A Racially Restrictive Pipeline?

[NOTE: This post has been UPDATED (20 Sept.) and cross-posted on the National Association of Scholars site]

Under a headline proclaiming “Pipeline Into Partnerships Offers Minority Students A Chance,” USA Today describes a novel (for the time being) arrangement under which Southern Vermont College “outsourced much of the responsibility for choosing 17 members of its incoming freshman class to KIPP, the largest charter chain in the country, as well as to a high school in Brooklyn and the Boys and Girls Club of Schenectady, N.Y.”

Pipelines into Partnerships describes itself as “an initiative designed to further vulnerable student progression to and through college and to create a replicable and scalable model that can be deployed by a wide range of sending and destination partners.” Since USA Today reports that “all of the students in the Pipelines program” at Southern Vermont “come from minority families,” it’s not clear that this program can be “replicable” at public institutions that are constrained in their use of racially restrictive programs. Private colleges may be free (at least unless and until some future court decides that Title VI means what it says) to discriminate on the basis of race, but public institutions are not.

PiP and Kipp are certainly free, and should even be commended, for assisting “students whose current performance measures will not enable their entry into our elite colleges but who can and should graduate successfully from a four year college.” And Southern Vermont — or any college, public or private —  are and should be free to “focus on unconventional measures of success, such as grit and academic improvement instead of just overall grades and scores….” If a college chooses, as Southern Vermont’s president Karen Gross was quoted in USA Today, to “shift the admissions paradigm, so that sending institutions play a vastly bigger role,” that is their prerogative.

What they should not — and public institutions do not — have is the freedom is anoint outside recruiters to round up minority students so that “their campus gets a diversity boost.” Displaying “grit and academic improvement,” after all, like all the “holistic” qualities admissions officers are fond of citing, is not limited to minorities.

ADDENDUM [20 Sept.]

Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity has gently informed me that I should not have implied that private colleges are free to employ racially restrictive programs. Even under the Supreme Court’s current crimped and overly restrictive reading of Title VI, institutions receiving federal funds must give all applicants “individualized consideration,” and that is manifestly not the case in programs that exclude some on the basis of race.

When I wrote that “Private colleges may be free (at least unless and until some future court decides that Title VI means what it says) to discriminate on the basis of race … ,” what I meant (and hence should have said) is that if the courts interpreted Title VI consistent with what Justice Stevens in his Bakke concurrence/dissent said “[t]he plain language of the statute … requires,” then racial preference, not just racial exclusion, would be prohibited — especially because the line between preference and exclusion is often non-existent: all applicants who would have been admitted but for their race, even though race was theoretically only “one of many factors,” were as a practical matter excluded.

Say What?