Poisonous Paranoia


April 27, 1991|By CARL T. ROWAN

WASHINGTON. — Washington -- A third-year law student at Georgetown has used his access to a smattering of admissions records to write that this distinguished institution is giving law-school slots to blacks who are not as qualified as are the rejected whites.

I have served on the board of trustees of both Georgetown University and Oberlin College. I am not going to tell you that every admission is based on pristine measures of academic, SAT, LSAT or other standardized test procedures. I am going to admit that, all issues of race or religion aside, ''favoritism'' regarding admissions occasionally goes to the children of, or those strongly recommended by, alumni who have distinguished their institutions, and especially those who have given great sums of money to their alma maters, Georgetown and Oberlin included.

But these institutionalized bits of ''favoritism'' are not sensationalized in the press as is Timothy Maguire's claim that a black with an LSAT score of 36 (out of a possible 48) gets into Georgetown Law Center while a white applicant has to have a score of 43 to get in. Mr. Maguire says the whites accepted have 3.7 grade-point averages against a standard of 4.0, while black applicants average 3.2. To every paranoid white person that comes across as ''unfair preferences.''

Conservative editorial writers have seized these allegations, not just to support Mr. Maguire, but as a reason to oppose the proposed Civil Rights Act now before the Congress. Opponents of this civil-rights bill automatically assume that Georgetown Law Center is practicing ''affirmative action'' or trying to promote ''diversity'' by deliberately accepting ''inferior'' blacks ahead of ''superior'' whites.

But we all must accept the fact that an admissions officer who went by test scores alone would be too dumb to hold such a job.

Give the Georgetown admissions people credit for being rational human beings. They know that the LSAT scores are skewed by the fact that many white families and some affluent black ones pay $700 or more for their children to take a course, or courses, on how to take the LSAT exam. So LSAT scores are stacked against the college grads, white, black, Hispanic, whatever, who can't afford such expensive tutoring before LSAT exams.

You white readers are still unconvinced? Let's take racial passions and hostilities out of our discussion for a few sane moments. I and six other judges, black and white, have just finished judging 188 black high school seniors who were nominated for Project Excellence scholarships ranging from $52,000 to $4,000 per student -- some $400,000 for 60 youngsters in all. We judges know that if we had awarded this money on the basis of SAT scores alone, we would have made colossal mistakes. The students' essays, their oral presentations, offered us a chance to judge poise and passion of presentation. We got a chance to understand the factor of kids persevering and triumphing against incredible family and social odds.

Anyone worth a damn at Georgetown, Oberlin or anyplace else must be free to go beyond the self-described ''Reagan Republican'' Timothy Maguire's racist broadside and look at the whole human being before deciding whether he or she is deserving of a scholarship -- and is likely to improve the practice of law in America and further glorify Georgetown University.

Let us pray that the ''white'' press can accept these truths and help lead white America away from the poisonous paranoia about ''racial preferences'' that oozes like dioxin from the tempest inspired by one misguided law student.

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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