Our Self-Selecting Elite

by Patrick J. Buchanan – January 1, 1999

Is the Ivy League the last acceptable bastion of prejudice in America?

That seems a not unfair question, given the reaction to a recent column of this writer.

That column, based on a piece by political activist Ron Unz, noted that the ethnic composition of Harvard’s student body looks like a voter profile of the Greenwich Village Democratic Club.

The percentages of black and Hispanic students at Harvard (7 percent and 8 percent) are approaching their shares of the population, wrote Unz, and the percentages of Asian and Jewish students (20 percent and 25-33 percent) far exceed their shares of the population (3 percent and 2.5 percent).

When foreign students and the children of alumni and faculty are factored in, only 25 percent of all slots at Harvard, wrote Unz, remain for that 75 percent of America that is non-Jewish white. Catholic ethnics and white Protestants are being crowded out of the Ivy League.

When I suggested that it might be time for Euro-Americans to demand affirmative action, the usual suspects answered with the usual invective. One letter writer, however, put a human face on the forgotten victims of Ivy League bigotry — an Italian American face.

Wrote A. Kenneth Ciongoli, president of the National Italian American Foundation, “Euro-Catholics, the American middle class, have paid the price … of affirmative action, while the establishment perpetrators have hypocritically protected themselves. … Italian Americans, 8 percent of America’s population, are 3 percent of Ivy League student bodies and less than 1 percent of the faculties.”

In a 1977 paper, Dr. Ciongoli noted that while set-asides for blacks and Hispanics were a “well-known reality … missing from the public debate is the discussion of ‘upper-class’ set-asides … those for legacies and athletes … and also missing is the identity of those who are denied admission, those who are truly set aside by this social engineering. They are the middle-class white ethnics.”

“In the first half of this century,” Ciongoli concludes, “the old Protestant establishment shunned us as undesirable Catholic ethnics. Since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the new Progressive establishment has again pushed us aside in favor of the groups they support. Both elites, by exempting their own, have avoided paying any price for their historical arrogance and … contemporary magnanimity. We (Catholic ethnics) paid and are paying their debts.”

This social and moral injustice needs airing. If Ivy League schools are fencing off, as Dr. Ciongoli insists, 50 percent of all student slots for athletes, their own kids and preferred minorities, they are preselecting America’s future leaders — using un-American means.

If a Northern bricklayers union or a Southern police force set aside as many jobs for the children of present members, it would have the Justice Department banging on its door. Why is what is forbidden to the rest of America permitted at Harvard and Yale?

Italian Americans do not seek quotas or set-asides, says Dr. Ciongoli.

But they demand to know why the Ivy League has adopted admissions practices and hiring policies that make Italian Americans almost invisible on elite campuses. Is that an unfair question?

Long ago, Catholics and Jews were looked on with suspicion by a WASP-dominated Ivy League. Jewish Americans seem to have overcome the prejudice. Catholic ethnics, if Ciongoli is right, never did. Why not? If discrimination does not explain these lopsided numbers, what does? There is one way to find out.

As these schools feed off tax dollars, they should be required to publish exact statistics on the religious and ethnic composition of all faculties and student bodies and the percentage of student slots chosen by methods other than merit — and identify those methods.

Next, they should indicate, by ethnic group and religion, who lost out when slots went to preferred minorities, whether ethnic or the children of faculty members or alumni. We know who the beneficiaries are of this discrimination. Let’s see its victims.

If the Republican Party wishes to represent Middle America, it must address the concerns of Middle America. Among these is the deeply ingrained leftist and anti-Christian bias on elite campuses that are the breeding stables of future American leaders.

Every conservative speaker knows that the more elite the campus, the more likely you are to be shouted down. Have these bastions of radical liberalism been established in violation of the letter of civil rights laws?

Let’s find out if those who have lectured America for years on racism and prejudice are themselves closet bigots. Then, in Clinton’s phrase, let’s make the Ivy League look more like America.