Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It's Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won't Admit It

Image of Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It
Release Date: 
October 9, 2012
Basic Books
Reviewed by: 

“. . . a wealth of information . . . an excellent explanation of what is currently meant by affirmative action . . .”

Authors Richard H. Sander and Stuart Taylor, Jr. are well qualified as a team to speak about the issue of affirmative action and its impact on America’s colleges and university admission practices. Dr. Sander is a law professor at UCLA, a former community activist in Chicago’s South Side, and a civil rights advocate in California. His coauthor, equally adept, is a former New York Times Supreme Court reporter and the coauthor of the critically acclaimed Until Proven Innocent.

Dr. Sander and Mr. Taylor make several claims about affirmation action and then proceed to document those claims with meticulous care. Perhaps that is the main criticism of the book: Mismatch is so overloaded with quoted studies, charts, and diagrams that any lay reader would find it totally boring. And that is too bad because there is a wealth of information made available.

Both authors are up front with their three themes in the book: The main victims of large racial preferences are not the white students who are passed over but the black students who receive preferences.

Second, if admission preferences have produced such harms to their intended beneficiaries why have they not faced and solved the problem.

And third, most universities neglect the poor, working, and even middle-class students in their singleminded focus on racial identity.

Devoting a great deal of print space to the legal profession and to a specific law school goes beyond illustration. If, anything, it smacks of a preconceived notion, of a built-in bias, regarding the training of lawyers, who they are, and what their academic rank is. Several chapters are exclusively devoted to the University of California. One has to wonder if the findings at UCLA can be extrapolated to a national population at the college and university levels.

With that said, does the book have any redeeming features? Putting aside the targeted audience—questionable as to what that is—the answer is an absolute yes. Educators have long struggled with the issue of race and admission policies.

Dr. Sander and Mr. Taylor present an excellent explanation of what is currently meant by affirmative action and demonstrate how it has been abused.

Discounting the fact that many non-blacks have been denied admission to the more prestigious colleges, Dr. Sander and Mr. Taylor assert that the black students are the ones who have been harmed by the affirmative action programs. The studies and statistics from those studies, even though they are too numerous to quote here, do support the authors’ contention that black students who attend the higher-end colleges and universities eventually drop out, move to a less prestigious college or university, or fail.

The affirmative action programs across the academic sector demonstrate a Mismatch for both learner and institution. The book is an information trove for the 4,000+ college and university presidents and their admission officers. Dr. Sander and Mr. Taylor conclude with three suggestions:

1. Transparency is necessary in the admission procedures;
2. Economic needs should be targeted before racial identity; and
3. Race-based aid rewards should be outlawed.