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Peter Schmidt is available to speak at colleges, bookstores, schools, churches, and at gatherings of education associations. His past speaking engagements are listed at the bottom of this Web site. If interested in having him appear, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also is available as an expert source for journalists covering affirmative action. Those on a tight deadline should email him at email@example.com.
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Monday, February 25, 2008
Schmidt received second prize in the category "Opinion-Circulation over 100,000" (for major daily newspapers) for his essay "At the elite colleges--dim white kids." The honor comes in the EWA's 2007 National Awards for Education Reporting.
Schmidt's analytical piece was e-mailed far and wide and had an enormous impact. It was highlighted in the popular news digest The Week and cited by The American Prospect blog TAPPED, a host of black-oriented blogs (including Jack and Jill Politics), the progressive blog CommonDreams.org, and a long list of Web sites and chat boards dealing with college admissions. It continues to influence the affirmative action debate with its conclusion that, on selective college campuses, whites students who gained admission solely through nonacademic preferences outnumber the black and Hispanic beneficiaries of affirmative-action preferences by a margin of about 2 to 1.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Friday, February 15, 2008
Michigan's Proposal 2 ban on affirmative-action preferences, passed by 58 percent of that state's voters in November 2006, seems somewhat likely to be ruled unconstitutional by a U.S. District Court Judge David M. Lawson in the coming weeks or months. Not only did Judge Lawson previously issue a decision--later overturned--to temporarily block the enforcement of Proposal 2, he also has made several procedural calls against advocates of the measure in handling two lawsuits (later joined into one) seeking to have it overturned. Moreover, when Judge Lawson held a February 7 hearing on whether the cases should go to trial, both his line of questioning and the procedural calls he made suggested that advocates of Proposal 2 weren't exactly on his Valentine's Day shopping list. Throw all of these tea leaves together, and it's no big leap to read them as portending that Lawson will strike down Proposal 2 in a summary judgment (without holding a trial).
If Judge Lawson does issue a summary judgment ruling Proposal 2 unconstitutional, two developments are almost certain: An appeal of his ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and the onset of headache-inducing confusion in Michigan as state agencies try to decide whether to comply with Proposal 2 while its legality remains up in the air.
One of the lawsuits challenging Proposal 2, filed by the NAACP and ACLU, argues that it violates the Equal Protection Clause by essentially walling off racial and ethnic minorities from receiving the same sorts of admissions preferences that public colleges give to other subsets of the population, such as military veterans or the children of alumni. The other lawsuit, filed by the group By Any Means Necessary, argues that, without affirmative action, college admissions criteria irremediably discriminate against black, Hispanic, and Native American applicants, so Proposal 2 has the effect of imposing a discriminatory system.
Judges on the Sixth Circuit have already expressed skepticism toward these arguments, concluding in a December 2006 ruling that they did not see any reason to forestall enforcement of Proposal 2 because they did not think the arguments made against it will prevail in the federal courts. And similar arguments were ultimately rejected by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit--in a decision that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to reconsider--in cases challenging California's Proposition 209, a 1996 ballot measure with language very similar to Proposal 2. So if Judge Lawson strikes down Proposal 2, the setback may well only be a temporary one.
The situation in Oklahoma is much different. There, officials are taking up a fairly simple question: whether the campaign on behalf of a proposed ban on affirmative-action preferences has enough signatures to get the measure on the ballot in November.
The campaign organization needed 138,970 valid signatures. And, partly because Oklahoma law allows only 90 days for such petition-gathering, it turned in fewer than it hoped. The 141,184 signatures that it submitted to state officials may seem like enough on the surface, but that total does not offer much in the way of a buffer. The invalidation of just 1.6 percent of their signatures could sink their campaign. On February 8, the Associated Press reported that Oklahoma Secretary of State Susan Savage had told the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which is ultimately responsible for the signature count, that she had found many duplicate signatures and cases where dozens of signatures were listed as being at the same address.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
The study, summarized here on the Chronicle of Higher Education blog, tracked students in a large urban Texas district over seven years and found that the state's school accountability law created incentives for high schools to let students drop out (or even take steps that might encourage them to do so). Because the law calls for schools to be rated based on their students' test scores, it enables schools to improve their ratings by letting many of their lowest-scoring students--who are disproportionately black, Hispanic, and low-income--walk out the door. It also creates incentives for school officials to hold students back a year, which generally results in improvements in their test scores but also strongly increases the likelihood they will drop out.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
The investigations stem from a complaint filed in 2006 by a group called the New York Civil Rights Coalition, which alleged that the CUNY system was violating civil-rights laws by gearing offerings to members of a specific race.
According to the New Yori Civil Rights Coalition, the CUNY institutions under investigation are the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Kingsborough Community College, LaGuardia Community College, Baruch College, Brooklyn College, City College, Lehman College, the College of Staten Island, Medgar Evers College, Hostos Community College, Hunter College, Queens College, Queensborough Community College, York College, the CUNY Graduate School and University Center, and the New York City College of Technology.
Additional details of the investigation are available on the Chronicle of Higher Education blog. The back-and-forth in the commentary field makes for lively reading as well.
Saturday, February 2, 2008
One of the studies--yet unpublished, but described in detail in a Washington Post article--analyzed 31 years' worth of data from 830 mid-sized to large workplaces and found that "the kind of diversity training exercises offered at most firms" were followed by a 7.5 percent drop in the number of women in management, a 10 percent drop in the number of black women in management, and a 12 percent drop in the number of black men in top positions. "Similar effects were seen for Latinos and Asians," the newspaper reported.
The study said that voluntary diversity training programs, which do not require employee participation and tend to be designed to promote some business goal, actually seemed to result in increased diversity in managerial ranks. The programs that were ineffective were the mandatory diversity training programs that many companies adopt out of fear of discrimination lawsuits. Alexandra Kalev, a Univerity of Arizona sociologist who headed up the research, told the newspaper that "forcing people to go through training creates a backlash against diversity."
A second study, by the Rand Corporation, says that many companies seem to look at diversity superficially--focusing on the numbers of people from one group or another in various positions--and fail to rethink how they do business so that their increased diversity makes them more productive and profitable and their employees happier.