The Supreme Court is considering whether higher-education institutions can take race into account in admissions. Hillsdale College never has. Founded in 1844 to educate “all persons . . . irrespective of nationality, color, or sex,” Hillsdale has never even recorded students’ racial backgrounds.
The pressure to count by race used to come from forces in favor of slavery and discrimination. Today, it’s justified in the name of “diversity.” No matter its source, Hillsdale will continue to resist this pernicious ideology and judge our applicants on their individual merits.
The abolitionists who wrote our Articles of Association were classically educated Christian preachers. Our oldest building was dedicated on the Fourth of July with the claim that ignorance was the seed of slavery, and that Hillsdale College would work to eliminate ignorance in the name of freedom.
A century after the college’s founding, the 1955 Hillsdale football team was invited to play at the Tangerine Bowl in Florida but instructed to leave all its black members at home. In keeping with its principles, the team declined to play.
In the 1970s, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare demanded Hillsdale College begin to count its students by race. It claimed the power to make this demand because some of the college’s students were using taxpayer-funded aid to pay for their education. After losing litigation that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Hillsdale announced it would no longer accept government money.
Most Americans still agree with us on these points. When asked explicitly about taking race and ethnicity into account in hiring and promotion decisions, 74% of respondents are opposed. What Lincoln called the “better angels of our nature” still live.
Our policy of nondiscrimination has led to a student population comprising an array of socio-economic groups and cultural, racial and religious traditions. Currently, Hillsdale College has students enrolled from 49 states. In the past five years, the college has accepted students from 26 foreign countries, including Barbados, Brazil, Ghana, Guatemala, Kenya, Mongolia, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Thailand and Vietnam. Not one of these young men and women was accepted on the grounds of race, heritage or background. They were invited to attend Hillsdale on the strength of their character, their intellect and, crucially, their intentions. Learning is hard work. It is done only by those who are determined to do it. Neither we nor anyone else is able to provide an education alone.
Race quotas and preferences are an affront to the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, which bars states from discrimination on the basis of race. They affront the beautiful principles espoused in the Declaration of Independence. As President Calvin Coolidge once noted, “If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. . . . No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions.” Those who attempt to move beyond the Declaration, Coolidge concluded, will inevitably lead us backward.
The solution to racial polarization is a return to the founding principles of our nation. Whatever others do, we at Hillsdale College will hold to them.
Read the full piece at the Wall Street Journal here.