Last year, two Princeton sociologists, Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Walton Radford, published a book-length study of admissions and affirmative action at eight highly selective colleges and universities. Unsurprisingly, they found that the admissions process seemed to favor black and Hispanic applicants, while whites and Asians needed higher grades and SAT scores to get in. But what was striking, as Russell K. Nieli pointed out last week on the conservative Web site Minding the Campus, was which whites were most disadvantaged by the process: the downscale, the rural and the working-class.
This was particularly pronounced among the private colleges in the study. For minority applicants, the lower a family’s socioeconomic position, the more likely the student was to be admitted. For whites, though, it was the reverse. An upper-middle-class white applicant was three times more likely to be admitted than a lower-class white with similar qualifications…
This provides statistical confirmation for what alumni of highly selective universities already know. The most underrepresented groups on elite campuses often aren’t racial minorities; they’re working-class whites (and white Christians in particular) from conservative states and regions. Inevitably, the same underrepresentation persists in the elite professional ranks these campuses feed into: in law and philanthropy, finance and academia, the media and the arts.
This breeds paranoia, among elite and non-elites alike. Among the white working class, increasingly the most reliable Republican constituency, alienation from the American meritocracy fuels the kind of racially tinged conspiracy theories that Beck and others have exploited — that Barack Obama is a foreign-born Marxist hand-picked by a shadowy liberal cabal, that a Wall Street-Washington axis wants to flood the country with third world immigrants, and so forth.
It’s no secret that the road out of provincial ignominy runs through select universities. To bar people from these places, intentionally or otherwise, in a society where people can see how the other half lives as easily as can be done in ours, is to invite resentment and blowback. IMHO, it’s taken too long for the Evangelical community to figure this out. But figure it out they have.
The left can continue to demonise and marginalise these people all they want, but ultimately to hold power they have only two choices. The first is to cut a deal, and part of that deal would be to reshuffle the admissions process. (A better deal would be to cut out this “Ivy League or Bust” régime we have in this country, but I digress…) The second is to mercilessly beat this group down, whether in the court of public opinion or by the long arm of the law (“beat the dog in the water,” as V.I. Lenin used to say.)
The weakness with the second plan is that lower middle class white people, under-represented in the élite universities, are overrepresented in two places which make the difference at crunch time: law enforcement and the military. That’s why the left continues to live in fear and disgorge the rhetoric they do to go with it. (It also explains the fanatical effort to do away with DADT.)