In higher education circles, the term “mismatch” has come to define an unintended consequence of affirmative action: bright and promising minority students do not necessarily benefit when they are steered to elite schools for which they are typically less-prepared than their majority classmates.
The interdisciplinary debate — involving economists, sociologists, educators, lawyers, and politicians — will come to campus March 27, with a visit from Richard Sander, a co-author of Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit it. In the book, Sander and Stuart Taylor, Jr. aim to quantify how large these effects are, and whether their consequences outweigh the benefits of greater prestige.
The visit is co-sponsored by Colgate’s Arnold Sio Chair on Diversity and Community, the Center for Freedom and Western Civilization, and the Institute for Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE). The rotating Sio chair is now held by Phillip Richards, professor of English, who was quoted in the book.
Mismatch has renewed a national debate that has waxed and waned since the 1960, and is again in the spotlight as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear Fisher v. University of Texas. There are vocal advocates on both sides of the issue.
A Mar. 16 article in the New York Times quoted Sander on his position: “A student who gains special admission to a more elite school on partly nonacademic grounds is likely to struggle more…and if the struggling leads to lower grades and less learning, then a variety of bad outcomes may result: higher attrition rates, lower pass rates on the bar, problems in the job market.” The next day, the Times ran several letters to the editor that expressed opposing views.
Rhonda Levine, professor of sociology, will provide the counterpoint at Sander’s public talk, which will take place at 4:15 in Love Auditorium. “I am not convinced of the mismatch argument,” she said. “and in fact there seems to be plenty research and evidence that undermines it. And even if the mismatch argument were empirically accurate, I draw a very different conclusion than Sander as to what is to be done. I hope Love Auditorium is packed and the event sparks discussion on a very important issue.”
While Sander is on campus, he also will meet with students in Civil Rights and Liberties, taught by Stanley Brubaker, professor of political science, and lead a social science colloquium where he will specifically address his research methodology.