Great essay! Thanks for making such a concise and coherent summary. I'll be sharing this with many friends and colleagues.

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Thoughtful and informative - Thank you Coleman

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What's most patronizing about the ad-hoc diversity justification for racial preferences is that it robs minority applicants of their agency. They're objects, not actors. Black students are seen as a fungible commodity who are desirable because they make the campus community more diverse. End of story.

This mainstay of affirmative-action jurisprudence is fatally flawed because it hides the obvious: black students, like white students, want to attend elite universities because they are highly ambitious and seek the vocational advantages and social mobility that is almost universally believed to come with the diploma.

I have long maintained that elite universities are heavily complicit in creation of the college admissions rat race and the ecosystem of private preparatory schools and admissions coaches that have grown up around it because of one simple microeconomic factor: the demand vastly exceeds the supply. The schools themselves admit that when they say they could fill their freshman classes many times over with the applicants who meet the basic admissions criteria.

The primary reason is that no new elite, highly selective universities have been founded for over a century, and they have not increased the sizes of their freshman class in proportion with the growth of the population of the U.S. and the increase in the number of high school students seeking admission. According to some sources, the population of the United States has grown by about 330 percent since the end of WWII. Who wants to bet that the Yale's first-year class has?

Is it any wonder, then, that the admissions offices at Harvard and its ilk have to grind promising applications to dust in order to find the one or two particles that justify acceptance?

The New Yorker staff writer Jay Caspian Kang recently elaborated on this point to great effect:

"Harvard did not have to pursue such a comical vision of social justice. It could have vastly expanded its class sizes, relaxed its admissions standards, and cut off its pipelines from exclusive private schools. It could have opened its doors to hundreds of community-college transfers. If Harvard were truly committed to increasing access to an élite education, it could have invested a fraction of its fifty-three-billion-dollar endowment in free college-preparatory academies across America and guided hundreds of poor Black and Latino students through the university’s gates."

"Why the Champions of Affirmative Action Had to Leave Asian Americans Behind." 30 June 2023. https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/why-the-champions-of-affirmative-action-had-to-leave-asian-americans-behind

What do the elite institutions have to say for themselves?

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Coleman, I’m humbled to know that you know that you are in the elite, and it makes me trust you more.

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Just a meta-comment not directly related to your post but you, Yglesias, and Freddie deBoer—all on Substack—have today made posts of the form "N itemized thoughts about the Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action". What the heck is going on? Is this coincidence or is Substack driving editorial choices more than I realized?

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