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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly Work, Timely and Thought Provoking
"They were doing badly, it turns out, because the law schools were killing them with kindness by extending admissions preferences (and often scholarships to boot) that systematically catapulted blacks into schools where they were very likely not only to get bad grades but also actually have trouble learning." In a nutshell, this is the major thesis of Mismatch by Sander...
Published on October 15, 2012 by David M. Sherman

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31 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I am a Black law graduate
I am a law graduate from a T14 school (in NC) who failed the bar exam and did terrible in law school. I always thought it was because I was not very bright, but this book has shed light on the ways that "the deck" was deliberately stacked against me. I was wooed to the school under the allure that all graduates are successful and the alumni base is very supportive...
Published on December 24, 2012 by Babygotback


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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly Work, Timely and Thought Provoking, October 15, 2012
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This review is from: Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students Itís Intended to Help, and Why Universities Wonít Admit It (Hardcover)
"They were doing badly, it turns out, because the law schools were killing them with kindness by extending admissions preferences (and often scholarships to boot) that systematically catapulted blacks into schools where they were very likely not only to get bad grades but also actually have trouble learning." In a nutshell, this is the major thesis of Mismatch by Sander and Taylor. This incredibly timely book is a scholarly presentation of the relevant studies on affirmative action and racial preferences; both of which are defined clearly in the book. With the Fisher case decision looming at the end of the current Supreme Court term, I cannot think of a more important and timely book for both educators and the general public. It should be noted that the authors do NOT blame race for the cause of the poor black performance. They make it abundantly clear that their thesis is not racist or demeaning to minorities. Their claim is simpler. Racial preferences at the college and post-graduate level do more harm than good because minority students come unprepared in terms of skill level to compete with their fellow classmates.
The book is not easy reading. If you are looking for a book with only anecdotal evidence and interesting personal stories, this is not the tome for you. You will have to wade through a good deal of technical data, charts, studies, and some mathematic understanding of concepts such as percentiles and academic indexes. However, this is a cogently argued book that presents a difficult subject with grace and compassion. I highly recommend this book to all interested in a fair, factual approach to a "hot" topic. Written in a scholarly manner, the book, however, is accessible to all those willing to keep an open mind on the issue of racial preferences. I hope that the book gets the attention and praise it deserves. I highly recommend this brilliantly researched, excellently written book. With an open mind, I have learned much I did not know before. Bravo to the authors for their splendid work. If only more academics and journalists had the guts to tackle these difficult and emotionally charged subjects, then, we would have a fair and open debate on subjects that affect the lives of many; both black and white.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The take-aways from this book can be extrapolated to a larger population, October 31, 2012
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This review is from: Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students Itís Intended to Help, and Why Universities Wonít Admit It (Hardcover)
Mismatch was an eye-opening read. Although the book is based on affirmative action, I saw the take-aways as being much broader:

1. Success in college (and beyond) is directly related to the quality of education and parental support in childhood.

2. Students thrown into academic environments above the level they are prepared for (the academic index mentioned in the book) ends with many of those students to not only dropping out of the university but also dropping out of the higher education system in debt and feeling defeated.

3. When any "group" of students do poorly, the higher performing students and faculty tend to view the whole group as inferior.

4. Students who are better matched (via academic index) to the university they attend are more likely to succeed and go on to productive careers, as well as being seen as equals by their peers and faculty.

The UT lawsuit has been mentioned; Texas is a great example of mismatch at work without the affirmative action component. Texas has the Top 10% rule (where the top 10% of all high school graduates are automatically admitted to state universities). Students who attend small, average performing high schools are admitted to Texas universities automatically over students who attend high schools with very high test scores and low numbers of free/reduced lunches like Highland Park HS in Dallas; Westwood in Austin; Friendswood HS or Clear Lake HS in the NASA area; etc. The students from the more average HS are admitted with lower GPAs, less rigorous coursework, and fewer learning opportunities outside of the classroom.

The competition for student rank is fierce in the higher performing schools, to be in the top 10% requires a 3.8 GPA or higher. Yet in many ways, the top 1/2 of the high-performing HS are more university-ready than the top 10% at some of the average-performing HS. How does this affect both the mismatched students and the Texas Universities required to admit those students?

Anecdotally, I know quite a few high-performing HS students who weren't in the top 10% who left the state for college. I also know students from average performing HS who have gone to top Texas universities as Top 10% and dropped/failed out within the first year, never to return to higher education.

I believe this book illustrates the answer more completely than my anecdotal evidence. No matter the race, if a person hasn't had a challenging academic background and strong parental support, throwing them into Emory, UGA, or GA Tech is going to do more harm than good.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Facing Reality, October 24, 2012
This review is from: Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students Itís Intended to Help, and Why Universities Wonít Admit It (Hardcover)
Most selective colleges, universities, and professional schools use large racial preferences in admissions. The rationale for doing so has been dominated by fairness considerations. This book by Sander and Taylor shifts the focus from 'is it fair?' to 'does it work?' They argue that the evidence is overwhelming that mismatches often harm those they are trying to help because race-based admissions preferences for minority students create a 'mismatch' between students and universities. Students get admitted to more selective colleges and universities than they otherwise would be and then fall behind and are less likely to graduate. Thus, we have fewer minority college professors, lawyers, engineers, etc.

Abigail Fisher's current Supreme Court case against the University of Texas' minority preferences that denied her admission is supported by 2009 data that show the average SAT score of black freshmen admitted out side Texas' 'top 10%' law was 390 points (out of 2400) below the average white score and 467 points below the average Asian score. Similarly, the average Hispanic score was 120 points below the average white score. The authors contend such large mismatches create serious problems for those admitted under racial preferences.

Sander and Taylor contend that if the top schools practiced 'strict racial neutrality,' lower tiered schools would incur less pressure to achieve racial diversity, possibly affording a relatively simple resolution.

A key 'Mismatch' point - that students who attend higher-level law schools than they otherwise would have been admitted to have lower bar-exam passage rates than those at lower-level schools who did not receive any preferences and thus had an easier time learning. This conclusion is supported by data comparing grades, graduation, and bar passage for minority students attending second- and third-choice schools - the results were dramatically better at those lesser ranked schools with less/no preferential assistance required.

Another rationale offered for racial preferences is that these foster diverse classroom viewpoints and cross-racial friendships. Sander and Taylor, however, report that Duke University researchers found in a 2011 study that students were much more likely to become friends with classmates seen as academically similar to themselves, while students with large preferences were more likely to self-segregate and socially isolate themselves.

The authors recommend that schools pursuing equality of opportunity for all students (an admirable goal, but not legally required) instead direct resources towards recruiting more economically disadvantaged students better academically prepared and therefore a closer 'match.' Unfortunately, the authors also note that their colleagues have been rather apathetic about socioeconomic diversity.

Another Sander and Taylor suggestion - that schools using preferences be forced to disclose the size of those preferences and report the outcomes of past enrollees with comparable entering credentials.

My own suspicion - reform will come from the Supreme Court's decision on the Abigail Fisher case.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Most Important Books of 2012, December 26, 2012
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This review is from: Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students Itís Intended to Help, and Why Universities Wonít Admit It (Hardcover)
First: the subtitle is misleading. `Affirmative Action' is a complex, much-debated term. Sander and Taylor are favorably disposed toward it, `affirmative action' being those actions independent of special preferences designed to enhance minority representation. Such actions would include the development of deeper applicant pools, the creation of pre-matriculation programs to help foster later success, the structuring of relationships with potential feeder schools, and so on. Special preferences, on the other hand, represent the overt conferring of advantages, e.g., admitting minorities through separate committees using different standards, such that, e.g., minorities might be admitted--as a matter of policy--whose SAT scores are 250-300 points lower than those of regular admittees.

The general public supports affirmative action but, in general, does not support special preferences. Hence, the subtext of the book's subtitle: `affirmative action' is used as an expression that masks behaviors of which the general public disapproves. In Sander and Taylor's view, affirmative action is good, special preferences deleterious, though the former term sometimes includes the latter practices.

Why are special preferences deleterious? Because they create mismatches between student skills/achievement levels and the level of institution to which they are being admitted. If a student is surrounded by students who are more skilled than him/her and if teachers routinely teach to the class average, the student who is statistically below that average is likely to feel lost, confused, alienated and frustrated and, as a result, perform poorly.

Given the fact that all schools seek additional minority students and offer them preferences of various kinds, the result is a succession of mismatches with a resulting cascading effect. The student whose skills and achievement levels would lead to admission to a flagship public institution matriculates, instead, at an elite private institution. The admissions officials at the flagship public then find that the students they would `normally' admit are now at Princeton and Dartmouth, so the flagship public admits students who would normally be admitted by a regional public or a second or third-tier private, and so on down the academic foodchain.

Sander raised this issue initially in a famous article published in the Stanford Law Review. (The mismatch issue was raised decades ago by, among others, Thomas Sowell.) His focus was elite American law schools and he argued that the mismatches between minority law students' skills/achievement levels and the schools in which they had matriculated brought negative results: poor grades, high dropout rates, failures on the bar exam. The attempt to bring more minority students into elite law schools actually resulted in fewer minority lawyers.

To accept Sander's argument you must accept two notions: first, that teachers always and everywhere teach to the class average; second, that finding yourself within a peer group whose skills and achievement levels approximate your own will lead to your doing your best work.

This can be questioned, I think, though the point is one of degree. It could be argued, e.g., that all students would benefit from being stretched. On the other hand, I take Sander's point. As another commentator has put it, many of us who were not trained in physics (but who suddenly needed physics for our job) could learn rudimentary physics. What we would not do, however, is take that entry-level physics course at Caltech.

The results to which Sander and Taylor point (disparities in grades, graduation rates, jobs obtained, etc.) are undeniable. They are at pains, however, to demonstrate that those deleterious effects are the results of mismatches.

I believe that they argue their case convincingly. They also do it courageously, since their adduced evidence leads them to a host of other unsavory conclusions: the fact that some institutions are consciously skirting or explicitly violating the law or the fact that institutions, foundations, et al. have reduced or forbidden access to their databases when they fear that the resulting research might run counter to their political ideology. In the case of the ABA's bludgeoning of George Mason's law school for not reviving policies which George Mason had found to be deleterious, we get a case study with the tension, drama and injustice of a crime thriller.

The evidence which the authors utilize is historical, empirical, theoretical and, in part, autobiographical. There are several case studies that prove to be very useful and informative, including the extended discussion of California's prop. 209, its causes, effects and evasions. The fact that the academy continues to support policies which are demonstrably deleterious is one of the major subtexts of the book.

This is a very important book and a number of its conclusions are of deep importance. To mention just one: students in the lowest socio-economic ranges (with GPA's and SAT's that would engender success at elite institutions) are being systematically overlooked by our current system. This includes minority students, for the minority students now receiving the preponderance of special preferences are upper middle class or explicitly wealthy. Many are immigrants, many of mixed-race backgrounds. The notion that affirmative action would result in social mobility for the poor has been effectively forgotten for decades. In addition to harming individuals through mismatches, our current system helps to widen the economic inequalities that now characterize our society. In short, we have a major problem.

The authors offer a number of solutions to this problem, many of which are very persuasive. They are far less optimistic with regard to familial and behavioral issues which exacerbate the condition.

Sander is a legal scholar/social scientist; Taylor is an accomplished journalist. The collaboration works well. The book is accessible to all general readers and offers a number of charts/graphs which complement the argument. The book offers Sander the opportunity to answer the criticisms lodged against his law review article as well as an opportunity to challenge the evidence and conclusions of the principal defense of affirmative action--Bowen and Bok's The Shape of the River.

Highly compelling and highly recommended.
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31 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I am a Black law graduate, December 24, 2012
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This review is from: Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students Itís Intended to Help, and Why Universities Wonít Admit It (Hardcover)
I am a law graduate from a T14 school (in NC) who failed the bar exam and did terrible in law school. I always thought it was because I was not very bright, but this book has shed light on the ways that "the deck" was deliberately stacked against me. I was wooed to the school under the allure that all graduates are successful and the alumni base is very supportive of all grads. This is not true! My confidence has been ruined and I have no idea how to salvage my career or pay my 100K debts. Sanders goes into detail about these issues and much more. Ultimately, he calls for employment outcomes to be more transparent for students of color, who often have no idea what to expect when they enter these "elite" institutions. Overall, this book is a slow read and has very few "personal" experiences, which is why I feel compelled to share my current struggles. Sanders does a great job of summarizing studies and includes charts that detail the history of the issue. Although I question his motivation behind writing the book, I still think it's an important critique of AA programs. However, I do not think these affirmative action programs should be dismantled entirely because I have seen classmates who have benefitted tremendously from being given access to top schools. It's almost like you can't win either way! If only schools and society where more transparent about what happens to those who are not able to "make it" instead of highlighting the select few who beat "the deck," then maybe the impact of mismatch will start to diminish.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Proof of What We Always Knew, December 31, 2012
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As a corporate officer of a manufacturing company, our affirmative action plan is one of my responsibilities. For smaller companies, AA is not so much a burden as we are technically required to have a "plan" and appear to follow it. Because we are small enough to fall under the radar of the authorities, we just have to make sure we are fair to all in our human resources practices - although that doesn't guarantee anything. For large, elite educational institutions, it is much more complicated and costly. I have always felt that AA never really worked despite all the cost and effort. Now we have a very scholarly but readable study that strongly concludes that not only does AA not work, it harms the very people it is trying to help.

The fact that both co-authors are liberals who have impressive civil rights credentials helps a lot. The authors are genuinely concerned with eliminating racism and discrimination and yet show through mountains of statistical evidence that racial preferences does great harm to many African Americans and Latinos and even prevents many of them from getting into careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) which have the highest pay rates among college degree holders.

Up until now, racial preferences (which is what Affirmative Action has turned into) have been an article of faith among many people, even to the point that if you think AA may be bad, you are automatically accused of the worst form of racism and given a "Bull Connor" label. The authors have destroyed this belief with a detailed but understandable presentation of the statistical data. They even tell the strange story of how they ran into numerous road blocks in trying to obtain the data needed for their research. If racial preferences are so great, why do educational institutions need to cover up so much?

The authors don't just reach a conclusion; they also present some very compassionate and workable solutions on how to improve the performance of minorities in completing degree programs and passing professional exams. The book is very well written and is certain to be used as evidence in all future court cases on this very emotional and legally-confounding issue. This book is already having an effect. Just recently there have been news articles reporting that Harvard may be guilty of discriminating against Asian-Americans by means of a limiting Asian quota. This is one of the conclusions of this book which showed that racial preferences, as practiced today, discriminate against Asian-American students.

This book is the best book so far on race relations in America and needs to be read by all concerned Americans, regardless of political beliefs. Perhaps we can agree on real solutions that actually work!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinarily informative on a very touchy subject!, November 26, 2012
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This review is from: Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students Itís Intended to Help, and Why Universities Wonít Admit It (Hardcover)
I just got the book and have read only through the first 100 pages, but already it has changed my perspective. I was unaware of the "cascade effect", where the top tier schools take minorities from the second, third and fourth tier schools. The dearth of qualified kids forces these lower tier schools to reach FAR down to students who have little chance of success, with abysmal results. Meanwhile, the legit second, third and fourth tier kids who would have have done well at their own level college struggle, their confidence shattered, as they discover how far behind they are at the very top schools. Many drop out, or change out of demanding STEM majors. What a waste of time, money, and talent!

Long term, this book may do what Losing Ground did in the 1980s and 90s: change the debate. Losing Ground pointed out that the biggest issue with welfare was not the expense, but what it did to the people receiving it. The big welfare reform of 1996 was the result. If people of good will begin to understand just how much damage racial preferences do to the people who supposedly benefit, maybe more rational, helpful affirmative action policies will come to the fore in the years ahead.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars timely and important, November 16, 2012
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This review is from: Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students Itís Intended to Help, and Why Universities Wonít Admit It (Hardcover)
This book, by a law professor (who is also trained in economics) and a journalist is a timely and important contribution to the affirmative action debate. Timely, of course, because of the University of Texas affirmative case currently under consideration by the Supreme Court of the United States, and important because it provides unusually detailed and authoritative evidence on the subject. Or at least it should be important. As of this writing, the book has received little attention that I have noticed. This is interesting, not for the least of reasons that one of the interesting and surprising subthemes of the book is the indifference and/or hostility of the educational establishment to all previous contributions to the academic literature on AA that haven't been completely supportive.

Importantly, the authors are not people with a history of antagonism to AA. Indeed, as they emphasize several times, one author (Sander) was once a community organizer in Chicago, a la Barack Obama, and neither seeks the abolition of AA.

The authors painstakingly go through the empirical evidence favoring the "mismatch hypothesis" that one of them, plus others have compiled over the last twenty years. Some of this is a bit wonky, which seems appropriate in order to avoid undue criticism given the heat the topic generates. Nevertheless, the book is very readable and a reasonably patient reader gets a lot of benefit for his or her persistence.

In brief, a mismatched student is an AA "beneficiary" who is matched with a school that is above his or her preparedness, leading to disillusionment, withdrawal from activities with non-mismatched students (which undermines the diversity objective that is ostensibly the raison d'etre of AA programs these days) and, ultimately, failure. A byproduct of mismatch is that non-mismatched students--whites and Asians, in short--come away from college having stereotypes of African American and Latino inferiority reinforced.

For me, the most eye opening parts of the book were about the academic responses to evidence on mismatch in particular and against (some types of) affirmative action in general. The topic is introduced early, on page 7, and returns over and over again. In the early days, the response was to simply ignore the critics--pretend those pesky articles didn't even exist. As the critics persisted, the response was less rebuttal and more attempts--partly successful--at suppression, and character assassination of the critics. It's absolutely shocking.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A puzzling book, December 1, 2012
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This review is from: Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students Itís Intended to Help, and Why Universities Wonít Admit It (Hardcover)
This is a seriously puzzling book. After providing absolutely iron clad evidence that affirmative action is a fraud and a failure, Sander and Taylor end with a chapter that argues that affirmative action should be continued! I can think of only one reason - they do not have the guts to face the race industry head on. So they provide their own version of Clinton's "mend it, don't end it". Well, we know how that turned out. I highly recommend the book. But their recommendations are total bull.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Racial preferences: university admission is only part of the story, July 29, 2013
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S. Yoshida (Northern California) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students Itís Intended to Help, and Why Universities Wonít Admit It (Hardcover)
The U.S. Supreme Court justices in Fisher v. U of Texas might have consulted this book because of similarities between their opinions and the recommendations of the authors. Specifically, they want greater transparency regarding the application of racial preferences to university admissions (i.e., increased scrutiny of intentions, processes, and impacts).

To the comments of other reviewers, I add the following tidbits.

(1) "[I]ncreasingly, racial admissions preferences are used . . . to disadvantage Asian Americans." p 12

(2) Mismatch studies were often condemned by universities and academics. But, author Richard Sander found that African-American students were receptive to this concept. ("I spoke at conferences of black law students and wrote abstracts of "Systemic Analysis" for undergraduate guidance counselors, who wished to pass on the findings in advising undergraduate minorities considering law school. I never experienced at these gatherings any of the hostility that often greeted me at academic events. Black students in particular were serious, interested, and concerned." p 89)

(3) A student's grades may be more important than which school she went to. ("This implies a second generalization: Attending nonelite schools is not harmful to one's career. . . Strong law students who attend nonelite schools regularly get better grades in law school and go on to outearn similar students who attended more-elite schools." p 109)

(4) "However, our system does a poor job on two other counts: providing access to able students from the lower [socioeconomic status] ranges and helping blacks succeed after they get to college." p 251

Goals of higher education include getting a better job and life. Since affirmative action is imposed on the job marketplace, its impacts on employment may be as difficult to understand as in school admission. Therefore, transparency in employment should be of interest.

I offer my own experience as a possible example.

In the fall of 1996, I entered law school, and California voted on Proposition 209. This Proposition eliminated gender and racial preferences for admission to state universities, and state employment. Just before the vote, a law professor gave a Prop 209 seminar.

I remember three points. First, the professor thanked the law school for permission to talk openly about Prop 209. Second, Asians were considered over-represented in government employment. Third, affirmative action policies limited the number of Asian professors at our law school to one individual. Since they had just hired their first Asian professor, they did not need to interview more Asians.

Law was not my first career choice. After striving to earn a Ph.D. in immunology, training an additional seven years (i.e., postdoc), co-authoring over 30 scientific publications, and receiving a two-year training fellowship from the National Institutes of Health (after submitting a competitive research grant proposal), I had difficulty getting job interviews. Over three consecutive years, I applied to about 150 jobs in perhaps 35 different states. Most were professorships and maybe there were barriers to hiring me. (Also, hundreds applied for each position.) The nationwide anti-Japanese backlash of the early 1990s probably didn't help. (1991 was the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. For defense purposes, when I was a postdoc, the boyfriend of a graduate student insisted on showing me his .357 revolver.) After 20 years of preparation for a career in biology (including work as a fishery technician in the Peace Corps), I went to law school.

Since I did not pass the California bar exam, I'm a state government paralegal (started as a legal secretary), a career that I was probably allowed to have because of Prop 209. I'm not an immunologist, professor, or attorney. But, being a paralegal beats working on the Hawaiian sugar plantation where I was born. And the job gives me time for other things (exercising at the Y, computer science, cooking, gardening).

Since equal opportunity doesn't exist, I want to believe that affirmative action can provide some counterbalance to inequality. But, considering that (1) my relatives were in World War II incarceration camps (i.e., historic discrimination), (2) I was born and raised on a plantation (i.e., socio-economic disadvantage, first college graduate among all my family and known relatives), (3) I endured about 10 years of negative stereotyping in the universities (i.e., direct and personal discrimination), and (4) I was categorized as an over-represented minority (i.e., government-sponsored discrimination), I'm skeptical about the fairness and rationale of racial preferences.

A Hawaiian attorney friend-of-mine described the anti-Japanese sentiment of the 1980s and 1990s as part of the "growing pains" of our country. The affirmative action controversy is another growing pain. It's part of the legal, political and societal processes of our country.

Thank you.
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