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Eph in the news

Apparently Ken Marcus ’88 has made headlines again.  Per the New York Times, the Department of Education under Marcus is wading into questions of anti-Semitism at U.S. universities:

The new head of civil rights at the Education Department has reopened a seven-year-old case brought by a Zionist group against Rutgers University, saying the Obama administration, in closing the case, ignored evidence that suggested the school allowed a hostile environment for Jewish students.

The move by Kenneth L. Marcus, the assistant secretary of education for civil rights and a longtime opponent of Palestinian rights causes, signaled a significant policy shift on civil rights enforcement — and injected federal authority in the contentious fights over Israel that have divided campuses across the country. It also put the weight of the federal government behind a definition of anti-Semitism that targets opponents of Zionism, and it explicitly defines Judaism as not only a religion but also an ethnic origin.

It appears that this might be a case of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, as the Department of Education does not have authority to investigate religious discrimination, only “discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity or national origin.”

I wonder if Williams will catch his attention?

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Marcus ’88 Moves on Racial Issues, 5

Ken Marcus ’88 is the (recently confirmed) Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, a position which places him at the center of the debate about racial diversity in higher education. Marcus, and his colleagues in the Justice Department, have started the process of getting rid of racial preferences. Let’s spend a week discussing their efforts. Day 5.

“It remains an enduring challenge to our nation’s education system to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity,” Justice Kennedy wrote for the 4-to-3 majority.

Some colleges, such as Duke and Bucknell universities, said they would wait to see how the Education Department proceeds in issuing new guidance. Other colleges said they would proceed with diversifying their campuses as the Supreme Court intended.

Melodie Jackson, a Harvard spokeswoman, said the university would “continue to vigorously defend its right, and that of all colleges and universities, to consider race as one factor among many in college admissions, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court for more than 40 years.”

A spokeswoman for the University of Michigan, which won a major Supreme Court case in 2003, suggested that the flagship university would like more freedom to consider race, not less. But it is already constrained by state law. After the case, Michigan voters enacted a constitutional ban on race-conscious college admissions policies.

Where are we headed? Tough to know!

1) Discrimination against Asian-Americans is significant, unpopular and very hard to justify. A Republican Supreme Court is going to find it hard to allow it to continue, at least officially. I suspect that decisions like Fisher v. Texas are in trouble, although any eventual over-turning might be several years out.

2) The Deep State of elite education is not so easily defeated. Affirmative Action — treating applicants differently on the basis of their race — is already illegal in states like California and Michigan and, yet, it still goes on sub rosa.

3) Elite institutions like Harvard are determined and resourceful. Their defense in the current lawsuit is, quite frankly, genius. Harvard creates a personal rating for all applicants. Asian-Americans do much worse on this metric. Once you account for these scores, Harvard (probably!) does not discriminate. And, since those (totally opaque!) scores are under Harvard’s complete control, there is no way to prove that it is discriminating or to stop it from doing so.

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Marcus ’88 Moves on Racial Issues, 4

Ken Marcus ’88 is the (recently confirmed) Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, a position which places him at the center of the debate about racial diversity in higher education. Marcus, and his colleagues in the Justice Department, have started the process of getting rid of racial preferences. Let’s spend a week discussing their efforts. Day 4.

The Trump administration’s moves come with affirmative action at a crossroads. Hard-liners in the Justice and Education Departments are moving against any use of race as a measurement of diversity in education. And the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy at the end of this month will leave the Supreme Court without its swing vote on affirmative action while allowing President Trump to nominate a justice opposed to policies that for decades have tried to integrate elite educational institutions.

Note the rhetoric:

1) “Hardliners” are people who object to discrimination/quotas against Asian-Americans. Would the New York Times have used that word in 1925 to describe people who objected to Jewish quotas at Harvard?

2) No one is “moving against any use of race as a measurement of diversity.” Ken Marcus does not care how Williams measures “diversity.” Williams can measure diversity however it wants! Marcus (and the rest of the Federal Government) object to Williams — as a recipient of federal funds via student loans — treating applicants differently on the basis of their race.

A highly anticipated case is pitting Harvard against Asian-American students who say one of the nation’s most prestigious institutions has systematically excluded some Asian-American applicants to maintain slots for students of other races. That case is clearly aimed at the Supreme Court.

The Harvard case is fascinating. It goes to trial in October. Should we provide more coverage? Again, it is unclear if Williams (today) discriminates against Asian-Americans the way that Harvard does. But the demographics and other societal changes mean that, unless we start doing so in the future, Williams will be 40% Asian-American a generation from now. I don’t have a problem with that. Do you?

“The whole issue of using race in education is being looked at with a new eye in light of the fact that it’s not just white students being discriminated against, but Asians and others as well,” said Roger Clegg, the president and general counsel of the conservative Center for Equal Opportunity. “As the demographics of the country change, it becomes more and more problematic.”

Indeed. Recall my favorite chart:

ccf_20170201_reeves_2

SAT scores are highly correlated with every other aspect of your academic profile: ACT, AP, subject tests, high school grades, teacher recommendations, essay quality, et cetera. Since Asian-Americans make up 50%+ of the highest SAT scorers, they almost are almost certainly 50%+ of the highest ACT, high school transcript, et cetera applicants. Why is Harvard only at 20%? Discrimination. Why is Williams only at 20%? Hard to know! We might discriminate, but, as with Jews almost a 100 years ago, the discrepancy might be caused by applicant preferences.

The key point — and one that smart guys like Roger Clegg and Ken Marcus will focus on — is that discrimination against Asian-Americans is a hard sell. When Marcus was cutting his teeth on affirmative action debates back in the 80s, it was much easier to justify discrimination against white applicants. First, they (being part of the power structure) were not particularly sympathetic victims. Second, their ancestors were plausibly guilty of historical crimes which required restitution. Third, they were such a large majority that a marginal decrease in their numbers did not seem a large price to pay for increased diversity.

I don’t think any of those arguments are going to work in the case of discrimination against Asian-Americans. And once Clegg/Marcus force places like Harvard/Williams to stop discriminating against Asian-Americans, how long will they be able to discriminate against whites?

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Marcus ’88 Moves on Racial Issues, 3

Ken Marcus ’88 is the (recently confirmed) Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, a position which places him at the center of the debate about racial diversity in higher education. Marcus, and his colleagues in the Justice Department, have started the process of getting rid of racial preferences. Let’s spend a week discussing their efforts. Day 3.

Under Mr. Marcus’s leadership, the Louis D. Brandeis Center, a human rights organization that champions Jewish causes, filed an amicus brief in 2012, the first time the Supreme Court heard Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. In the brief, the organization argued that “race conscious admission standards are unfair to individuals, and unhealthy for society at large.”

Is that brief enough to label Marcus as a “vocal opponent” of affirmative action? If so, every (almost) Republican is one. Again, I suspect that a large majority of Americans — including many EphBlog readers? — would agree that “race conscious admission standards are unfair to individuals.” Although perhaps “unfair” is unduly loaded? Williams treats smart applicants differently then dumb applicants, which is either “unfair” or “necessary to achieve our educational goals,” depending on your point of view.

The organization argued that Asian-American students were particularly victimized by race “quotas” that were once used to exclude Jewish people.

This is beyond dispute, at least at places like HYPS. (Again, it is not clear if Williams (meaningfully) discriminates against Asian-Americans in admissions. As in the case of Jews 75 years ago, Williams may not get as many applications (or as high a yield) as HYP do/did.)

As the implications for affirmative action for college admissions play out in court, it is unclear what the decision holds for elementary and secondary schools. New York City is embroiled in a debate about whether to change its entrance standard — currently a single test — for its most prestigious high schools to allow for more black and Latino students.

If NYC wants to cancel its admissions tests for places like Stuyvesant, Ken Marcus won’t care (much). If NYC (or Williams) wants to change its admissions policies, Ken won’t care (much). What he does care about (a lot!) is whether or not, say, African-American and Asian-American applicants are treated the same, either by NYC or by Williams. If they are not, he is now in a position to bring the full weight and power of the Federal Government against NYC/Williams.

Do you have a problem with that? Tough! You (and I am sure that this applies to 90% (99%?) of EphBlog readers) had no problem when the Federal Government was bossing around private institutions (like Bob Jones University) or local/state governments (like the city of Little Rock, Arkansas). And maybe you were right! But, having created the monster to do “good,” don’t be surprised when the monster turns its pitiless gaze toward you . . .

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Marcus ’88 Moves on Racial Issues, 2

Ken Marcus ’88 is the (recently confirmed) Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, a position which places him at the center of the debate about racial diversity in higher education. Marcus, and his colleagues in the Justice Department, have started the process of getting rid of racial preferences. Let’s spend a week discussing their efforts. Day 2.

Ms. DeVos has seemed hesitant to wade in on the fate of affirmative action policies, which date back to a 57-year-old executive order by President John F. Kennedy, who recognized systemic and discriminatory disadvantages for women and minorities. The Education Department did not partake in the Justice Department’s formal interest in Harvard’s litigation.

“I think this has been a question before the courts and the courts have opined,” Ms. DeVos told The Associated Press.

But Ms. DeVos’s new head of civil rights, Kenneth L. Marcus, may disagree. A vocal opponent of affirmative action, Mr. Marcus was confirmed last month on a party-line Senate vote, and it was Mr. Marcus who signed Tuesday’s letter.

1) I am not sure if “vocal opponent of affirmative action” is a fair description. Most Republican are against Affirmative Action, at least against the 200+ SAT point gaps that bedevil schools like Williams. Marcus is a Republican, so it is hardly surprising that he is against it. But “vocal” implies that he goes out of his way to write about this topic, speak about it, tweet about it and so on. Does he? Not that I have seen.

2) Note how the rhetoric is designed to make the reader dislike Marcus. (Being in favor of something is a more positive-sounding description that being an opponent.) There is a reason that the Times does not describe Marcus as a “strong proponent of color-blind policies” or as someone who “wants colleges to judge applicants on a basis other than the color of their skin.” A “vocal opponent” is weird, strange, backward.

3) Nowhere in the article does it mention how popular Marcus’s views are. A clear majority of Americans are against Affirmative Action as it is currently practiced at places like Williams. Popularity does not mean, of course, that Marcus is right, but shielding its readers from these unpleasant facts does them a disservice. Or maybe they like the cocoon?

4) Anyone have any Marcus stories from his Williams days?

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Marcus ’88 Moves on Racial Issues, 1

Ken Marcus ’88 is the (recently confirmed) Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, a position which places him at the center of the debate about racial diversity in higher education. Marcus, and his colleagues in the Justice Department, have started the process of getting rid of racial preferences. Let’s spend a week discussing their efforts. Day 1.

From The New York Times:

The Trump administration said Tuesday that it was abandoning Obama administration policies that called on universities to consider race as a factor in diversifying their campuses, signaling that the administration will champion race-blind admissions standards.

In a joint letter, the Education and Justice Departments announced that they had rescinded seven Obama-era policy guidelines on affirmative action, which, the departments said, “advocate policy preferences and positions beyond the requirements of the Constitution.”

1) Marcus will be at the center of the debate over affirmative action at places like Williams for the next 2 (or 6?!?) years. Very convenient for EphBlog!

2) Say what you will about Trump’s focus/competence/ideology, but, in this part of the Federal Government at least, we are getting serious Republican/conservative policy-making, good and hard. You may dislike Marcus’s ideology, but he is very, very smart. He, and his peers at Justice, are going to do everything in their power to make affirmative action disappear. Underestimate them at your peril.

3) One of my favorite post-election memes illustrates the problem that Democrats/liberals face:

Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 1.53.22 PM

If the Federal Government were less powerful, then Marcus would not be able to change admissions policy at places like Williams. (And that would certainly be my preference! I think that the Federal Government should leave private institutions like Williams alone.) But my Democratic/progressive/liberal friends want a powerful Federal Government, one with the ability to tell everyone else how to run their affairs. Be careful what you wish for!

Entire New York Times article below:

Read more

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Latest News on Marcus ’88 Nomination

Here are the latest news articles on the (stalled?) nomination of Ken Marcus ’88 to be the assistant secretary for civil rights in the Department of Education.

Kenneth Marcus, nominated for the head of the Office for Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Education, evaded questions about racially disparate school discipline in January. The Office for Civil Rights receives complaints about racially disparate student discipline. National data shows that that students of color are often disciplined far more often and more severely than their white peers.

Marcus said, “Senator, I believe disparities of that size are grounds for concern, but my experience says that one needs to approach each complaint and compliance review with an open mind and a sense of fairness to find what out what the answers are. I have seen what appeared to be inexcusable disparities that were the result of paperwork errors. They just got the numbers wrong.”

Marcus founded the Brandeis Center in 2011. In 2012, it filed an amicus brief opposing race conscious admissions in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case.

Should we be following this story more closely? If confirmed, Marcus would be the most senior Eph in the Trump Administration.

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Heartless Marcus ’88

Ken Marcus ’88 gets a brief mention in an article about down-sizing at the US Office for Civil Rights.

The Denver and Kansas City offices are being closed to help make up for a shortfall of more than $135,000, said Kenneth L. Marcus, the agency’s staff director. Marcus also recommended releasing a total of four staff members from the four remaining field offices, in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and the District, a proposal he withdrew after objections from Capitol Hill.

As always, one of the reasons that student groups at Williams like the Finance Committee of College Council are valuable is that they give students real experience with budgets, priorities, politics and the like. A smart guy like Ken probably only wanted to close down the 4 offices, but also recommended the dismissals so that he could have something to back down on when the complaints came in.

The earlier in life that Ephs learn how to maneuver in these situations, the better off they are.

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Marcus ’88 Appointment

Ken Marcus ’88, my entrymate 20 years ago, has been appointed Staff Director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. For those not steeped in the ways of Washington, the Staff Director is the guy who really runs the show — think general manager in baseball or artistic director in ballet. Of course, the 8 commissioners will be the ones who are ultimately in charge, but they will look to Ken to actually get things done.

Non-political junkies may not have any idea what the USCCR does. Mostly, it writes reports. But the real fun of the commission lies in the controversies that it has started and starred in over the years. With any luck, we will see more of the same with Marcus there.

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Reunion Tidbits

Outgoing class secretary Mike Harrington is looking for reunion tidbits for his last column. You should all e-mail him something. But, for immediacy (and arbitrary length) of publishing, nothing beats the blog. Here are my thoughts on Williams C, 15 years later (apologies for any mistakes, spelling and otherwise).

There were 24 freshmen (as we were called then) in Williams C in the fall of 1984. Here is an update, floor by floor, as best I know. Starting from the top, we have Chris Jones, Kurt Oeler, Charlie Kaplan and Blake Robison. Only Chris made it to the reunion. He is married to classmate Cecilia Malm (also at reunion) and they have a lovely daughter named Emma. Chris continues to teach math at Horace Mann High School in NYC. We threw around the frisbee a bit although, just as it was 15 years ago, he throws much better than I. I did not see Kurt or Charlie or Blake at the reunion. Kurt (at CNET) and Blake (teaching theatre at the University of Tennessee) have made appearences in the blog before. According to Chris, Charlie is working as an architect in New York City.

On the third floor were, in one suite, Ken Marcus, Dan Pyror, Stan Macel and David (DJ) Johnson. I only saw Ken at the reunion, with new fiancee/wife (not sure which) whom I was happy to regale with tales of Ken’s somewhat unusual philosophical past. She claimed to be fuly informed on the issue. Ken is the Deputy Assistant Secretary at HUD and still manages to get mentioned in places like National Review. Dan graduated ’89, I think. DJ went on to medical school and is now a high speed surgeon somewhere, but my information is spotty on this. In the other suite were me, Ed Leung, Cary May (let him rest in peace) and Josh Mellon. Unfortunately, I did not see Ed or Josh at reunion. Ed also ended up graduating with the class of 1989. When last we exchanged Christmas cards, he was married, living outside Boston and the proud father of 3 boys. Josh is married with a young son and living in Tennessee.

On the second floor were our JA’s Sarah Suchman and Annie MacDonald along with Jean Janson, Sonja Lengnick, Janet Mansfield and Ellen Lee. I didn’t see any of these folks at the reunion. I occasionally run into Jean in the Boston suburbs. She is married to a class of ’87 alum (Davis somebody or other). Sonja made an appearence in the blog (lawyer in Seattle) and, according to her e-mail, is on maternity leave.

On the first floor were KK Roeder, Lisa Klem, Julie McGuire, Willa Morris, Julie Cranston, Sara Hansen, Virginia Demaree and Anne Carson (who ended up graduating with ’89). I caught up with Lisa, Julie McGuire and Willa at reunion. Julie Cranston lives in the Boston suburbs (see here Eph Blog for more details). Sara Hansen (now Wilson) is a lawyer in San Francisco. Lisa told fascinating stories about working as a federal prosecutor in NYC, specializing in organized crime cases. She flew off to stange cities to meet ne’re-do-wells in the witness protection program. Julie McQuire is still running her coffee house (Zanzibars) in Des Moines, Iowa. It is always great fun for me to talk with Julie about the nuts and bolts of running a small business.

Certainly the award for most read-about (in some sense) member of Williams C must go to Willa Morris. Fans of John Grisham will have noted that Willa was thanked in the acknowledgements for A Street Lawyer, a recent Grisham bestseller. She has been active n social work in Washington DC for many years. She provided Grisham with much of the background material for how DC operates. Attentive readers of the book will have noted that the love-interest for the hero is clearly modeled on Willa, both in terms of job description (running a women’s shelter) and even physical appearence.

Now, if at least one member of each entry could provide a similar update. Mike and Russ would have things to write about for a long time to come . . .

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Marcus ’88 Statement

Here is a statement by reunion attendee Ken Marcus, who is (at least at the time of this statement) the General Deputy Assistant Secretary Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. And here is a picture of Ken (on the far left):

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