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UCLA law professor: Affirmative action hurts more minority students than it helps

Affirmative action hurts more minority students than it helps.

That according to Richard Sander, a professor in the UCLA law school, who during a speech at a meeting of the Bruin Republicans on Wednesday argued that affirmative action creates the unexpected problem of “mismatch,” a data-backed critique of the preference program.

The mismatch hypothesis, as explained by Professor Sander, is “that students will learn less when they are surrounded by students who had scores 10 points higher than them than if they were surrounded by students who had similar scores.”

In other words, when students with lower credentials than their peers are accepted into more challenging universities they can suffer academically as a result.

Sander made it very clear in his talk that mismatch is not just about race, but can also be about legacy status, people attending on athletic scholarship, or any student who was chosen for the school based on a preference rather than test scores.

Sander said he believes his theory can explain why so many minority students, particularly African-American and Latino students, drop out of school.

“Because they were given preference, they are not learning as fast as their peers, so they become discouraged with education and decide to flunk out,” Sander said.

Sander said when he uses the term “affirmative action,” he refers to the large admissions preferences made in each wave of college admissions, not in the overall idea of affirmative action, which is to help minority students receive the same opportunities as their white counterparts.

Sander is co-author of the 2012 book “Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It.” The mismatch theory was cited by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in 2015 during oral arguments in the Supreme Court’s second hearing of the famous affirmative action case of Fisher v. University of Texas.

Sander, in his talk, cited several different research studies to affirm the mismatch theory, including his own 2004 study, “A Systematic Analysis of Affirmative Action.”

Another study was done at the Air Force Academy, where the highest ranking students were put with the lowest ranking students into one class, and the middle-range students were put into another class. What the research found was, by removing middle-range students from the class, the lower-ranked students began to perform worse, a clear indication mismatch is in some way involved with performance.

Sander said that while this seems like a topic that should receive more attention, academia tends to sweep the information under the rug or try to discredit it. He cited a situation stemming from his own campus as an example.

“Michael Schill (the former dean of the UCLA Law School) told me privately that he thought it was a breakthrough study,” Sander said. But after it was published, Sander said that Schill sent an email to the student body suggesting “there are those of us who seriously question the credibility of this research.”

Sander cited additional examples in which editors of peer-reviewed journals, including one at the University of Pennsylvania, told him privately they would publish his study, then later had to back out due to their financial backers’ dislike of the content of the study’s findings.

Bruin Republicans President Jordan Sadlier said his group hosted the speech to educate themselves about the affirmative action debate.

“We really wanted Professor Sander to speak, and he chose this topic because he is an expert in it. I had never heard of mismatch before tonight, but it is definitely something that should be researched more,” he told The College Fix.

Several Bruin Republicans at the event expressed support for allowing the research to be published, and giving people an opportunity to form their own opinions on it.

IMAGE: Courtesy photo

MORE: Whistleblower Professor Exposes Race-Based ‘Cheating’ at UCLA

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About the Author
Mark is a first year Business Economics student at the University of California-Los Angeles. When not writing articles for The College Fix or studying for his classes, Mark enjoys listening to full albums, from start to finish, playing sports, and watching films. He hopes to minor in Film, Television and Digital Media.

Add to the Discussion

  • Henry L

    Affirmative action is like trying to pour one liter of water into a coffee cup.

    • A Smith

      Liter?! Go back to Russia, comrade.

      • Henry L

        I surmise you don’t know what a liter is. Well let me inform you that ‘liter’ is a unit of measure in the metric system that the world has adapted when Napoleon was crisscrossing the European continent. Why the US insist on being backwards with its convoluted system of ounces, pounds, inches and fractions thereof that is so utterly confusing and time consuming I’ll never know. It is time the US steps into the 21st century and goes with a system that the more educated peoples of the world use, even the far less educated I might add because it is so much more intelligent and efficient that Nasa had to use it to prevent missing the moon every time it tried.

        • Vince Daly

          Total BS on that nasa comment

          • Henry L

            I was just trying to be funny, but do you have a better explanation why everything scientific uses the metric system?

        • Trevor Sedis

          The problem wasn’t the moon. The problem was when two different teams working on a space-probe used different measurement standards:


          • Henry L

            I thought NASA was 100% Metric.

        • irvpost

          Unions are afraid it will make jobs easier to ship overseas.

          • Henry L

            That is an interesting point; never thought of it.

  • Unmutual One

    And this is why they hold their protests — they need to force universities to lower their standards so they can actually pass their classes.

  • T100C1970

    Dr. Tom Sowell (who happens to be a person of African ancestry) has argued this very point for years.

    • Damo DeMack

      I tweeted as much.

  • A deplorable NNYer

    Very interesting. The high school that I went to streamed the students according to academic ability. I can see why they did this. I recall one left wing academic person poo pooing this practice.

  • Peach kuchen

    My elementary, Junior high and high schools all grouped students by academic ability. While I can see that it might become difficult for a student to break out of their initial grouping, I also think it is a good idea for all three groups (advanced, average and low performing). The advanced students are not held back as much by the need to teach to the slowest student; the slower students get more time and attention (at least in theory), and the average students don’t get lost.

    • dwpittelli

      Generally speaking, in my limited experience working in high schools, math teachers favor ability grouping as necessary for their own subject, but most teachers in other disciplines are ideologically opposed to it. (They may see it as the other way around.)

      • Peach kuchen

        You spoke the truth: they are ideologically opposed to it. Has nothing to do with whether it actually works better for the students.

    • david smith

      Dey was racissss!

    • Ian Deal

      The problem with this arrangement is that many students with behavioral issues or mental health issues end up in the third tier. Everyone in this tier then gets labeled by modern school systems, which have eliminated shop and other vocational classes where these young people could get skills they could turn into good jobs. The dropout rate for those in the lowest group is a symptom of a school system that is not serving them (or the nation) well.

  • RichPowers

    All profs need do is dumb down their classes so the lowest-scoring among them can pass. UNC has been doing this with athletes for years and we just found out from the NCAA that it’s okay.

    • A Smith

      But did they find out from prospective employers if that’s okay?

  • Most administrators are afraid of their own shadows. If the minority students revolt the hand-wringing begins and must acknowledged. In Boston U, sometime in the 1960’s, the President John Silber was faced with a revolt. The university police threw students out. Protest ended.
    Administrators without courage or guts are in droves, and the university suffers and will become nothing but a kindergarten of the mind. Sandbox 101 is the major.

  • A Smith

    “Not learning as fast as their peers” is what will make heads explode.

    • John200

      Here, let me try:
      Not learning as fast as their betters?

      Keep your handkerchief ready. And watch for splattering, it will be extensive if you say this among lefty heads.

  • John1838

    We’re pro-science. Unless that science conflicts with what we want to believe — especially if we’re invested in or benefit from what we believe.

  • Dogbert1

    Equality means you go to the school you qualify for, like everyone else. Justice Scalia said students (including students of color) do best at a school where they meet the same standards as their classmates. For this he was pilloried by the “diversity at any cost” mongers. And then he expired.

  • Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar

    It’s called integration.

    • david smith

      Diversity too.
      The Detroit Fire Dept lowered its physical standards for carrying dead weight, like an unconscious person in a fire, because women couldn’t do it so they claimed it gender bias.
      Who do you want carrying you down a ladder when you’re unconscious from smoke inhalation, a 220lb man or a 125lb woman?

  • Beeotchstewie the deplorable

    It is specifically designed to decimate POC students. Here’s how it works. You take minority students with lower entrance exam scores, and automatically add points to them based only on skin color, while taking points away from whites and Asians. Yes this is happening. Then you lower the GPA requirements only for specific ethnic groups, making it much easier for them to get into a college their academic history tell us is above their ability level. Then you saddle them with loads of untenable student debt. Then if they fail and drop out, or they do graduate with a useless degree like social justice, they are unable to pay back the debt.
    Now look at what you created, a permanently dependent Democratic voter. Isn’t that the real goal of all these lying social justice programs?

  • Trevor Sedis

    We all know that Usain Bolt trained with quadruple amputees and Roger Bannister never broke the 4-minute mile using “rabbits.” Right?

  • irvpost

    Most academia are leftist and leftist are egalitarians. There must be an equal outcome from education ( getting them into school so they can say they have done their part ) but not equal results ( graduation or job acquisition ), so if the bottom cannot rise we must lower the top. We will teach only to the slowest and hold back the rest. Leftest do not care about the results because that is someone else’s problem, namely employers that they can demonize by decrying them as racist capitalists. Leftist also sprinkle in a heavy dose of indoctrination of the religions of government, environment, socialism and humanism. This is why they are rabidly opposed to charter and home schools, as they instill the ideas of the individual, God and freedom, anathema to leftists.

  • Joe Joe

    This has been known for a long time. The research is out there: