discussing someone like JHF is that they seem to do more to stir the pot of discord than anything for mankind, in general.

It's a wonderful thing that JHF did so much good for "his people".

I just wish he could have developed the panoramic generosity of spirit to have "empathized" with all groups of people so that his legacy of 'historian" would not be so for the lofty platitudes thrown about by people like Semans and Brodhead.

And I wish that his legacy could also include a story of how he advised the Gang of 88---so many of whom are housed inside the building that bears his name---in the Spring of 2006 to step back and cease fanning the flames of deliberate racial hatred and going after DuKe students because of their race.

Sadly, that will not be a part of John Hope Franklin's legacy.

Debrah said...

TO (6:14 PM)--

If anyone had a photo of Karla Holloway's face when we were having our chat and I cut through her twisted rhetoric and obfuscation and told her exactly what she did....... well as WHY I think she was compelled to go after Reade, Collin, and David...... would be clear to even the most casual observer that there is a way to affect change.

People just have to decide to act.

Look back over the last three years.

In the Spring of 2006, the Gang of 88 and their mascots and enablers never dreamed they'd get an ounce of push-back for their egregious behavior.

In 2009, they and all associated with Duke University know much better.