Who’s On First?

Following the twists and turns of Texas politics often reminds me of Abbott & Costello: hilarity followed by silliness, and then the reverse. Quick, now! Is there a partisan split on the “Top 10%” admissions policy? If so, what is it?

As I’ve mentioned here a number of times — this, this, and this are simply examples — liberal preferentialists have typically trashed this approach as a poor and pale (if you’ll pardon the expression) substitute for overt racial preferences; University of Texas administrators have called for eliminating the plan since those in the top 10% of rural schools are frequently much less well prepared than lower ranked students from better schools; and conservative anti-preferentialists have argued that the Texas plan is unconstitutional since it is impermissibly based on a desire and intent to admit more minority students at the expense of better prepared white and Asian students.

It would appear that the Texas Top 10% plan has few defenders … but that appearance is wrong. The lower house of the legislature has just voted to modify the plan by placing a cap of 50% of the entering classes that can be admitted under the Top 10% plan (it is now about 70% at UT Austin), but not without a stiff fight from … Democrats. The bill, introduced by a Republican, passed by a vote of only 75

Say What? (14)

  1. Laura May 14, 2005 at 1:02 pm | | Reply

    “State Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, questioned why UT-Austin can find students of color who are athletically talented all over the state, but doesn’t go to those places to find academically successful students.”

    I’m afraid he may actually have a very valid point here.

  2. Laura May 14, 2005 at 2:16 pm | | Reply


    Representative Dutton is confusing supply and demand. The state of Texas, and many others, supplies a wealth of talented athletes of color who are widely recruited throughout the country.

    In the case of academically gifted students of color, there is not enough being supplied. If the caliber of scholars of color being produced by Texas schools was equal to that of the athletes then there would not be the imbalance you currently see.

    The questions is not “why doesn’t UT recruit more people of color” the question is “why aren’t there more students of color who are qualified to attend UT?”.

  3. Laura May 14, 2005 at 6:41 pm | | Reply

    Hm, I’m talking to myself.

    I know how recruitment goes in high schools around here. Colleges recruit athletes like there’s no tomorrow. We had a recent scandal in this city because boosters at U of Alabama paid over a hundred thousand dollars to steer one particular kid to that school. It was a terrible match for him, he hated it and came home a failure. Jail time is being done over this and it probably happens a lot more often than we know.

    I know smart black kids get recruited, but a lot of that depends on the high school counselors matching the kids up with the schools. There is just no comparison to what’s being done for athletes. Academically talented black kids are an afterthought.

  4. Laura May 14, 2005 at 6:42 pm | | Reply

    That is, the booster paid the money to the coach. He was caught because the assistant coach blew the whistle when he didn’t get his cut – duh!

  5. L May 14, 2005 at 10:54 pm | | Reply


    I’m originally from Southwest Houston, and I went to a very, very diverse public high school–over a quarter black, about 20% Asian, etc.

    I was in Honors classes, and they were almost entirely white or Asian (and, in math classes, majority Asian), despite the school being over a quarter black. In middle school, there had been slightly more blacks in the advanced classes it seems, but they generally didn’t show any interest in being in Honors later. I certainly think more could have been in Honors if they had had the interest, and the school certainly would have wanted them to stay. There were a couple of not-too-bright (just average, not stupid though) Asian guys who stayed in and were reasonably successful because their parents would have kicked their as*es if they stopped working hard. (Most honors kids were bright).

    In high school students with National Merit PSATs were invited to a UT-Austin open house (complete with a small scholarship), at least that’s what we assumed because in our classes only those with such scores were invited (there were no secrets in my class). At this open house, strangely enough, there were a lot of black kids. It was clear to everyone exactly what was going on. Whites and Asians had to have a very high score, blacks did not. One black girl openly talked about her 900-something SAT score; the black kids knew what was going on too.

    While at UT, there were special honors ceremonies after the freshman year ONLY for black and Hispanics who had managed to get a 3.0. The other honors recognitions (the ones for everyone) were for people with more than 60 hours and they had to have at least a 3.5. The race distribution was similar to my honors classes in hs.

    So, I’m curious as to how you know UT-Austin does not actively recruit black kids? They most certainly were NOT an afterthought, and they most certainly did get preferential treatment, and UT actively went after them. I agree athletic kids are recruited heavily, but that’s versus everyone. I’m guessing they get more than National Merit Scholars of whatever race–no one from UT came after our high-SAT types or top GPA students except there was the open house. Why should UT do more anyway?

    When it comes to black vs. Asian or white on academics, at least in the past there was a definite recruitment effort on behalf of the former.

    As my integrated hs showed and as professors here (those SUPPORTING AA) have noted, the 10% rule works ONLY in segregation (I don’t understand how they can then say that the AA recruits are “highly qualified”, but I digress). If schools were forcibly integrated tomorrow that would be the end of the 10% rule providing diversity. The second post is right–there aren’t the numbers necessary.

    I think if black kids (and for that matter, white kids) had parents who would act like Asian parents, all this would change. (Heck, check out the University libraries on Friday or Saturday night and it’s Asian central, though often that’s international students). UT can, and does, get college kids to tutor disadvantaged elementary kids here in Austin, and that’s a great strategy. But to expect them to create what isn’t there when the kids are 18 and applying to schools is absurd. Even more absurd is doing it for law and medical and graduate school, quite frankly, after the scholarships and breaks in federal grants (so black kids don’t have to work and can focus on studying) and the breaks in admissions should have made up for disadvantages.

  6. Michelle Dulak Thomson May 14, 2005 at 11:22 pm | | Reply


    As my integrated hs showed and as professors here (those SUPPORTING AA) have noted, the 10% rule works ONLY in segregation (I don’t understand how they can then say that the AA recruits are “highly qualified”, but I digress). If schools were forcibly integrated tomorrow that would be the end of the 10% rule providing diversity.

    The trouble in Texas is that you can’t “integrate” schools in places where not only the county in question but all the surrounding ones as well are overwhelmingly Hispanic. What are you supposed to do, send all the kids to boarding schools in the posher suburbs?

    And I really do have problems with this assumption that if you threw all the kids into one big educational vat and stirred, it’s inevitable that the white and Asian kids would still float to the top, and the black and Hispanic kids sink to the bottom.

  7. Cicero May 14, 2005 at 11:38 pm | | Reply

    This is a little off topic, but since we’re talking about Texas you should be aware of the shenanigans going on in their fair city of Arlington.

    In an effort to ‘diversify’ their public boards and commissions, the city council has added a race/ethnicity question to the board member application. This will simplify the process of weeded out whites from the pool of applicants.

    See my blog for details and a link to the application in question:


  8. Laura May 14, 2005 at 11:43 pm | | Reply

    I don’t pretend to know how UT Austin recruited at your high school. I only know about recruitment around here. Maybe if the athletes weren’t wined and dined and treated like they’re God’s gift to universities, the black kids would hit the books a little more.

  9. L May 15, 2005 at 12:37 am | | Reply

    I was speaking theoretically on the integration–I know Laredo and Brownsville and such aren’t going to be representative of the state without major regional shuffling.

    I don’t think it’s “inevitable” that whites and Asians will be at the top in the sense that it’s some sort of law of nature. I didn’t say that, and I explicitly said how I thought the facts I’ve seen in life could be changed in the future. But at least at all of Houston’s mixed schools that I know about, the pattern was the same, and as I noted AA supporters too have said integration would ruin the diversifying effects of the 10% rule, and they can only say that if they believe what I’ve seen. I would venture this is largely true across the country. What should be dealt with is the facts as they are instead of simply not liking them. I think that’s actually a large part of the problem (in many areas of life, actually)–instead of facing something head on, the problem gets ignored or minimized.

  10. LTEC May 15, 2005 at 1:33 am | | Reply

    The wining and dining of Black athletes affects what college they go to, not whether or not they become successful collegiate athletes. The fact that there is less competition amongst colleges for Black scholars in no way causes the shortage of Black scholars.

  11. Laura 2 May 15, 2005 at 2:40 pm | | Reply

    Sorry Laura,

    I should have put Laura 2 on the first post. ;-)


    If we want to encourage diversity should we require the athletic teams to be diverse as well? Maybe we need more Whites, Asians, and Hispanics on the basketball, track, and football teams. The baseball and gymnastic teams probably need more Blacks and Asians. Of course, another alternative might be to just recruit the best athletes and not worry about skin color. Of course, that would probably be a little to radical.

  12. superdestroyer May 15, 2005 at 3:17 pm | | Reply

    A couple of thoughts:

    1. Athletes are not recruited but males who play football and basketball are the ones that are heavily recruited. I don’t think that the girls on the crew team are being wined and dined.

    2. Minority females are massively underpresented in athletics. Outside of basketball and track, college teams are almost totally white. I wonder why the NOW crowd never complains about the need for diversity on the girls soccer, field hockey, volleyball, softball, tennis, golf, crew, lacrosse teams?

    3. If you look at majors at UT-Austain, the minorities admitted under thw 10% rule are congregated in just a couple of majors. The top 10% aren’t exactly adding blacks to the biochemistry or chemical engineering departments.

  13. Laura May 15, 2005 at 4:27 pm | | Reply

    “Minority females are massively underpresented in athletics.”

    True. And among minorities, females are overrepresented in academic acheivement and graduation rates.

  14. Claire May 19, 2005 at 1:16 pm | | Reply

    But why should black kids hit the books, when they know they can get into college anyway just on account of their skin color?

    Black culture puts a premium on racial solidarity, to the extent that individuals are expected to sacrifice their personal futures to satisfy the social pressures to ‘hang with their bros’. Those who reject this philosphy – and there are getting to be more and more all the time – are hen reviled by the black community as ‘race traitors’, Uncle Toms, etc. It’s no wonder that most kids don’t have the cojones to study hard or take honors classes, when they know they’ll be ostrasized by fellow blacks.

    What we ought to honor is those blacks who have managed to break away from this culture of failure and succeed, in spite of cultural pressure to conform. These are the unsung heroes who show true courage.

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