Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Excellence or opportunity 

This post on The Volokh Conspiracy got my attention. St. Cloud State's motto is "Excellence and Opportunity" (see? It's here on the logo! We really mean this!). But in principles of economics we teach saving or consumption, guns or butter. Tradeoffs. Eric Muller argues that a public institution could choose to promote racial equality as a compelling interest, or academic excellence as the compelling interest. If it chooses the latter, the fact that its policies have disparate impact on racial equality shouldn't matter -- excellence is compelling! So, Scalia asks, if you are actually trying to achieve both, how can you say either of them is compelling?

We should draw a graph with "excellence" on one axis, "opportunity" on the other, and a production possibilities curve between them. (Of course, 'round here we're inside the frontier.) If SCSU's administration means what it says about providing opportunity, perhaps we should just take excellence off the motto. We'll trade it for opportunity at every opportunity.

(Volokh post found via the excellent Newmark's Door.)