THE NEW RACISM ON CAMPUS Racial outbreaks at colleges around the country are being met with policies that assure more -- and worse -- incidents in the future.

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Ugly incidents of racial violence, threats, harassment, and open insults to minority students on various college campuses across the country have attracted increasing press attention in recent years. Some have called it ''the new racism.'' In a sense it is new, and yet it has been coming for a long time, casting an ignored shadow before it. Beneath the surface of episodes bad enough or special enough to attract press attention, there is a broader racial polarization in many places. ''The races in the Northern universities have grown more separate since the Sixties,'' as professor Allan Bloom has pointed out in The Closing of the American Mind. In 1987, the dean of students at Middlebury College reported that, for the first time in a long career, she had received requests from white students that they not be assigned black roommates. It has become one of the signs of the times on many campuses that black students eat at separate tables. At too many colleges and universities, ''diversity'' has become mere academic Newspeak for a larger, segregated minority enclave. The new racism has provoked no new thinking in academia. On the contrary, it has provoked only a more fervent reiteration of the unexamined beliefs and obligatory cliches about race that have prevailed on most campuses since the 1960s. An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education last year referred to the new racism as ''vestiges of the 'old' racism.'' But when a black student at Harvard has his window shattered by a thrown object and is further harassed by racist phone calls, that is not a ''vestige'' of what happened at Harvard 30 years ago, when such behavior would have been unheard of -- and when a black student was elected a marshal of the class of 1958. Those who are most vocal on campus racial issues depict the new racism as growing out of a new conservative mood in general or the Reagan Administration's philosophy in particular. However, neither the regional pattern of campus racial incidents nor the ideological character of the - institutions affected fits this vision. Last March the National Institute Against Prejudice and Violence published a list of 105 incidents of ''campus ethnoviolence.'' Only seven of these occurred in the South. More than that occurred in Massachusetts alone -- and Massachusetts has never been Reagan country. On the contrary, vicious racial incidents have been most prominent where the prevailing liberal (or radical) racial vision has been most prominent. The new racism is not a vestige but a backlash. This backlash has developed on campuses that already have all the things that are supposed to cure it -- campuses dominated by racial ''representation'' or body-count thinking, campuses awash in affirmative action officers, associate deans for minority affairs, ethnic studies faculty, and ethnic student organizations, centers, and even separate residences. These things have not been a solution but an essential part of the problem. However, it is hardly surprising that existing ethnic establishments should use racial incidents as a reason for expansion of their roles and their turf. Indeed, the whole pattern that has emerged over the past 20 years has been quite predictable. TWENTY YEARS AGO, I was shocked to learn that half the black students at Cornell University were on some form of academic probation. Yet when I checked into their test scores, I discovered that the average black student at Cornell at that time had higher scores than three-quarters of all American college students. Why was there a problem then? Because black students at the 75th percentile were competing with white Cornell students who were at the 99th percentile. Minority students with every prospect of achieving success were artificially turned into failures by being mismatched with an institution preoccupied with its minority body count. The same pattern continues to this day at many institutions across the country. The issue is not whether minority students are ''qualified'' to attend college but whether they are mismatched. A recent study showed that the average black student at MIT had math scores in the top 10% of all American students -- but these same scores were in the bottom 10% among the extraordinary students at MIT. Almost one-fourth of the black students at MIT failed to graduate, and those who did had significantly lower grades than their classmates. Once more, failures were artificially created by preferences. At the University of California at Berkeley, the attrition rate among black students has exceeded 70%. The black students at Berkeley score above the national average on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), but not as far above as the other students at Berkeley. This massive attrition is once again due to a mismatch. Yet, at Berkeley as elsewhere, the demand is for still more preferential admissions. Why does the body-count approach result in such gross mismatches, such widespread academic failure, and such a growing backlash among white students? At the heart of a complex series of reactions is a simple fact: Body-count reasoning and policies ignore the size of the pool of minority students who meet the standards of the institutions in the vanguard of this approach. Students at top-tier colleges and universities usually have composite SAT scores of 1200 or more. According to a study by professor Robert Klitgaard, then of Harvard's Kennedy School, there were fewer than 600 black students in the entire country in 1983 who met that standard. There has been a modest rise since then in the test scores of black, Hispanic, and American Indian students. But the total number who meet the standards of top-tier institutions is still far short of anything required for proportional representation of these groups. AMONG THE TOP engineering schools and departments, there are a dozen or so where the average math SAT score alone is over 700 (out of a possible 800). As of 1988, fewer than 800 black, Puerto Rican, Mexican American, and American Indian students -- put together -- scored that high. By contrast, there were more than 6,400 Asian Americans who scored in the 700s on the math SAT. Yet minority representation discussions go on in utter disregard of the academic differences in the respective pools of students. Some critics have even singled out engineering schools as especially ''racist'' because of their ''underrepresentation'' of minority students other than Asians. Given these bitter but inescapable facts, lofty talk about statistical representation of minority students at the most demanding colleges, universities, and engineering schools means grossly mismatching students and institutions. Moreover, the mismatching does not stop at the top-tier schools. When the most demanding institutions siphon off minority students whose qualifications match the standards of second-tier and third-tier institutions, these latter colleges, universities, and engineering schools proceed to siphon off minority students who would normally go to institutions whose admissions standards are lower. The net result is an artificially created problem. Even though minority students' qualifications cover a wide range, they are not matched with the institutions across that range but instead are systematically mismatched. The bad academic consequences of this situation have led to worse social consequences, among minority and majority students alike. The only large group of white students who have a long history of being admitted to leading colleges and universities without meeting the normal admissions standards are big-time varsity athletes. They too have a long history of taking Mickey Mouse courses, receiving grades that they haven't earned -- and of failing to graduate nevertheless. Why should anyone be surprised when such patterns have also emerged under preferential admissions for minority students? Why should anyone be surprised that the ''dumb jock'' stereotype that has followed college athletes for decades under these conditions should now have a racial counterpart, after similar conditions have been created for minority students? What of the minority students themselves -- and the minority faculty, often recruited with the same headlong rush for body count? In both cases, they are faced with two choices: (1) accept the prevailing standards and lose their own self-respect or (2) retain their self-respect by continually attacking, undermining, and trying to discredit the standards that they do not meet, scavenging for grievances and issuing a never-ending stream of demands and manifestoes. Given the alternatives, it is hardly surprising that so many choose the second. Even on a campus where most minority students concentrate on their academic work, those who engage in bombast and disruption are far more likely to be noticed by white students. This is only one factor in the racial backlash that has led to a White Student Union being formed at Temple University, racist ''skinhead'' recruiting literature on campus at Stanford, Ku Klux Klan graffiti at Berkeley, and racist notes being left under the doors of black students at Smith College. THERE IS MORE than enough blame to go around for the ugly -- and worsening -- racial atmosphere on many campuses. The central responsibility, however, must go to the college and university administrations that have repeatedly capitulated to the noisiest demands and disregarded the most solemn warnings as to what their policies would lead to. Many knowledgeable people gave such warnings 20 years ago. Professor Clyde Summers of the University of Pennsylvania -- a man who had spoken out against racial discrimination back in the 1940s, long before it was fashionable to do so -- was only one who sounded the alarm at the new racial policies in academia in 1969. He called it ''irresponsible, if not cruel'' to admit minority students to institutions where they would find it difficult to keep up academically, or even to survive. He also saw what he called a ''monstrous'' danger of increased racism among whites as a result. All this was ignored. Twenty years ago -- in February 1969 -- then-NAACP executive director Roy Wilkins castigated college administrators who were ''ready to buy peace at any price'' by creating ''sealed-off, black-studies centers'' for ''racial breast- beating.'' That same year, black educator Kenneth B. Clark resigned from Antioch College's board of directors because Antioch was ''permitting a group of students to inflict their dogmatism and ideology on other students and on the total college community,'' because the college was ''silent'' while militant black students ''intimidate, threaten, and in some cases physically assault the Negro students who disagree with them,'' thereby ''making a mockery of its concern for the protection and development of human dignity.'' Intimidation continues at other leading colleges today. Yet another ingredient in the racial tensions on campus are the various ethnic studies programs. There are no inherent reasons why these cannot be first-rate fields of scholarly study -- but they seldom are. There have been and still are outstanding scholars researching and writing about a wide variety of American ethnic groups. But the wholesale creation of ethnic studies programs all across the country at the same time ignored completely the size of the pool of scholars available. Here again, this was not an educational decision but another example of what Roy Wilkins called buying ''peace at any price.'' All too many ethnic studies courses resemble the Afro-American studies courses at Princeton, described in the student-published Course Guide as ''a three-hour rap session,'' where ''few students'' did the assigned readings, where grading was ''arbitrary'' and ''random,'' where seminars were ''a lot of fun'' and had a ''very light'' workload. Nationwide, black-studies programs have shrunk drastically since 1970, as they acquired a reputation for low quality. Twenty years ago black civil rights activist Bayard Rustin warned that ''black studies must not be used for the purpose of image-building or to enable young black students to escape the challenges of the university by setting up a program of 'soul courses' that they can just play with and pass.'' Increasingly, racial incidents on campus have offered a new lease on life to ethnic studies programs. In the wake of each incident, there are demands for more minority students and more minority faculty on campus -- and for expanded ethnic studies programs, sometimes to be made compulsory for all students. To force upon students courses that they have rejected over the years is hardly likely to improve race relations. But it is the expedient thing to do on many campuses, however much it may escalate an already ugly racial polarization. What is most dangerous about the new racism on campus is that the responses to it set the stage for more of the same. The history of racial conflicts in countries around the world shows that nothing is easier than to start a spiral of racial confrontations -- and nothing is harder than to stop it. In India hundreds of lives have been lost in riots over group admissions quotas to medical school in the state of Gujarat alone. In Sri Lanka racial polarization that began over university admissions quotas escalated into a bloody civil war, complete with hideous atrocities on both sides. We in the United States are not at that point, or even close to that point. But there is no sign of anything that stands between our present situation and such tragedies. Certainly neither academic faculties nor administrators have taken either a long view or a courageous stand. ANY REAL leadership on racial or ethnic issues will have to come from outside academia -- and especially from those who control donations and government appropriations. Such leadership will have to be based on a realization that the new racism has grown out of the old dogmatism that still holds sway on campuses across the country. A central tenet of this racial dogmatism is that preferential admissions are the only way to allow large numbers of minority students to get a college education. In reality, however, a substantial increase in the numbers of black students completing college -- a 64% jump between 1940 and 1947 -- occurred without preferences or quotas. This compares with a 49% increase between 1960 and 1967 with special admissions standards. The earlier increase was due largely to money for college being made available under the GI Bill. Money is the key, for most minority students depend heavily on financial aid. As long as that financial aid is channeled through colleges and universities, these institutions will use the money to buy themselves protection from trouble on campus and to project a good image off campus by concentrating on racial body count. Only if the money goes to the individual student -- wherever he or she attends college -- will minority students be able to sort themselves out among institutions according to their own educational qualifications, as they did under the GI Bill. MONEY IS ALSO the key for those, including business donors, seeking to change current academic policies from outside. Closing a checkbook can be the best way to open a dialogue with academic administrators who take the path of least resistance and give in to the prevailing dogmas. Many other dogmas -- about ''role models'' or ''cultural bias'' in tests, for example -- reign unchallenged in academia. These dogmas cannot survive any demand for evidence that will stand up to scrutiny. The time is long overdue to insist on hard facts -- and to insist that the focus of minority admissions and financial aid policy must be the successful education of minority students, regardless of what that does to the statistical profile of any given campus.