The Fall issue of Columbia Magazine carries an interview with the president of Columbia, Lee Bollinger, who is beginning his second decade in that job. Among the topics discussed is race-based affirmative action in college and university admissions, which is again up for review by the Supreme Court. Mr. Bollinger says:
If a majority were to go the full distance, overruling the Grutter case and declaring that considering race under any circumstances, under any program in American universities is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment, it would have a drastic negative effect on racial and ethnic diversity on the leading campuses across the United States. All you have to do is look at what happened to Berkeley and UCLA since California's Prop. 209 in 1996 to see the long-term negative effects of not being able to consider ethnicity in admissions.
What are those long-term negative effects, exactly? The Washington Monthly rated Berkeley fifth in the nation and UCLA sixth in the nation in its 2012 ranking of national research universities. Columbia was far down the list, at number 36. The 2012 rankings of US News & World Report rated U.C. Berkeley as the best public university in the country. The National Bureau of Economic Research is out with a new paper today reporting that "After Prop 209, graduation rates of minorities [within the U.C. system] increased by 4.4%."
Even after Proposition 209, the U.C. Berkeley freshman class is more racially diverse than Columbia's is. Berkeley's incoming freshman class in 2012 was 24.3% white; Columbia's was 34% white. Berkeley's class is 43.4% Asian or Asian-American, Columbia's is only 29% Asian or Asian-American.
I've got some sympathy for allowing private universities to conduct their admissions policies without a lot of federal interference into their practices, but if President Bollinger is going to go around criticizing UCLA and U.C. Berkeley in the Columbia alumni magazine, he may want to first make sure the facts are on his side.