FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Diversified Scholars Initiative, Inc. statement on Justice Scalia’s remarks regarding Blacks in higher education
Justice Scalia doesn’t understand the root causes of persistent achievement gaps for African Americans in STEM.
December 10, 2015
Philadelphia, PA – Diversified Scholars Initiative, Inc., is deeply disappointed and alarmed by remarks made by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia regarding the academic potential of African American students in higher education.
The Supreme Court is reconsidering the case of Fisher vs. University of Texas at Austin, in which the University of Texas’ flagship campus is again defending its use of race-based admissions to achieve an ethnically diverse student body.
During questioning of the attorney for the University of Texas on Tuesday, Scalia said the following, according to the transcript:
“There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less — a slower-track school where they do well. …Most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.”
Justice Scalia’s remarks reflect two outdated and highly problematic beliefs: (1) that African American students do not succeed at schools like UT because they inherently lack the academic talent to perform well, and (2) that the schools where many African Americans do attain academic success (such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities) are inferior to their larger, predominantly white counterparts.
Scalia’s belief that Black students and institutions are inherently inferior has its basis in racist assertions historically used by some social scientists to justify discrimination against people of color.
It’s clear that Justice Scalia does not care to familiarize himself with the actual issues affecting the success of students of color. Research shows that low completion rates among African Americans in postsecondary STEM education is caused by several factors, including insufficient academic preparation from underfunded K-12 schools, the lack of a diverse teaching force, feelings of isolation; and toxic racial climates at many universities. None of these factors have any bearing on whether African American students are intelligent enough to complete scholarly work.
Scalia noted that “most black scientists… come from lesser schools,” no doubt in part referring to HBCUs. First, this is statement is statistically false. About 35% of Black STEM Ph.D. recipients obtained their undergraduate and graduates degree at an HBCU. This means that the majority of black scientists in this country do come from PWIs like the University of Texas. In addition, Scalia’s claim that schools where African Americans do see sustained academic success are inferior is incredibly flawed. If we judge a school’s success by the outcomes of its graduates, then many HBCUs are actually outperforming predominantly white institutions. A recent Gallup poll found that HBCU grads rated their mental, financial, and even physical well-being higher than that of their non-HBCU peers.
Justice Scalia’s comments recall the racist and outdated notion that ethnicity somehow dictates and limits intellectual ability. This unfounded belief has been used for centuries to discriminate against students of color and prevent them from reaching their true scholarly potential. Diversified Scholars Initiative knows the lack of ethnic diversity in STEM is a complex, systemic problem and remains doggedly committed to ensuring access, opportunity and success for students, faculty, and professionals of color.
About Diversified Scholars Initiative
Diversified Scholars Initiative (DSI). was founded in 2015 by Dr. David Jamison. The mission of DSI is to increase entry and improve retention of underrepresented students, faculty, and professionals of color in STEM fields. More information can be found at www.diversifiedscholars.org.