Diversity rhetoric can't hide UW's discriminatory policy

By Michelle Malkin

The Seattle Times, March 11, 1997

“(A)PPLICANTS are . . . admitted taking into account factors believed to enhance the richness of the student body and the educational environment. These factors, according to our published admissions policy statement, include but are not limited to racial origin’ . . .

“Academic achievement should be measured not only by how high an applicant stands compared to others, but also by how far that applicant has had to climb from where he or she began . . .” – Wallace Loh, 1995, former dean University of Washington Law School

KATURIA Smith has had to climb a long, long way from where she began. Her mom was a high-school dropout who gave birth to Katuria at 17. Her parents divorced when Katuria was 11. “My mom was a single mom struggling to raise four kids. We lived hand to mouth,” Katuria told me. “It’s not a sob story. But it was hard and I was determined to get out of poverty.”

After graduating from high school, Katuria worked in a number of low-wage jobs around the Seattle area. “I detailed cars, mixed auto paint, was employed at a cattle auction, and worked as a janitor and a construction worker. Anything to pay the bills.”

Then she discovered the paralegal program at Edmonds Community College. At 21, she enrolled in night classes and continued to work full-time during the days. She gained admission to the University of Washington in 1992, continued to work part-time, and graduated cum laude in 1994 with a degree in business.

Katuria next set her sights on law school. She applied to only one – UW’s Law School. “I felt like I was exactly the kind of person they’d want. Most kids in my hometown expected me to end up in jail. Instead, I really did something with my life.” With a 3.65 grade-point average, a score of 165 on her LSATs (which put her in the 94th percentile), a compelling personal history, and an inexhaustible work ethic, Katuria seemed like an ideal candidate.

There was just one catch: The admissions officers at the UW Law School, just as most admissions officers across the country, grade on a racial curve. And Katuria is white. She was rejected and given no chance to appeal. University officials stonewalled when she requested comparative data on admitted students. In the meantime, she hastily assembled an application to the less-prestigious and more-expensive law program at Seattle University, where she is now in her final year.

Last week, after much soul-searching, she filed a racial discrimination suit in federal court against UW. “People will say I’m a racist or a publicity-seeker,” she says. “But what the school does is wrong. It has to end.”

Under former UW law school dean Wallace Loh’s tenure, minority enrollment skyrocketed from 14 percent to nearly 40 percent. Loh calls the contention that racial preferences displace qualified students a “myth.” We will see. With help from the Center for Individual Rights, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit public-interest law firm, Katuria’s lawsuit will shed light on the secretive process by which UW boosted minority enrollment.

What was the median LSAT score of applicants? How did those scores break down by race? And of those affirmative-action students admitted when Katuria applied, how many had LSAT scores and GPAs higher than Katuria’s?

Admissions officials claim that race is “just one of many factors.” But when race is used as a “plus” factor, it inevitably becomes a determinative one. According to CIR, university documents indicate that applicants were separated into pools by race – and judged by separate standards. That is immoral and illegal. As the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last spring inHopwood v. Texas (which was brought and won with the help of CIR), “the use of ethnic diversity simply to achieve racial heterogeneity, even as part of the consideration of a number of factors, is unconstitutional.”

Twenty-three years ago, another white student, Marco DeFunis – now a practicing lawyer in Seattle – brought suit against the UW Law School. Although his scores were higher than 36 of 37 minority students who were accepted, DeFunis was rejected. He won his case, but was overruled by the state Supreme Court. U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas issued the order allowing DeFunis to stay. “The Equal Protection Clause,” Douglas wrote, “commands the elimination of racial barriers, not their creation in order to satisfy our theory as to how society ought to be organized.”

For more than two decades, social engineers in admissions offices nationwide have ignored Douglas’ admonition. It is time, DeFunis told me, “for public scrutiny of the admissions process at all state-supported schools. The public has a right to know what’s going on.”

Katuria Smith’s suit will help break down the doors. Taxpayers opposed to state-subsidized racism can do more. Refuse to open your wallets to higher-ed officials until they spare us the rhetoric, show us the numbers, and put an end to racial discrimination in the name of diversity.