Which woodwind would win?

This session, SCOTUS is trying to figure out Sandra Day O’Connor’s best before date for ending affirmative action in college admissions.

In her Grutter v. Bollinger 2003 majority opinion O’Connor wrote:

“…race-conscious admissions policies must be limited in time. This requirement reflects that racial classifications, however compelling their goals, are potentially so dangerous that they may be employed no more broadly than the interest demands. Enshrining a permanent justification for racial preferences would offend this fundamental equal protection principle.

It has been 25 years since Justice Powell first approved the use of race to further an interest in student body diversity in the context of public higher education. Since that time, the number of minority applicants with high grades and test scores has indeed increased. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 43. We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.

By next year, when the Court’s decisions in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina are rendered, it will have been 20 years. Close enough for government work.

Plaintiff – Students for Fair Admissions – accurately (according to the NYT) contends in its opening brief:

Harvard’s demerits of Asian-American applicant’s personalities are particularly scandalous and inexcusable. Harvard penalizes them because, according to its admissions office, they lack leadership and confidence and are less likable and kind.

Harvard, of course, does not exist to provide remediation, intellectual skepticism. or training in any of those personality categories. Harvard exists to make sure its endowments persevere. It’s easier for Harvard when everyone thinks the same way.

Here’s a slice from oral arguments on the Students for Fair Admissions’ suits. SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts presses Seth Waxman, the primary attorney defending Harvard.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: — put aside the hypothetical about the African American applicant who’s a legacy. Take two African American applicants in the same category, however you want to take it. They both get or both can get a tip, right, based on their race.

And yet they may have entirely different views. Some of their views may contribute to diversity from the perspective of Asians or whites. Some of them may not. And yet it’s true that they’re eligible for the same increase in the opportunities for admission based solely on their skin color?

MR. WAXMAN: So the — the point is —

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: That was a question.

MR. WAXMAN: No, I know. I’m –I’m attempting to answer your question.

There is no doubt that for –as the testimony showed, that for applicants who are essentially so strong on multiple dimensions, so extraordinarily strong on multiple dimensions that they are sort of on the bubble, that they might –they have a real candidate for admission, African American –being African American or being Hispanic or in some instances being Asian American can provide one of many, many tips that will put you in.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, people say that, yes, but you will have to concede, if it provides one of many, that in some cases it will be determinative.

MR. WAXMAN: I do. I do concede that.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Okay. So we’re talking about race as a determining factor in admission to Harvard.

MR. WAXMAN: Race in some –for some highly qualified applicants can be the determinative factor, just as being the –you know, an oboe player in a year in which the Harvard-Radcliffe orchestra needs an oboe player will be the tip.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Yeah. We did not fight a Civil War about oboe players.

A friend to whom I sent that bit was amused. He commented:
…at least bassoonists were not used as the example!

This got me to thinking how Harvard admissions commissars would evaluate woodwind players. Assume equally qualified candidates of the same skin color, sexual orientation, and leftist political views… Only one can be admitted: Bassoonist or oboist? Which woodwind would win?

And what of other woodwinds? I had some thoughts:

First, let’s acknowledge that bassoon or oboe… Roberts is still an anti-woodwindist.

But, a more interesting question arises: Do you get more Harvard admission equity points for a bassoon or for an oboe?

How this could be decided might be partially based on whether the instrument could be used in a marching band – a musical ensemble associated with the military and inextricably bound up with the works of John Philip Sousa.

Sousa is a well known white male and suspected heterosexual, whose patriotism and contribution to martial music remains a threat to our democracy. ‘He’ never declared his preferred pronouns.

So. Oboes in a marching band? Apparently it is a thing.

But a bassoon in a marching band is practically unheard of.

Conclusion: Bassoonists get into Harvard. Oboists do not. But what about… Piccolos, for example? Guidance is needed.

We might take other lessons from this. Trombones, apparently up to 76 of them, seem the most obvious objectionable instruments for their domination of the marching band. Bass drums suffer from oppressive decibels, making them unsuitable for drum circles. These are excluded in this analysis because the Chief Justice has not commented on brasses or percussion.

I’ll suggest the most damaging admissions related woodwind is a piccolo, because they are featured in Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever, the National March of the jingoist (etc., etc.) United States.

Piccolos are not up to the 76 trombone pinnacle, but more than one piccolo is not unheard of.

Piccolos have been known to identify as flutes, and in some delusional cases, as bassoons. But, unlike Harvard’s Elizabeth Warren, they have neither high cheekbones nor a family mythology. Nor the compleat disingenuity.

Overall, while I think bassoonist applicants would get more points than piccoloists – for admission to Harvard the better choices might be harp or grand piano.

The broader question applies to all musical instruments, and there is surely a 6 figure diversity department salary for the person who can figure out how to score them on the diversity/inclusion/equity scale. The whole western canon of musical instruments must be analyzed.

Let’s start with this question: To what extent does the instrument feature in white supremacy? And “Are you triggered?” by Bach?

We need to have a “Which musical instrument are you?” quiz. Fortunately, they are all over the intertubes, we just need the Harvard Psych Department to “scientize” them.