Taylor ’70 explores affirmative action

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Stuart Taylor ’70 (Photo: Richard Bloom)

New book: Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, And Why Universities Won’t Admit It, by Stuart Taylor Jr. ’70 and Richard H. Sander (Basic Books)

 
The authors: A journalist, Taylor is a contributing editor for National Journal and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He also has taught at Stanford Law School and is the coauthor of Until Proven Innocent. Sander is a law professor and economist at UCLA.
 
The book: Racial admissions preferences often undermine the very people they are supposed to help, argue the authors. Many recipients are “mismatched,” meaning they end up in institutions where they are not as prepared academically as their peers and their learning and self-confidence can suffer. In the worst case, mismatched students – who would have done well at schools better suited for them — drop out. The authors don’t believe racial preferences should be banned completely; they offer suggestions on reforms, including fully disclosing preferential admissions policies and outcomes.
 

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From Chapter One: “Affirmative Action in university admissions started in the late 1960s as a noble effort to jump-start racial integration and foster equal opportunity. But somewhere along the decades since, it has lost its way.
           
“Over time it has become a political lightning rod and one of our most divisive social policies. It has evolved into a regime of racial preferences at almost all selective schools, preferences so strikingly large and politically unpopular that administrators work hard to conceal them. The largest, most aggressive preferences are usually conferred on upper-middle-class minorities on whom they often inflict significant academic harm, whereas more modest policies that could help working-class and poor people of all races are given short shrift. …”
 
Reviews: Mismatch is an “eye-opening critique of affirmative action,” wrote Publishers Weekly. “Their well-argued challenge to the prevailing orthodoxy on racial preferences is sure to provoke controversy — and rethinking.” The Wall Street Journal said the authors “have marshaled a formidable amount of evidence to substantiate the mismatch theory, and … the payoff is persuasiveness. … Mismatch is very much in the tradition of the muckraking that Lincoln Steffens did a century ago when he took on the corruption in American cities; indeed, the book could be titled ‘The Shame of the Colleges.’”

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