So, South Carolina Wants A Quota

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported a few days ago that the University of South Carolina wants a quota. Well, “quota” is my characterization, but how else would you describe university president Robert L. Caslen’s statement that since blacks are “hugely underrepresented” he intends to move “the share of Black students at the university to be ‘approaching’  the share of Black residents in the state — about 27 percent — by 2025?”

I have a few questions about this plan.

  1. According to the university’s demographic data, blacks are indeed “underrepresented” (27.9% of South Carolina’s population but 10.2% of students at the Columbia flagship), but Asians are “overrepresented (1.5% vs. 2.3%), as are “Two or More Races” (1.7% v. 3.2%), and of course whites (63.9% v. 76.7%). So, should Asians, Two-or-Mores, and whites also “mirror” their proportion of the state’s population? If not, why not? Does President Caslen intend to reduce their numbers, or increase the size of the student body by drastically increasing the numbers of blacks and Hispanics (5.3% v. 4.0%)?
  2. Why should the “mirror” of racial proportionality be held up only in front of the students? If the student body should “mirror” the racial population of the state, why not the faculty and staff?
  3. President Caslen also stated that part of his plan involves “increasing scholarship and fellowship money for underrepresented minorities.” Why is this not patently unconstitutional? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in which South Carolina resides, ruled over 25 years ago, here, that racially targeted scholarships are unconstitutional. Was that opinion overturned when I wasn’t looking? (As an example of how divisive these efforts at “inclusion” often are, it is worth pointing out that the successful plaintiff in that case challenging black scholarships was Hispanic.)

Strom Thurmond was a long-serving U.S. Senator from South Carolina who for most of his career was an ardent and outspoken opponent of civil rights, and  so it is not surprising that demands are increasing to remove his name from a prominent fitness and athletic center on the Columbia campus. Thus there is more than a little irony in the fact that President Caslen’s intention to implement what looks like racial quotas and acts likes racial quotas serves to confirm what Thurmond and other opponents of the 1964 Civil Rights Act predicted.

In his dissenting opinion in Bakke, Justice Stevens quoted a number of these opponents who warned that if the measure became law it would lead inexorably to “racial quotas and ‘racially balanced’ colleges and universities.” As one of these Thurmond-like critics stated (quoted in Stevens’ Footnote 14), “The effect of this title, if enacted into law, will interject race as a factor in every decision involving the selection of an individual . . . . The concept of ‘racial imbalance’ would hover like a black cloud over every transaction.”

Thurmond was wrong to oppose the ’64 Civil Rights Act, but his ghost can take perverse pleasure in President Caslen confirming that its opponents’ prediction has proved right.

ADDENDUM

Once you start thinking about South Carolina it’s hard to stop (at least for my wife and me, since we are absentee landlords of a townhouse in Mt. Pleasant, near Charleston). In any event, here’s a question for President Caslen and others intent on erasing memorials, statues, etc, honoring dead racists: have you considered replacing the gamecock as the official symbol of the University?

That symbol, and the accompanying fighting rooster mascot, was not based on the bird but on the larger than life reputation of the man whom the athletic department’s gamecocksonline.com refers to as “General Thomas Sumter, famed guerrilla fighter of the Revolutionary War, [who] was known as ‘The Fighting Gamecock.’”

Thomas Sumter was one of the most prominent leaders of eighteenth century South Carolina — before, during, and after the Revolution, serving many years as a Congressman and Senator. Although he was born poor, the son of a former indentured servant who himself served time in debtor’s prison, he rose to great wealth, including “thousands of acres, mills, and many slaves.” During the Revolutionary War he developed what was known as“Thomas Sumter’s Law, “a recruiting plan that offered slaves and other Loyalist property, taken by the troops during the campaign, as an enlistment bounty.” General Sumter, according to this study of “Unification of a Slave State,” set a precedent for other generals when, in April 1781, he sought to raise six regiments by offering a slave bonus to each militiaman who would serve for six months. Even privates were to receive ‘one grown negro,’ and the numbers increased with rank. Sumter promised each lieutenant colonel ‘three large and one small negro.’”

Has the petition to rename Fort Sumter begun yet?

Go Gamecocks! Or, go, Gamecocks?

Say What?