Do Colleges Help Employers Discriminate?

Do Colleges Help Employers Discriminate?

I’m not one for conspiracy theories or Supreme Court cases, but let me know if this makes sense.

There is a famous US Supreme Court case called Griggs v. Duke Power.  The gist of the case is that back in the 1960’s Duke Power had a policy that blacks could only work labor jobs which were the worst paying positions.  Along came the 1964 Civil Rights Act which made this type of discrimination illegal.  Of course this North Carolina company was not happy with this development.   So in order to get a better job at the company, you also had to get a high score on an IQ test.  In general, blacks scored much worse than whites and didn’t get these better jobs.

The Supreme Court ruled that a company can not use a test like this if it disparately impacted a minority group unless they could show that the test was reasonably related to the job.  So because of the Civil Rights Act, Griggs and the other plaintiffs won the case, although it took them years to get to the finish line.  The precedent was set, even if you don’t have intent to discriminate, you can’t use unreasonable tests that treat different races unfairly.

While an employer can’t take IQ tests in to consideration, colleges can.  The ACT and SAT are the number one thing considered when it comes to getting admitted in to college.  Even for law school this holds true.  My college roommate graduated Cum Laude, but bombed the LSAT and didn’t get in to any of the law schools he wanted to attend.  I faked my way through college and finished with a 2.9 GPA, but was in the top 7% on the LSAT and was accepted in to every school I applied to.

Employers know that the best schools only accept applicants who have received great scores on standardized tests.  The joke with Harvard Law School is that the hardest part about it is getting in.  Once there, students report it being easy because they are basically sucked up to by employers for their whole time there.  The best student at Harvard could turn down that school for a free ride at a less respected school like Chicago-Kent (my alma mater) and no matter how well they do in class, some jobs just won’t be open to them.  This of course happens even more so with undergraduates and business school students.

So essentially, an employer can’t give you an IQ test, but they can reasonably decide that you must have a good IQ if you went to an Ivy League school, Stanford, University of Chicago, Northwestern, etc.  Whether you had a lucky day on test day or don’t have what it takes to succeed outside of the classroom, you will get opportunities that others just won’t get.

Now I don’t think this is a big conspiracy by companies in reaction to this case, but rather think that this is how it’s always been done so they don’t change anything.  They probably don’t think about the fact that they are doing a round about violation on the Civil Rights Act or maybe I’m giving them two much credit and they know what they are doing.

Either way, it wouldn’t surprise me someday to see a lawsuit over this and it would be interesting to find out if 40 years later the Supreme Court feels the same way.

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