Top Oregon economist fired for supporting Supreme Court

By Randall Pozdena,PhD
PhD in economics and finance,  professor, VP in the Federal Reserve System

On July 29th, 2023, by a 6-3 vote of the US Supreme Court, race-based affirmative action programs in college admissions were ruled to be in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. The two joined cases were brought by Asian applicants—one against Harvard University and the other against the University of North Carolina.

The author of the expert witness report for the Asian Plaintiffs’ case was a Duke University professor—an Oregon native hired 30 years ago by Dr. Randall Pozdena, while building the Portland office of ECONorthwest, an Oregon consulting firm. Recently, the Duke professor sought out economists at ECONorthwest to provide data and computations used in the 168-page expert report the professor wrote for the two cases.

The report revealed significant ethnic discrimination against Asian applicants. Male Asian applicants had only one-quarter the probability of being admitted as an otherwise equally qualified black male. As Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority, “The Harvard and U.N.C. admissions programs cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause. … We have never permitted admissions programs to work in that way, and we will not do so today.”

The Economist’s June 30 article, “Why affirmative action in American universities had to go”, argued that support for race-based affirmative action policy has been weak since its inception in 1978. Also, California’s statewide ban of affirmative action, adopted with the passage of Proposition 209 has been in place for 34 years. Additionally, if the 2022 Pew survey is accurate, national support for race-based college admission policies stands at only 17 percent. In sharp contrast to US practice, in France it is illegal to even collect information on race.

Today, ECONorthwest uses the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) framework in selecting the clients with whom it will work and how it will report and interpret results. Since DEI lacks consistent metrics and weights, it is inherently vague and arbitrary, and can be discriminitory. Thus, when some staff and management apparently were offended by the Court’s ruling and Pozdena’s support of its analysis and constitutional underpinnings, it was enough to separate him from ECONorthwest.

About the author:

Randall Pozdena has PhD in economics and finance, and has practiced as a professor, Vice President in the Federal Reserve System, a consultant serving public and private clients and as an expert witness. He served 9 years as a member and chair of the Oregon Investment Council. During his tenure on the Council, it earned the highest, continuous annual returns on OPERS investments in its history. Pozdena has also served on the boards of many non-profit organizations and commissions, including the Oregon Ballet Theatre, the Oregon Symphony, the Governor’s Quality Education Commission, and university and health system investment boards.