Do affirmative action policies help or hurt quality of service?

Commenter ECM sent me an article from a newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, written by a professor at the Naval Academy. The author is a professor of English, and he doesn’t think that affirmative action provides taxpayers with good quality service. Quality of service is very important because the Navy keeps us safe from harm. They have an important job, so shouldn’t we be hiring the best candidates?


Midshipmen are admitted by two tracks. White applicants out of high school who are not also athletic recruits typically need grades of A and B and minimum SAT scores of 600 on each part for the Board to vote them “qualified.” Athletics and leadership also count.

A vote of “qualified” for a white applicant doesn’t mean s/he’s coming, only that he or she can compete to win the “slate” of up to 10 nominations that (most typically) a Congress(wo)man draws up. That means that nine “qualified” white applicants are rejected. SAT scores below 600 or C grades almost always produce a vote of “not qualified” for white applicants.

Not so for an applicant who self-identifies as one of the minorities who are our “number one priority.” For them, another set of rules apply. Their cases are briefed separately to the board, and SAT scores to the mid-500s with quite a few Cs in classes (and no visible athletics or leadership) typically produce a vote of “qualified” for them, with direct admission to Annapolis. They’re in, and are given a pro forma nomination to make it legit.

Minority applicants with scores and grades down to the 300s with Cs and Ds (and no particular leadership or athletics) also come, though after a remedial year at our taxpayer-supported remedial school, the Naval Academy Preparatory School.

By using NAPS as a feeder, we’ve virtually eliminated all competition for “diverse” candidates: in theory they have to get a C average at NAPS to come to USNA, but this is regularly re-negotiated.

Try and reflect on the fact that when quality goes down in an area where performance means life or death, the consequences for NOT hiring the best could be disastrous.

3 thoughts on “Do affirmative action policies help or hurt quality of service?”

  1. It’s amazing to me that anyone, in this day and age, wouldn’t always want the very best they could get for their money/time/effort and, instead, choose (as the gov’t. often does) to hire/school/etc. sub-standard applicants in the race for who a wholly meaningless, asinine, ‘standard’ such as diversity (of skin color, but never thought).


    1. Government doesn’t have a profit motive that would require them to provide what the customers want. That is the problem with government – they aren’t competing with anyone, and they don’t have to please a customer in order to get paid. The more incompetent they are, the more their budget will increase. Thomas Sowell talks about how the left forms policy based on their need to feel superior to others “the annointed”. Social policy made on the basis of “self-congratulation”.


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