Universities generally hire some pretty smart people. Not always, of course, but usually. Intelligence, however, is always thought of as a net positive. Yet there is a dark side to intelligence. When intelligence is unmoored from basic ethics and values, all sorts of bad things happen. When it is used to manipulate............well, you get the point.
Research shows that smart people are better at deceiving others, that they are more creative in their efforts to deceive, and that they can better handle the cognitive load required to keep all the plates balanced in their narrative. Research also tells us that we are more likely to WANT to believe smart people when they lie to us.
So, let’s say that you really, really, really want to increase minority enrollments at a competitive school. The only thing standing in your way is a state law that forbids race being used in the decision process. What to do, what to do?
Well, smart people know that a quotient needs a numerator and a denominator and that if we can affect either one, then we can affect the quotient.
Enter the University of Michigan.
UM has been at the heart of debate about the role of race in affirmative action for a very long time and the institution is now forbidden by law from elevating race in admissions decisions. How can you get around this if you really, really want to be down with the cause?
Here is what UM did. They shrank their entering class size and then refused to draw people from the waiting list. It seems those on the waiting list were predominately white and Asian so their addition would adjust the racial quotient downward. Pretty smart, huh?
Yeah.... UM found a way to diversify its student body (an admirable goal) without violating state law. All it had to do was NOT let in as many whites/Asians. That’s right: Qualified whites and Asians were INTENTIONALLY not allowed admission because that would have affected the denominator of the quotient.
John Paul Wright and Matt DeLisi
Professors of Crime and Criminology