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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Thursday, November 21, 2002
1:23 PM

Civil Rights Commission Chair Mary Frances Berry continues the traditions of fair play and professional amity for which she is renowned. From the Washington Times:

A report issued in the name of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights was improperly released by its chairman, Mary Frances Berry, several of her colleagues said yesterday. The draft of a study titled "Beyond Percentage Plans: The Challenge of Equal Opportunity in Higher Education," disparages the elimination of race-based admissions at universities and colleges in Texas, Florida and California and says that minority enrollment has dropped in those states....

The plans out of favor with Berry & Co. replace outright race discrimination with a system that guarantees admission by the top X% of a state's high school population. Berry said recently the report was "staff-generated" and thus did not require a vote.

Miss Berry and staff director Les Jin — a Clinton appointee who oversees staff reports — yesterday declined to comment on the education report. "We never even had a chance to write a dissent," said Russell Redenbaugh, another Republican commissioner. "We had a look at it at last week's meeting, but we were told it was only a draft. This is not a draft — it is out there as a report. And it looks as if we, as a commission, approved of the material in it. Which not all of us do."

Aside from the usual gross political manipulations, the report is said to be riddled with errors. It states that fewer minority students are enrolled as a result of the new policies. But:

"More minority students are in the state's higher education system today than there were three years ago," said Elizabeth Hirst, a spokesman for the office of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, at whose behest the percentage plan "One Florida" was implemented by the state legislature as a replacement for race-based college admissions.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh notes the controversy and quotes from a memo by board member Abigal Threnstrom:

Indeed, we received copies on November 9 with a cover memo from the staff director stating: "this draft report is provided to you for discussion and comment at the November 15 Commission meeting. Staff is not asking for Commission approval at the meeting.” Evidently it was available on the Commission web site before that date, however. In other words, although our names are obviously associated with any work done in the name of the agency, it was released to the public before we had had a chance to read it. . . .

Because it is a "staff" report, it will never come up for a Commission vote and thus we cannot write a dissent. We can send some comments to the staff. However, according to several memoranda sent by the chairman, the Commissioners or their assistants are barred from talking directly to the staff. It is thus inevitable that those comments will be filed in a dead letter box. . . .

The chair has seemingly decided on a way to avoid dissents like the one Commissioner Redenbaugh and Commissioner Thernstrom wrote in response to the Florida 2001 report. In the future, there may be few official Commission reports. Staff reports will take their place. As a result, no votes, no dissents....

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