The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (Spring 1999, Number 23)

CIR Homepage

African-American Opportunities in Higher Education:
What Are the Racial Goals of The Center for Individual Rights?

Dressed in the traditional garb of a citizen reformer, the Washington-based Center for Individual Rights projects itself as a champion of the persecuted, a white knight whose goal is to expunge the cancer of affirmative action that is eating away at our nation's academic standards. But this group of racially conservative lawyers has used staged litigation, deceptive public statements, and incitements of racial fears for the purpose of ethnically reengineering college admissions procedures in a way that would remove most African Americans from our leading colleges. The goals of the Center appear to be far less concerned with equal treatment of the races than with guarding the interests of segregationists and protecting the established economic and class advantages that enable whites to maintain their superior access to the leading colleges in the United States.

by Theodore Cross

Cross, Theodore. "African American Opportunities in Higher Education: What are the racial goals of the Center for Individual Rights?" Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. Spring 1999. Not on site (2006--). http://www.jbhe.com/ Avail JSTOR, Ethnic News Watch

There is a self-described public interest law firm in the District of Columbia known as the Center for Individual Rights (CIR). Working through lawsuits as well as through a host of extralegal pressures, this group has been highly successful in stamping out the use of affirmative action in the admissions offices of a number of our major universities. As a result of litigation led by the CIR, and successful lobbying efforts by some of its legal and political allies, race-conscious admissions procedures are now outlawed in the states of California, Texas, and Washington. Moreover, CIR's threats of litigation appear to be directly responsible for drastic cutbacks in affirmative action admissions procedures at the University of Massachusetts and the decision of officials at the University of Virginia and the University of North Carolina to "reexamine" their admissions policies.

Already the classrooms of the schools that have come under the guns of the CIR are far whiter than in past years. This year there are only eight black students at the University of Texas law school. This is fewer than the number of black students at the law school almost 30 years ago in 1970. Immediately after the ban on race-conscious admissions went into effect at Berkeley's prestigious Boalt Hall law school at the University of California, the number of blacks admitted suffered a huge decline to a level of only 14 students. A year earlier, in 1996, a solid cadre of 75 black students had been admitted to Boalt Hall. In 1999, the first year in which the University of Washington law school operated under a race-neutral admissions system, African-American applications were down 41 percent. At the Berkeley campus of the University of California, the number of blacks admitted rose slightly in 1999. But black admittees are still down 54.5 percent from 1997 when race-conscious admissions were permitted at state-operated universities in California.


"There was always a Moses crying out in loud and noble terms, 'Let my people go.' But there also was always a Pharaoh with a hardened heart."

– Martin Luther King Jr.
speaking in 1958 at the chapel of
Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C.


In view of the broad swath that CIR and its allies have cut through the ranks of African Americans seeking higher and postgraduate education, the questions arise: Who are these people at the CIR? What are their tactics and what do they want to accomplish? Do they simply seek to establish a nationwide system of admissions that is color-blind to race? Or do they have an unstated agenda whose purpose is to defend the interests of racial segregationists and protect the social, economic, and racial advantages that enable nonblacks to hold superior access to the leading colleges in the United States?

Last fall, educators who feared a nationwide demise of affirmative action in college admissions were buoyed by the publication of an influential statistical study completed by two former Ivy League college presidents, William G. Bowen of Princeton and Derek Bok of Harvard. This work was a powerful reaffirmation of the virtues of existing systems of race-conscious admissions. The New York Times called the book "a striking confirmation of the success of affirmative action in creating a whole new generation of black professionals."

Before the publication of the Bowen-Bok study, the litigators at CIR believed that their efforts were about to bring down a final curtain on affirmative action. But instead the Bowen-Bok book confronted them with carefully researched evidence showing that many of their most important charges against affirmative action had turned out to be absolutely false.

The CIR's January Ambush
on College-Bound Blacks

Soon after the publication of the Bowen-Bok study, the CIR sprung into action. Departing from its previous practice of bringing about change through courts of law, the CIR embarked on a nasty extralegal campaign to wipe out affirmative action on a nationwide scale.

Starting with a widely trumpeted kickoff publicity meeting held at the National Press Club this past January, CIR placed a barrage of highly inflammatory full-page advertisements in the student newspapers of 14 major colleges and universities. In two-inch banner headlines the advertisements screamed:

"ALMOST EVERY UNIVERSITY IN THE COUNTRY VIOLATES FEDERAL LAW"

In this new national campaign, CIR's notices threatened university trustees and administrators with dire legal penalties if they persisted in their current affirmative action practices. The CIR advertisements urged students to sue their colleges for racial discrimination. The CIR offered free handbooks describing how to start a lawsuit. Students were instructed on how to uncover information to back up their legal claims. The CIR told students how to find lawyers who would be willing to sue the colleges. CIR urged students to go forward with lawsuits even if they had no proof that they were being discriminated against.

This nationwide publicity campaign on the part of CIR lawyers to foment litigation without proof at hand and to whip up passions against young blacks raised serious questions of legal ethics. In this orchestrated attack on race-conscious admissions, the CIR struck solid gold. The CIR boasted that its ads in student newspapers quickly produced about 100 requests for its booklet and about 100 hits on CIR's Web site. In the first 50 days after the CIR's National Press Club ceremony, JBHE counted 162 newspaper reports on the CIR's campaign to stamp out affirmative action. CIR was jubilant. Its strategies had quickly converted CIR from a relatively unknown public litigator to a national poster boy for racial conservatives, as well as for southern segregationists and anti-black partisans.

CIR's barrage of threats was an exquisitely timed calculation to do maximum harm to young blacks. For college-bound high school students, the days surrounding college applications and the mailing of acceptance notices are periods of intense personal stress. Appearing as it did in late January, CIR's publicity delivered a cruel psychological blow to many hundreds of this year's black high school seniors already anxious over whether they could make the grade into a competitive college.

It was clear that CIR had timed its scare campaign to coincide with the onset of the 1999 admissions process at the nation's most prestigious universities. By widely broadcasting its threats that the colleges were guilty of breaking the law, the CIR was successful in persuading many admissions officers that if they chose to continue to use race-conscious admissions they would do so at great peril to themselves and to their universities.

A Naked Effort to Mislead

But the most reprehensible of the new extralegal tactics of the CIR was its publicized charges that private universities were violating federal law. The CIR created this false impression by planting its charges of university lawbreaking in student newspapers at some of the nation's most prestigious private universities such as Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Chicago.

On the campuses of the nation's most prestigious private institutions the damage potential was doubly severe. For it was these institutions whose longstanding affirmative action admissions policies have been responsible for drawing many thousands of young blacks into highly regarded colleges where they are then introduced into valued positions in the general society. 


"Private institutions have always had the unchallenged option to adopt affirmative action procedures."


 It is true that the affirmative action admissions policies of some public universities have been successfully challenged in the courts. But private institutions have always had the unchallenged option to adopt affirmative action procedures. Without facing any legal claims, hundreds of private colleges and universities such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Columbia, Brown, Amherst, Williams, Duke, Emory, MIT, Swarthmore, Wellesley, and Northwestern have pursued policies of affirmative action for 30 years or more. Hundreds of these private universities have operated under the protective umbrella of the crucial legal factor that they are private institutions. Yet the CIR indiscriminately levels its misleading threats with no regard to the key issue of whether the university it attacks is a private or a public institution.

Clearly, the CIR advertisements were not designed simply to inform the public as the CIR self-righteously assures us. These newspaper insertions had the clear purpose of increasing racial animosities and fears on college campuses. Not content to await the result of the standard legal processes, the CIR had discovered a crude and highly cost-effective way to cut back on the college admissions of young blacks without the necessity of actually bringing a lawsuit.

The CIR appeared to be so obsessed with its determination to overcome compelling data produced in the Bowen- Bok book that it leveled some wildly irresponsible charges. Attorney Michael S. Greve, executive director of the CIR, drew a parallel between its accusations of race-conscious admissions on the part of American college presidents and the government's charges of racism made a few years ago against Texaco. Greve wrote: "Were we to demand of university presidents the honesty and candor on diversity policies that we demand of, say, the management of Texaco, they'd all be in jail." [Italics added.] The reader will recall that the charges against Texaco vice presidents involved the willful destruction of incriminating documents showing egregious acts of racial bigotry directed at Texaco's black employees. Only the most obsessed ideologue could conceive of putting the presidents of Harvard, Stanford, or Duke in jail for the sin of adopting affirmative action in their admissions policies.

The CIR Attack on Bowen-Bok

The attack on the universities was accompanied by a completely unwarranted assault on the quality of the Bowen-Bok research. Instead of preparing a traditional brief showing possible flaws in the Bowen-Bok study, the CIR published snide and outrageous insults. In the January 1999 issue of its newsletter, CIR head Michael Greve writes: "The education elite is seeking shelter behind William G. Bowen and Derek Bok's disingenuous diversity manifesto." [Italics added.] Clearly the word "manifesto" was used by CIR to insinuate the Bowen-Bok book was an insubstantial polemic when in fact the study was widely praised on both sides of the affirmative action issue. Although there are sharply opposed views on the issue of race-conscious admissions, the critics agree that the Bowen-Bok book is a meticulously prepared vision of the impact of affirmative action policies on American society. The distinguished Harvard professor Nathan Glazer, who in 1975 wrote the first treatise in opposition to affirmative action, enthusiastically praised the "perspicuity, insight, thoroughness, and balance of the Bowen-Bok presentation and analysis. The book honestly conceded many of the harms attending policies of racial preferences. In no way could the Bowen-Bok study be characterized as a "manifesto."


"CIR's barrage of threats was an exquisitely timed calculation to do maximum harm to young blacks."


 The CIR next writes that the Bowen-Bok book is "a surprise attack launched behind a pile of unsold copies." Once again the charge is false. JBHE has checked with Princeton University Press, the publisher of the Bowen-Bok book. Despite the fact that the book is a highly complex and academic tome (it contains 472 pages of tables and calculations), the volume has already sold more than 25,000 copies - an extraordinarily large sale for a study of this magnitude and complexity. Princeton University Press further advises JBHE that because of the unusual success of the book it will be reprinted shortly in a paperback edition. It is true that the sales of the Bowen-Bok book are not as great as Charles Murray's The Bell Curve, which the reader will recall contends that black people generally have an inferior intelligence to whites. But one must remember that, as most book publishers know, an inflammatory book that defends racist views will almost always sell better than a carefully researched argument for racial justice.

It now appears that CIR has taken leave of all notions of good taste. The January 1999 issue of the CIR newsletter compares the American educational establishment's commitment to affirmative action with Bill Clinton's attachment for Monica Lewinsky. As to the supporters of affirmative action, the CIR newsletter states: "We've found that our esteemed opponents' activities provide as much (and more wholesome) entertainment as the thong and cigar stuff. [Italics ours.] The establishment's earnest diversity show, says the CIR, 'Springtime for Hitler. . . . ' "

Funding the CIR Crusade

CIR's claim that it is simply interested in broad civil libertarian principles and in protecting equal treatment for all citizens is refuted by its sources of funding. Laura Flanders of the Center for Democracy Studies in New York City is conducting research on opponents of affirmative action. She has determined from the CIR's income tax returns that CIR on at least three occasions received funding from the notorious white supremacist foundation the Pioneer Fund. The Pioneer Fund was founded in New York City in 1937 by textile industrialist Wickliffe Draper to support the use of eugenics to restrict the births of Negroes and thereby "better the lot of mankind." For more than 60 years the chief purpose of the Pioneer Fund has been to support research that seeks to prove the genetic superiority of white people.


"CIR had discovered a cost-effective way to cut back on the college admissions of young blacks without the need of actually bringing a lawsuit."


Here is a partial list of academic racists whose efforts have been funded by the Pioneer Fund:

•  J. Philippe Rushton of the University of Western Ontario: He teaches that Caucasians have larger brains, smaller penises, and lower sex drives than blacks.
•  Robert Gordon of Johns Hopkins University: Gordon advocates government payments to blacks to encourage them not to breed.
•  Daniel Vining Jr. of the University of Pennsylvania: He contends that the human race is becoming less intelligent because blacks breed more often than whites.
•  Garrett Hardin, University of California at Santa Barbara: Hardin argues for the sterilization of blacks and lower classes.
•  Richard Lynn, professor emeritus of the University of Ulster: He calls for the phasing out of inferior cultures.
•  Arthur Jensen of the University of California at Berkeley: He believes social spending on blacks is a waste of money because their problems stem from genetic inferiority.

It is true that racist motives on the part of one organization cannot be proved by the fact that it keeps company with, or receives money from, another demonstrably racist organization. On the other hand, it is important to note that the CIR has received three grants from the openly racist Pioneer Fund. Surely this tells us a lot about the underlying racial agenda of CIR.

Of course, CIR is free to represent any group or individual that it chooses. But CIR's racial sympathies are further confirmed when one notes that it provided legal help to Professor Michael Levin in his dispute with his university, CCNY. Levin is an infamous advocate of the biological inferiority of black people and the reintroduction of the chain gang for black prisoners. A Michigan college professor who has monitored the activities of academic racists for many years reports that the CIR provided legal help to Levin in connection with his advocacy of the segregation of young blacks in guarded subway cars. Levin is also a grantee of the white supremacist Pioneer Fund.

Other donors to the CIR are the standard hard-line racial conservatives: The Bradley Foundation, the Carthage Foundation, the American Standard Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, the Randolph Foundation, and the Scaife Family Foundation. These foundations have a long history of pursuing repressive racial agendas. And when they send money they are accustomed to getting their money's worth.

Major Law Firms Supporting the Objectives of CIR

It is a mystery why a number of highly respected U.S. law firms are lending their attorneys on a pro bono basis to the work of CIR. Almost all of the firms that CIR's annual report identifies as supporters are generally believed to have strong affirmative action policies in place within their own firms. Yet these firms are said by the CIR to be providing personnel support and expertise to the CIR, a hard-line partisan with the goal of striking down affirmative action at any institution in which it occurs. Even more surprising is that these law firms that are seemingly dedicated to affirmative action appear to be supporting the work of the CIR despite its concurrent funding by white supremacist organizations such as the Pioneer Fund, a foundation that explicitly advocates the genetic superiority of white people.

Here is a partial list of major law firms that the CIR claims as pro bono supporters: Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld (Washington, DC); Covington & Burling (Washington, DC); Davis, Polk & Wardwell (New York, NY); Dilworth, Paxson, Kalish & Kauffman (Philadelphia, PA); Faegre & Benson (St. Paul, MN); Hogan & Hartson (Washington, DC); Kirkland & Ellis (Chicago, IL); Mayer, Brown & Platt (Chicago, IL); Nutter, McClennen & Fish (Boston, MA); Sidley & Austin (Chicago, IL); Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett (New York, NY); Steptoe & Johnson (Washington, DC); Stroock, Stroock & Lavan (New York, NY); Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering (Washington, DC); Winston & Strawn (Chicago, IL)

The legitimacy of the work of CIR has been further credentialized too by the fact that some of the most prominent corporations in the nation support some objectives of CIR. According to CIR's public reports, corporate donors and contributors to CIR include Pfizer, Philip Morris, Chevron, Archer Daniels Midland, Texaco, Brown Forman, and UNOCAL.

Conclusion

Let's now summarize the tactics that tell us much about the goals, ethics, and values of the CIR.

•  On three occasions the CIR has accepted funding from the Pioneer Fund, a self-proclaimed white supremacist organization that specializes in supporting research attempting to prove the biological superiority of the white race.

•  In an effort unrelated to affirmative action, the CIR has protected efforts of a leading academic racist in his advocacy of legislation requiring "criminally inclined" blacks to use separate subway cars in New York City.

•  In its published newsletter the CIR makes an outrageous charge that college presidents who follow race-conscious admissions policies may belong in prison for violating U.S. laws against race discrimination.

•  CIR press releases were calculated to attack the academic credentials of college-bound black teenagers at the very time in their lives when they are most anxious about their ability to get into college.

•  While embarking on a campaign of systematic removal of black students from the application pool of competitive colleges, the CIR partners show no sense of compassion or regret for the human beings whose life chances they have damaged.

•  Without having secured a court order ending racial preferences at a particular institution, the CIR accomplishes precisely the same result by the extralegal device of threatening admissions officers at schools where it showed no evidence of an intention of bringing a lawsuit.

•  CIR appeals are aimed at the racial stereotypes and biases of university alumni in order to persuade them to place financial pressures on their admissions officers, administrators, and trustees.

•  As licensed lawyers, the CIR is subject to strict ethical rules against fomenting litigation. Yet the CIR has embarked on a nationwide mission of inciting young, and often impressionable, college students to sue their universities.

•  The CIR has used underhanded tactics to end affirmative action admissions procedures at private colleges and universities by falsely suggesting that these schools are law-breakers when, as the CIR well knows, court decisions have not been applied to private institutions that have adopted race-conscious admissions policies.

Many of the most powerful intellects in our country have made a strong case against race-conscious admissions in higher education. Important conservative thinkers such as Glenn C. Loury, Nathan Glazer, Richard A. Epstein, Thomas Sowell, James Q. Wilson, and Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom have produced carefully researched and persuasive papers and briefs explaining why affirmative action is bad policy for black people and for the country as a whole. In the end it may turn out that the serious and well-reasoned arguments made by these and other conservative scholars will bring an end to affirmative action in the United States. But the public crusade mounted by CIR lawyers is beyond the pale of acceptable professional behavior. CIR, by reason of its aggressive tactics and its association with proclaimed racists and advocates of white supremacy, stands apart from the other conservatives who are striving to end, or moderate, affirmative action by traditional policies of argument and debate.

Because of the conservative mood in the country, CIR will probably get away with its malevolent campaign to frighten and whip up passions of white students against young college-bound blacks. But whatever the final outcome on the perplexing issue of affirmative action in higher education, the nation will look back on this January ambush on college-bound young blacks as an act of enormous evil.

JBHE


Professor Michael Levin on Why Race Matters

He has an ally in the Center for Individual Rights

Surely the Center for Individual Rights has the right to represent anyone it chooses. Yet the ideology of any public interest firm tends to equate with the character of its clients. CIR represented CCNY professor Michael Levin in a dispute over Levin's charges that young blacks should be segregated in guarded subway cars in New York City. Professor Levin, a strong advocate of the moral and intellectual inferiority of black people, is funded by the extreme white supremacist Pioneer Fund which has also made at least three grants to the Center for Individual Rights.

Here are a few statements from Levin's 1997 book, Why Race Matters:

•  [The worst black criminals] "display viciousness almost unknown among whites. The most effective step might simply be a return to now-discredited practices like the chain gang."

•  "The labor of many blacks is not valuable to most people."

•  "Any multiracial society will find blacks less law-abiding than whites."

•  "Blacks today enjoy full access to a system of public schools supported primarily by whites."

•  "Blacks are less intelligent than whites and more impulsive, for largely biological reasons."

•  "The limited interest in blacks shown by conventional historians is best explained by the belief that further interest was unwarranted."

•  "No amount of training and childhood enrichment can shrink the race gap."


According to the Center for Individual Rights, a Number of Law Firms That Presumably Adhere to Affirmative Action Policies Within Their Own Firms Have Provided Support to Various Litigating Activities of the Center for Individual Rights

The Following Major National Law Firms Are Listed as Pro Bono Litigation Aid Supporters of the Center for Individual Rights

Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld (Washington, DC)
Covington & Burling (Washington, DC)
Davis, Polk & Wardwell (New York, NY)
Dilworth, Paxson, Kalish & Kauffman (Philadelphia, PA)
Faegre & Benson (St. Paul, MN)
Hogan & Hartson (Washington, DC)
Kirkland & Ellis (Chicago, IL)
Mayer, Brown & Platt (Chicago, IL)
Nutter, McClennen & Fish (Boston, MA)
Sidley & Austin (Chicago, IL)
Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett (New York, NY)
Steptoe & Johnson (Washington, DC)
Stroock, Stroock & Lavan (New York, NY)
Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering (Washington, DC)
Winston & Strawn (Chicago, IL)

The Following Major National Law Firms, All Ranked Among the Nation's 25 Largest Law Firms, ARE NOT Listed as Supporters of the Center for Individual Rights

Morrison & Foerster (San Francisco, CA)
Pillsbury Madison & Sutro (San Francisco, CA)
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (New York, NY)
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius (Washington, DC)
Foley & Lardner (Milwaukee, WI)
McDermott, Will & Emery (Chicago, IL)
Weil, Gotshal & Manges (New York, NY)
Latham & Watkins (Los Angeles, CA)
Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue (Washington, DC)
Vinson & Elkins (Houston, TX)
Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton (New York, NY)
Shearman & Sterling (New York, NY)
Fulbright & Jaworski (Houston, TX)
White & Case (New York, NY)
Bryan Cave (Washington, DC)

Sources: CIR's Report of Activities 1993-1994 and CIR's Statement of Mission, Principles, and Governance.

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