Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Admissions to Higher Education in the United States (and elsewhere)

The Supreme Court's recent ruling with respect to the University of Texas's affirmative action programme raises the general question of how the limited public resource of access to our most attractive university placements ought to be allocated. The plaintiff in the Texas case, as in previous cases (for example Bakke in 1978), felt wronged by her own state's preference for another candidate more to the liking of the university's race-aware admissions committee, and sued for redress of grievance. The Court has sent the Texas case back to the appeals court with instructions to investigate the possibility of using race-based (and, by logical extension, perhaps other) discriminatory preferences more narrowly, while still pursuing the goal of campus diversity.

As in the Bakke decision, the court appears to continue to fail to distinguish between public and private universities, and to be willing to grant public university admissions committees the same degree of discretion that private universities enjoy. But public universities are taxpayer-funded, and taxpayers have a reasonable expectation from legally established state institutions of equal protection under the law; while by contrast, individual applicants and their families have paid essentially nothing into establishing the private universities they may be applying to, and can expect less from them since they are owed less.

Therefore our public universities need a new system on the basis of which they might practice race-based (and income-based, culturally based, and perhaps other forms of) discrimination in favour of some of their citizens at the expense of others, in pursuit of the goal of campus diversity. In America, the proper basis for such tie-breaking discrimination is the American Baccalaureate Certificate I have been advocating. This certificate, which would establish a legal right to a free, three-year bachelor's degree at public expense, would resemble the European Baccalaureate that is itself a synthesis and compromise from the similar certificates that are commonly used for university entrance in many parts of Europe, and would be further modified in the direction of the International Baccalaureate, which has been making rapid progress in gaining its popularity throughout the United States in recent years. In fact, under the Ameribac proposal developed for One World Lyceum, the final mark would be arrived at by a formula multiplying the rough equivalent of IB points accumulated by the EB percentage achieved; then, in the case of any ties, race-based and other forms of discrimination favouring candidates with a history of overcoming unequal odds might be properly applied, as they are sometimes being improperly and unjustly applied at the present time.

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