Affirmative Action and Radical Politics
When I read Thomas Sowell’s column (March 13, 2012) about an African American graduate student in mathematics at a prestigious university who had his dissertation written for him, I was shocked. Not because after spending more than three decades in academia I didn’t know such things existed. I just didn’t know they existed in mathematics and, perhaps, the real sciences. I thought that kind of intellectual corruption was confined to the social sciences and humanities.
So familiar am I with the process of writing dissertations for black students that I believe I can claim to know the professor who thinks he invented it. In fact, he alleges to have devised the euphemism to cover it up, which he “brilliantly” called “heavy editing.” Were he to come forth and accept recognition for this achievement, it would be the singular and most palpable accomplishment of his academic career.
To be a black graduate student and be constantly reminded that your race results in the special privilege of having a dissertation written for you does nothing for your self-esteem. To survive in this kind of intellectually abusive environment, one must turn against it. One must deny its legitimacy. If one weren’t radicalized before, one most certainly is radicalized afterward.
This explains Derek Bell’s critical race theory. Bell knew that he was not qualified to teach at Harvard. He proposed a theoretical standard by which Harvard was not qualified to judge him. Barack Obama’s admission to Columbia University remains a mystery. He became the president of the Harvard Law Review without ever having written an article for it. Obama knew that he was where he was because of his race. He too embraced a cultural explanation of a different reality and a political radicalization that affirmed that reality.
The ego must defend itself. We are not about to be objective about our limitations. We are going to rationalize our experiences. If we are found wanting, we are going to denounce the standards that make it so.
A colleague once returned a graduate examination in statistical methods. The single black student in class stood up from his chair, pounded on the seminar table, and screamed, “This examination is racist!”
My shocked colleague asked, “How could it be racist? It’s all statistics. There’s no substantive content here.”
To which the student responded, “It’s racist because I’m the only black student in the class, and I obviously got the lowest grade.”
Thomas Sowell views the white professor writing a dissertation for a black student as engaging in a misguided act of sympathy. At some level, I wish that as deplorable as the act is, it was out of compassion. My own observations revealed anything but compassion.
Universities operate under quotas masquerading as goals and government audits of racial outcomes known as cultural audits. Consequently, university administrators have numbers to produce because the government wants to see numbers. The reality is that the faculty that push black students through aren’t compassionate at all. They’re part of a bureaucracy that needs a certain statistical outcome. The black student is a means to an end. That end is a check in a box.
The professor who devised heavy editing was not concerned about the students he pushed through. He was concerned about the administrative tallies. He wanted to be able to say to the administration, look what we’ve done for our black graduate students. Look how many of them have received doctorates.