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Bruce S. Thornton - Contributor

Bruce Thornton is a professor of Classics at Cal State Fresno and co-author of Bonfire of the Humanities: Rescuing the Classics in an Impoverished Age and author of Greek Ways: How the Greeks Created Western Civilization (Encounter Books). His most recent book is Searching for Joaquin: Myth, Murieta, and History in California (Encounter Books). [go to Thornton index]

Race Preferences Thrive On California Campuses
Voters wrongly believe they voted race-basing away in '96...
[Bruce S. Thornton] 11/17/03

In November of 1996, the voters of California passed the Civil Rights Initiative, which amended the state constitution to forbid the state from "discriminat[ing] against or grant[ing] preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting."

Yet despite this clear-cut legal prohibition, seven years later race-based preferences and policies live on in California higher education. The recent Supreme Court decision upholding the University of Michigan law school's race-based admissions policies means that the democratically demonstrated wish of California voters not to take race into account-- a wish consistent with the federal Civil Rights Act-- will be further ignored.

Take, for example, the process of hiring faculty in the California State University system. Despite the much-publicized "end of affirmative action," every hiring committee must have an "affirmative action" representative, recently renamed the "Equal Employment Opportunity designee." Despite the name change-- intended no doubt to circumvent the state prohibition against Affirmative Action and to perfume its bad odor-- the EEO rep performs the exact same function based on the same assumptions the voters supposedly rejected.

The purpose of this representative is not to make sure the most qualified and suitable person is chosen for the position, which is the only legitimate function for a search committee member. The EEO designee can be from any department on campus, and so will likely not have any inkling of the qualifications required or desirable for the particular academic appointment. Yet despite this lack of knowledge about the position's requirements and qualifications, no hire can go forward without the EEO representative's approving signature at every step of the process.

The EEO representative isn't the only example of race-based hiring procedures still in place. All the applicants in the pool are identified by race and sex, and this information is part of the hiring process. When applicants are invited for campus visits, their race and sex, and the race and sex of the hiring committee members, are identified and made part of the process as well. If "preferential treatment" has been presumably outlawed in California, why is this information still being gathered and made part of the hiring process in a state-funded institution? And why is an EEO commissar involved in hiring for a position outside his own field?

One answer comes from the bigoted ideological assumptions that have driven race-based preferences for thirty years. That is, whites, particularly white males, are inherently racist and sexist and so, if not monitored, will make racist or sexist hiring decisions, either consciously or unconsciously guarding their own privilege. Thus a presumably more moral and objective overseer is necessary to make sure the benighted committee doesn't exclude qualified minority candidates--even though outside the field of Education, minority PhDs are extremely rare and typically receive numerous job offers from institutions equally desperate to display their commitment to "diversity."

So too with the data on race and sex. A committee comprising all white males would immediately raise a red flag and invite further scrutiny, the presumption again being that rather than basing decisions on merit, such a committee will hire according to their prejudices and biases.

But there's another reason, one important to keep in mind. The affirmative action machinery on campus is a form of litigation-proofing. Given the legions of jackal-like lawyers and bureaucrats at the federal Economic Employment Opportunity Commission ready to pounce at any hint of discrimination, the institution must protect itself from potential discrimination lawsuits by creating a procedural paper-trail that shows the school has done everything in its power to avoid discrimination, thus giving no grounds for a complaint. After all, who's going to sue an individual faculty member for discrimination? It's the institution with the big bucks.

In other words, affirmative action isn't just an ideology whose fraudulence and incoherence need to be exposed. It's an institution, a bureaucratic fiefdom with jobs and budgets and power, and a source of lucre for rapacious lawyers and opportunistic functionaries. And such institutions never go gently into that good night. Like Rasputin, they take a lot of killing.

But now that the Supreme Court has ratified the fraudulent idea of "diversity" and validated racial discrimination, the offices and programs that have proliferated on college campuses will grow stronger, as will the lawyers eager to file suit against deep-pocket defendants. This threat of litigation in turn will force institutions to elaborate even more intrusive bureaucratic safeguards to insure they are not liable when a rejected candidate runs to the federal big brothers at the EEOC. And don't forget the minority faculty and students, not to mention the race-based ethnic studies departments and programs, all of whom will continue to pressure the administration to show its "commitment to diversity" with some sort of racial preferences.

A more difficult obstacle to eliminating race-based preferences, however, comes from the people themselves within the institution, who need neither institutional directives nor offices to advance their ideological agendas. A guilty white liberal eager for some noble-savage "person of color" to spice up his department will be as effective as a naked quota at ignoring merit and using race or sex as a criterion for hiring. Administrators have all sorts of ways of insuring the results they want without explicit instructions. No one will admit it, but I know that many times administrators have approved faculty positions on the assumption that the final candidate better not be a white male. This sort of subtle self-policing explains why professors are overwhelmingly liberal or leftist: no one has to issue a directive or instructions. The faculty themselves ensure that only the politically correct end up getting hired.

The persistence of race-based policies and procedures in California after they were presumably outlawed suggests that now that the Michigan admissions policy has been given the Constitutional seal of approval, our colleges and universities are even more unlikely to live up to the promise of the Civil Rights Act. Race will still be used in admissions and hiring, however much disguised or camouflaged. And the intentions of the people of California who thought they were voting out racial preferences will still be ignored.

copyright 2003 Bruce S. Thornton

Searching for Joaquin
by Bruce S. Thornton

Greek Ways
by Bruce S. Thornton

Bonfire of the Humanities
by Victor Davis Hanson, John Heath, Bruce S. Thornton

Plagues of the Mind
by Bruce S. Thornton

Eros: The Myth of Ancient Greek Sexuality

by Bruce S. Thornton





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