April 19, 2013

Preferences for Gays (and Gay Pretenders)?

Two trains carrying loads of conflicting values, requirements, and prohibitions affecting college admissions and hiring are hurtling rapidly toward each other, but no one seems aware of the impending collision.

On one track,  the Supreme Court is probably poised to impose new restrictions on race- and ethnicity-conscious policies in Fisher v. University of Texas and to allow states to eliminate such policies altogether in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. On the other track the movement to implement policies and programs specifically targeted to students based on their sexual orientation is rapidly gathering steam.

"What could I have done differently?" high school senior Suzy Lee Weiss asked in a funny but bitter Wall Street Journal OpEd blaming her rejection by a bunch of elite colleges on rampant political correctness. "Show me to any closet," she wrote, "and I would've happily come out of it."

Ms. Weiss is not alone. There is now such widespread (and justified) suspicion that claiming LGBT status would improve their chances that some applicants are coming out of the closet who were never in it. On April 15 the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that Tammy Johnson, director of admissions at Marshall University, comments in a paper to be delivered to the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers annual meeting next week that

[a] cursory search of online discussion boards reveals self-identified applicants to top-tier institutions saying they falsely claimed LGBT status in essays or during campus interviews because they think this will bestow some type of minority status on their application and improve their odds of admission. College-admission consultants and high-school counselors I spoke with have heard of this happening, too. 

Ms. Johnson supports the "increasing interest among admission officers regarding the identification of LGBT students" since that helps them "advocate more successfully for funding and support." Some institutions, she notes, need to identify applicants "who would be eligible for LGBT-specific scholarships."

Not to be outdone, Inside Higher Ed reported April 16 that the American College Personnel Association, along with Campus Pride, released a paper arguing that in order to develop an appropriate "campus climate" and "properly implement LGBT-inclusive policies and practices" colleges must develop demographic data about the "sexual orientation and gender identity" of their applicants and students.

Also on April 15 the Faculty Senate of the University of Michigan passed a resolution calling on the administration to do more to "redirect university resources" toward creating "a more diverse and inclusive campus," with a special emphasis on implementing "modern definitions of diversity (not only race, color, and national origin, but also age, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, genes identity, gender expression, disability, religion, veteran status and economic class)."

Special treatment of LGBT students is indeed increasing, but it is not new. Affirmative action admissions for gays was proposed at the annual meeting of the National Association for College Admission counseling in 2006, and that year Middlebury College began "giving students who identify themselves as gay in the admissions process an 'attribute' -- the same flagging of an application that members of ethnic minority groups, athletes, alumni children and others receive." Elmhurst College applicants who identify as LGBT become eligible for a "diversity"-enhancing "enrichment scholarship," and in 2012 the University of Iowa began asking applicants "if they identify with the gay community," as well as giving them the option "to identify themselves as 'transgender' instead of 'male' or 'female," questions "some gay-rights advocates predict will soon be common."

I offer myself as a prime exhibit for the proposition that one did not have to be a prescient genius to see "diversity"-justified gay preferences coming. A decade ago I wrote that "insofar as the proponents of 'diversity mean what they say, won't they be compelled by their new principle to insure that entering classes contain a 'critical mass' not only of gays and lesbians, who may be prevalent enough (but, of course, may not) to appear without preferences, but also of transgendered males and females, who may not so readily appear without investigation and recruitment?"

Extending "diversity" privileges beyond preferential treatment of blacks and Hispanics and implementing the more "modern definitions of diversity" called for by the Michigan faculty that include "sex, sexual orientation, genes identity [whatever that is], [and] gender expression" may well cause the entire "diversity" edifice to collapse of its own weight, whatever the courts decide. Would not sexual orientation-sensitive admissions committees, for example, have to concern themselves not only with accepting critical masses of Ls and Gs and Bs and Ts but also how to distribute them equitably among the previously preferred groups of blacks and Hispanics? Perhaps a new ALGBT category could be created for Asians that would allow a few of them a way around the current quotas goals that keep so many of them out.

The legal issues of this new colorful age of modern diversity will make those of the old black and white version seem wistfully simple. The civil rights amendment to the Michigan constitution (opposed, of course, by today's "civil rights" movement) at issue in Schuette prohibits discrimination or preferential treatment "on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin." If the Supreme Court decides that the citizens of a state prohibiting that discrimination on the basis of "sex" et al. violates no comprehensible understanding of the 14th Amendment, would the University of Michigan still be allowed to accede to the wishes of its faculty and treat some students better (or at least differently) on the basis of their "sexual orientation" or "genes identity" or "gender expression"?

Who knows. But it would be far better for the Court to avoid this train wreck and  revive the legally dormant but still widely revered American creed by holding, in both Schuette and Fisher, that every American has a right to be treated "without regard" to those characteristics that define his or her identity.


Comments (1)

Jonathan Cohen:

One would think that the growth of both preferences demanded and groups entitled to them would collapse from it own weight but the reverse appears to be true. The greater the number of beneficiaries of such policies and the greater the number of diversity bureaucrats to enforce them, the more pressure there is to continue them. And of course, the more outrageous the claims of pervasive discrimination have to be to justify such growth.

The belief was that as discrimination ended and minorities gradually took their rightful place in society, the use of preferences would fade away. What this view failed to take notice of was that affirmative action itself would render this unlikely as rewards could be garnered without learning how to compete effectively for them without acquiring the necessary skills to do so.

The outcome of this struggle is not at all obvious. It has already done a great deal of harm to our education system and as more and more of our leaders pass through this system, the rest of society can fall victim to this process as well.

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