It is doubtful that serious discussion of Richard A. Lester's book on affirmative action (Antibias Regulations of Universities: Faculty Problems and Their Solutions, McGraw-Hill, 1974) can ever undo the damage caused by the flurry of misleading articles that appeared about the book in the New York Times, Newsweek, and The Chronicle of Higher Education six months ago. "Minority Hiring Said to Hurt Colleges," the New York Times headlined its front-page piece, continuing that minority hiring had caused a "lowering of standards and an undermining of faculty quality." Readers were left to assume that Lester had hard data to prove that "affirmative action ... is elevating unqualified persons beyond their abilities and discriminating against white men of higher qualification."
Yet there are no data in his book to document any of these allegations. Indeed, Lester, Professor of Economics and former Dean of the Faculty at Princeton, does not have and never claimed to have any more information about who has been hired and who has been overlooked than do the rest of us. Instead of a systematic study, the book is another in the series of dire predictions that we have been getting ever since Sidney Hook denounced affirmative action some years ago. Lester projects a lowering of quality if affirmative action programs, as currently being written, are carried out.