Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In which I overuse italics

Is it a good thing that selective colleges promise to judge their applicants 'as individuals'? Give your answer, then, if you have time, read the babbling that follows. (Or read the babbling first, it's not as though I'll know either way.)

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On the one hand, maybe it's a good thing that colleges look for 'well-roundedness.' Even if the emphasis on extracurricular activities, on going beyond tests-and-grades, is rooted in home-grown American anti-Semitism, perhaps there's something to be said for admitting students to college in part on the basis of whether they get along with others well enough to work a part-time job or play a team sport. On the other, there is something upsetting about the idea that a college rejects a student not on the basis of the materials they sent in, but of an admissions committee's 'holistic' assessment of each applicant as a person.

The notion that applicants are selected 'as individuals' is related but not identical to the question of 'well-roundedness'. A school could, in theory, choose applicants on the basis of more than just their GPAs and SATs, looking also at activities outside the classroom, without claiming to know each applicant personally. But that's not what the schools do. From my own alma mater's admissions website: "Our goal in the admissions office is to extend our knowledge of a student well beyond a test score or GPA and understand, as much as possible, that student’s personal and academic qualities." And, "Above all we look for the intense curiosity that makes University of Chicago students such exciting young scholars in our intense academic community, and such lively members of campus, neighborhood, and city. This quality does not manifest itself in high test scores, but in writing that is willing to take chances, in recommendations that speak to a love of learning and active engagement in the classroom, and in the selection of a strong curriculum." (Emphasis added.) It's not merely that factors beyond SAT and GPA come into the decision. It's that miraculously, when you combine SAT, GPA, sports-team membership, and the impressions of someone's high school teachers, you have looked into their very soul.

I get why this approach is supposed to reassure applicants. After getting back a test and seeing a D in red ink, no one wants to think that that particular grade decided their life for them. Along those lines, a student with some Ds and some As might find it unfair that he is judged on the basis of the Ds, when his As are in the classes that he most enjoys. Where it matters, he's an A student, so as a person, that's who he is. Granted a straight-A student would find it unfair if colleges considered her classmate, Mr. As-and-Ds, her academic equivalent. Luckily for her, all things equal, they do not. But when Mr. As-and-Ds sees, on a college website, that they want to get to know him as a person, not a number, his confidence grows, as does his good feeling towards the school in question.

Though heart-warming to applicants, there are two glaring problems with the 'as a person' approach. But before getting to those, I should point out that the problem is most definitely not the reason most often given for it being a problem, namely that the approach destroys what would otherwise be a near-flawless meritocracy. No system that measures 'achievement' of 17-year-olds will ever come close. In a critique of admissions committees choosing to abandon standardized tests, Mary Grabar argues that the tests must remain, because grades don't necessarily tell you who are the best students. She writes: "Subjective factors can come into play. For example, women, who now make up about 60% of the college student body, on the average have better study habits and behavior than men, which can earn them higher grades." No, I'm afraid I'm not seeing how classroom conduct and preparation for exams are "subjective factors."* After all, colleges are looking for those who promise to be the best students - which includes but is not limited to innate intelligence - not those who would in theory be best at math but who in reality spent their time in math class playing games on their calculators.

OK, so, onto the problems. One is that, simply put, no selective college can get to know each applicant as a person. Your roommate once you get to college, that's someone you get to know 'holistically', for better or worse. Schools claiming to 'get to know' each applicant (and they're all, to my knowledge, making variants of this claim) are, I think, being somewhat dishonest. I say 'somewhat' because I don't question the hard work they put into assessing each candidate on the basis of all materials submitted. What I question is their assertion that the decision they reach has to do with a whole person, not with an applicant.

The other, to my mind more important, mistake is that the blow to one's ego one receives upon being rejected from, say, Harvard (to pick a school to which I've never applied, grad or undergrad) on account of being insufficient as a person is not only far greater than the one you face if told your grades, scores, and sports achievements were not enough, but is also unnecessarily insulting. If the materials you submitted showed that your achievements as they pertain to admissions to a particular college didn't add up, that's what they call constructive criticism. You can shape up and apply places as a transfer student. You can do well wherever you go to undergrad and go to a top grad school. You can accept that Harvard is not in store and excel at something for which a Harvard degree would be of no use. But if it's you, as a person, who proved inadequate, lacking in intellectual curiosity, in drive, in that certain undefinable something, what can you do? Rather than acknowledging some higher truth beyond each applicant's grades and scores, the 'holistic' approach in fact ensures that students feel they are their grades and scores, that nothing about them went unexamined by the admissions committee, and that they, well, pretty much suck at life. Not, I think, the optimal situation.

*I will not speculate further, but perhaps a conservative article on higher ed must attribute female achievement to 'subjective' factors, because god forbid it turns out women, if given an equal playing field, actually do better at something than men.

24 comments:

David Schraub said...

I'm glad you haven't be deterred by my bit of comment snark on the "in which" twitch.

Do you not think even stressed out HSers take the promises of holistic reviews as being puffery? I think there are a lot of good reasons to do the quasi-holistic review -- I think it leads to a better quality academic community, even along intellectual lines, than a pure numerical approach -- but I don't think anyone reads the glossy brochure they got from Harvard and then takes the admissions decision as a fundamental judgment on their very soul.

Phoebe said...

Yes, this was a self-conscious 'in which'.

I don't know if this was clear from the post, but what I oppose is not (necessarily) looking beyond test scores and GPA. What I oppose is the notion (promoted by schools) that once you add on more factors, what you get is not a better assessment of the applicant as it pertains to one school's admissions criteria but a better idea of the applicant as a person. The "very soul" wording was meant to be over-the-top, fine, but I do think people find it more upsetting to be turned down by a school that claims to have considered them holistically than by one that admits only based, say, on a test. The way around this is for schools to say, OK, we don't just look at test scores and grades, but here is the finite list of the specific things we do look for. In other words, not 'good people', not 'character', but sports, activities, underpriviledgedness, whatever the school decides it cares about.

Dance said...

After all, colleges are looking for those who promise to be the best students

Huh. I've always felt that selective colleges (and only selective schools promise this holistic look) are looking for the group of students who will constitute the "best" community, with the definition of best changing over the years. It's never been a meritocracy, it's always been social engineering (as your link shows), and it's more about putting together an aggregate ideal than finding any individual ideal student.

Once tests/scores are good enough to prove the student can do the work, then, they become largely irrelevant.

That said, I have to agree that this take can be a bit harsher on the student, witness the comments every spring from students and parents about why one student gets in and another with slightly higher grades/scores doesn't. Probably because the admitted student wrote an essay that grabbed someone's attention and made them stand out as special---but saying that tells the non-admit "you are not special." (Well, really "you did not adequately communicate your specialness" but who hears that in a rejection letter?)

Dance said...

Whether it's a good thing---well, I think it's integral to the concept of the residental college as practiced in the US, and it's a design that has created some very rich and powerful institutions that produce a lot of impressive people, largely because of the connection between alumni and endowments. If you want to challenge that take on admissions, then you have to reconsider the entire model.

Miss Self-Important said...

Have you been reading the NYT's new first world problems blog on choosing a college? It is hilarious, and the indignant comments ("Bitch! How could you turn down my alma mater?! It is paradise on earth!") even more so.

I tend to agree with David above though--most kids applying to top schools know that it's a game, and if the rules ask for a "well-rounded person" then they will appear to be that, and if they are to be underprivileged, they will be that. Only the most gullible could fail to realize that schools know only what they reveal in their applications, and that all subjective qualities can be feigned, massaged, and manipulated.

It's true that pretensions to "holistic evaluation" make it harder to determine why one was rejected--was it grades? scores? lack of well-roundedness? But I'm not sure that an ambiguous rejection is necessarily a more personal one, or that, absent this silly rhetoric about holistic evaluation, it would actually be any easier to explain to applicants just why they fell short. If there are 10 applicants for every spot, and maybe 5 of them are roughly equally qualified in terms of their potential to succeed at the college, then 4 will have to be turned down for nearly arbitrary reasons that maybe in another year and against other applicants would not have made a difference. It would be a lie to tell applicants, "If only your SAT was 20 points higher or you'd taken AP French, you'd have been admitted," since in another pool, those may not be the things that put them over the edge. Maybe "holistic evaluation" is just an evasive way of saying, "We're really subjective at the margins, and there's nothing anyone can do about that." The only people who can be given clear and honest answers about their rejections are the bottom 5 of the 10 who are cut immediately because of some obvious shortcoming in their applications (like, "sorry, you have a 2.8 GPA and all your competition has 4.0's"), and that's no reassurance in the end, since those obvious gaps are the hardest to fill, and the applicants probably do or should already know about them.

Phoebe said...

Dance:

"it's more about putting together an aggregate ideal than finding any individual ideal student."

I think it depends at what level. At a selective but not super-elite school, the question probably is getting in those students who can do the work and rejecting those who'd find college-level work overwhelming. It's only a tiny number of schools in the business of creating 'communities.' But then there are cases that fall somewhere in between - UChicago is not as hard to get into as Harvard, but still concerns itself with the 'as a person' question.

MSI,

Yes, the college blog is hilarious. I'd also noticed the passage you quote from on your blog. Wow.

"But I'm not sure that an ambiguous rejection is necessarily a more personal one"

It's not the ambiguity that makes it personal, it's the rhetoric coming from the colleges themselves, the constant reassurances that 'you will be evaluated as a person, not a number. Except when the question is really just the score on one test, all situations - who gets a fellowship, who gets a job, etc. - are based on at least some unknowable criteria. But there is a difference between a personal and an impersonal rejection. Romantic rejection, for instance, is understood to be personal. Some unquantifiable combination of your looks, personality, and general demeanor either do it for someone or do not. What colleges are now promising is an evaluation that, though not romantic or sexual, is personal at that level. And I do think the rejections feel worse for those students who buy into the whole thing. The really savvy will get the game, but the theoretical As and Ds student I describe in the post will be dead set on the school evaluating his inner wonderfulness, and will be distraught when an A student takes 'his' place.

Basically, my point here is that even if you favor looking at such factors as race, sports participation, and 'character', you can still be wary of the 'whole-person' rhetoric.

PG said...

"At a selective but not super-elite school, the question probably is getting in those students who can do the work and rejecting those who'd find college-level work overwhelming."

Exactly. I noticed this difference when I was applying for undergrad and had UT-Austin as my safety school. They get such a tidal wave of applications (and have to deal with the complications of a unified state system and the automatic top 10% admission that was the legislature's solution to Hopwood) that it would be ridiculous for them to claim that they were evaluating the whole person. Way back in the day when I applied, they didn't ask for letters of recommendation -- just SAT, transcript, and 2 essays 850 words or less -- and because my school counselor had been bundling my transcript with the recommendations required by other schools, I completely forgot to send them a transcript. They sent me a rather confusing letter late in the spring, saying that my SAT scores qualified me for admission but my application had gotten shuffled to the bottom of the pile with the tag "Need transcript," and they already had filled up student housing, but they could still take me if I didn't mind living in some sort of "alternative accommodation"...

Even today, when everything is more automated and sophisticated, they still bifurcate the consideration into "Academic achievement" (class rank, test scores, coursework) and "Personal achievement" (written essays, activities information, letters of recommendation). I don't think one can claim to be looking into people's souls if the metrics are still defined as "achievement."

They also offer an optional essay for people to describe a "special circumstance." I'm supportive of how UT does this, as they want to be aware of the situations of the kinds of students they're getting: often poor, single-parented, not native English speakers, obligated to work or take care of home duties, etc. If you couldn't take more than one AP course each semester because you worked 20 hours a week, and were the first person in the family to take the SAT or other admissions exam, that should be weighed in judging whether you'll do well in college.

Withywindle said...

"I will not speculate further, but perhaps a conservative article on higher ed must attribute female achievement to 'subjective' factors, because god forbid it turns out women, if given an equal playing field, actually do better at something than men."

Sadly I have no links, but I have a distinct memory of a whole stream of conservative articles - usually those opposed to affirmative action - saying that pure meritocracy would benefit women re college admissions. More of these in the 1990s than the 2000s, and possibly you weren't paying so much attention to the issue then, but I think you're, you know, wrong.

Phoebe said...

Withywindle,

You're right that I'm not up on what conservatives - or any political commentators - were saying in the 1990s. I might be, you know, way off, but in the particular article I respond to, factors that seem just about as objective as they come are referred to as 'subjective', the only possible reason being that those factors favor women.

PG said...

a whole stream of conservative articles - usually those opposed to affirmative action - saying that pure meritocracy would benefit women re college admissions

Given the conservative adoration of standardized testing as a way to avoid the variations across schools (and dodge the average woman's seductive tendency of turning in homework on time, a habit I never shared), exactly what was the mechanism by which the conservative conception of pure SAT merit -- on which the average woman does worse than the average man -- going to increase women's chances of admission to elite institutions? I remember all the articles about how it would help Asians, who tend to do well on those tests (and here I do fit with the average, though I suspect like many children of education-crazed immigrant parents, more out of relentless prepping* than much native ablity), and arguments about how hey aren't Asians minorities too? but I don't remember hearing how testocracy benefited women.

* The fact that someone with as little inherent talent for math as I have, still could score a 790 on the mid-'90s SAT math, banished any illusions I might ever have entertained that these exams measure anything as well as they measure the amount of time one has spent with tutors and practice exams and getting really fast at punching buttons on a calculator that several of my classmates' families couldn't afford.

David said...

I doubt if admissions officers represent a random sample of the population, even of the academic population. They probably have a set of attributes which are specific to their profession and, consciously or subconsciously, look for people who are in many ways like themselves.

Phoebe said...

PG,

I'm afraid you're going to have to accept that you're reasonably good at math. Many, many students get tutored like crazy for the SAT and don't score anywhere near that well. It's not that money doesn't matter, but it's not as though if you throw enough money at the problem, any half-conscious student can get that score.

David,

That's certainly possible.

Andrew Stevens said...

I don't have a position on affirmative action in that I'm inclined to defer to college admissions officers to determine what is best for their respective schools.

However, most of the conservative articles that Withywindle is talking about in the '90s referred to the fact that affirmative action would eventually be used A) to hurt women and B) to hurt Asians. The first is already true. Many institutions have been quietly running affirmative action for male students in order to balance ratios. The second has been shown to have been true in the past. Now that California has dumped affirmative action, the primary beneficiaries have been Asians who now make up more than 40% of the population at Berkeley.

The SAT, by the way, used to be basically a g-loaded IQ test, but this stopped being true in 1994 when they recentered the test, reallocated the questions (eliminating antonyms and putting more emphasis on reading comprehension), and started allowing calculators. (For example, Mensa stopped accepting SAT scores to meet their membership criteria. As irritating a group as Mensa is, their leadership does know a thing or two about IQ tests.) It is also at this time that the SAT stopped being the best predictor of success in college and GPA became a better predictor. The conservative commenters in the '90s who were still enamored with the SAT were simply behind the times.

As for the gender gap, the difference in mean scores is almost entirely explained by two factors: a higher percentage of women take the test and male dominance of the upper end of the distribution (due to men's larger standard deviation on all tests of this sort, they always dominate the top and the bottom of the distribution while women dominate the middle of the distribution). Adjusting for those factors, women have a small deficit in math which is more than made up for by their advantage in verbal. Neither of those reasons would mean that women would be admitted to college at lower rates than men, with the possible exception of super-elite colleges (mostly schools like MIT).

PG said...

it's not as though if you throw enough money at the problem, any half-conscious student can get that score.

An Asian parent can tell you that you also have to throw things at the student.

Andrew,

If men dominate the top and bottom of the distribution, and men who otherwise would have been at the bottom of the SAT distribution are instead dropping out of school, learning a trade, going into the military, etc., that explains the gap in the mean. However, from what I understand, most of the concern about affirmative action is about fairly elite schools. The dissenters in the UMich affirmative action cases jeered at the law school for its desire to be elite and suggested that it should just have an open door admission policy if it wanted diversity so much. No one seems to file a lawsuit over their failure to get into community college or even SFA (one of the colleges near my hometown, which specialized in music education and forestry). The cases are about medical schools, the top 100 law schools, the top 100 private undergrad schools and the best couple of public schools in each state.

If women are underrepresented at the top of the standardized testing distributions, they will be underrepresented in admission to the schools that get fought over. How many elite schools are practicing affirmative action for men? I know that elite law schools practice it in favor of women.

Regarding the g-loadedness of the SAT, I was already prepping for the SAT verbal in the early '90s before they removed the antonyms, and I don't remember that making a difference in the verbal section. Either you know the rough meaning of a lot of words -- enough to know what the opposite meaning or analogous relationship was -- or you don't. (If the old test had required one to choose the precise meaning from among five options that were all quite close, THAT would have been a big change, requiring something closer to memorization of definitions instead of the kind of generalized understanding that one can get from reading decent books.) The addition of calculators for the math was a godsend, though, and I can see how it would decrease the extent to which IQ was tested, particularly when using high-end calculators that could do all of the sine calculations and algebraic equations for you. Let people bring in a TI-89, and you're really just testing their ability to translate a word problem into numbers -- speaking of which, is there any difference between the gender gap of the pre-1994 SAT mean scores and the late '90s ones? Because being able to translate word problems into math is at least partly a verbal skill, which should advantage women. I would predict there was a larger gender gap for the older version of the test.

PG said...

The gender gap that conservatives would have been writing about in the 1990s probably wasn't at the elite schools, given that the gap was greatest among groups that were not likely to be the bulk of students at elite schools. From a Dec. 2, 2000 TIME article:

Jacqueline King, author of a recent study on the gender gap in college, emphasizes that it is widest among blacks (63% women to 37% men in the latest figures), Hispanics (57% to 43%) and, in her analysis, lower-income whites (54% to 46%). "It's not middle-class white young men who aren't going to college," she says. And an enrollment boom among older women is further skewing the numbers.

Andrew Stevens said...

If men dominate the top and bottom of the distribution, and men who otherwise would have been at the bottom of the SAT distribution are instead dropping out of school, learning a trade, going into the military, etc., that explains the gap in the mean.

The men who dominate the bottom of the distribution are more typically dropping out of school and going to prison rather than learning a trade or going into the military, but, yes, that's the gist of it.

However, from what I understand, most of the concern about affirmative action is about fairly elite schools. The dissenters in the UMich affirmative action cases jeered at the law school for its desire to be elite and suggested that it should just have an open door admission policy if it wanted diversity so much. No one seems to file a lawsuit over their failure to get into community college or even SFA (one of the colleges near my hometown, which specialized in music education and forestry). The cases are about medical schools, the top 100 law schools, the top 100 private undergrad schools and the best couple of public schools in each state.

Well, of course it is about elite schools. The media is entirely dominated by the upper middle class who are obsessed with top tier schools. But, believe me, if you get rejected by a low-tier state school due to affirmative action, it has the potential to have much more impact on one's life than being rejected by Hahvahd. They do not file lawsuits because they can't afford to. (Community colleges can and do pick up a lot of the slack though, since they'll admit just about anyone. Not much in the way of financial aid, however.)

Regarding the g-loadedness of the SAT, I was already prepping for the SAT verbal in the early '90s before they removed the antonyms, and I don't remember that making a difference in the verbal section. Either you know the rough meaning of a lot of words -- enough to know what the opposite meaning or analogous relationship was -- or you don't. (If the old test had required one to choose the precise meaning from among five options that were all quite close, THAT would have been a big change, requiring something closer to memorization of definitions instead of the kind of generalized understanding that one can get from reading decent books.) The addition of calculators for the math was a godsend, though, and I can see how it would decrease the extent to which IQ was tested, particularly when using high-end calculators that could do all of the sine calculations and algebraic equations for you. Let people bring in a TI-89, and you're really just testing their ability to translate a word problem into numbers -- speaking of which, is there any difference between the gender gap of the pre-1994 SAT mean scores and the late '90s ones? Because being able to translate word problems into math is at least partly a verbal skill, which should advantage women. I would predict there was a larger gender gap for the older version of the test.

The loss of antonyms is not that big a deal, but vocabulary is more g-loaded than "reading comprehension," which is more of a specific skill. So it wasn't that antonyms got dropped, but that it was replaced by something far less g-loaded. And the calculators have the potential to make a huge difference. I took the SAT before calculators were allowed so I couldn't really comment on it, but I do think allowing them is a serious error. That's been my opinion in college math courses as well.

The older test did have a larger gender gap, but the decline in the gender gap has been gradual, not all at once, so I don't know if this validates your theory.

Jacqueline King, author of a recent study on the gender gap in college, emphasizes that it is widest among blacks (63% women to 37% men in the latest figures), Hispanics (57% to 43%) and, in her analysis, lower-income whites (54% to 46%). "It's not middle-class white young men who aren't going to college," she says. And an enrollment boom among older women is further skewing the numbers.

Yes. If my theory is true that part of the reason we expect women to do worse on the SAT is because a higher percentage take it, then it would stand to reason that there would be a larger gap in these ethnic groups than in the population at large. I have no idea if this is true or not, by the way. I can think of plenty of reasons why it might not be true, so I'm not sure it will be.

PG said...

"They do not file lawsuits because they can't afford to."

Who do you think actually pays for these lawsuits?

"vocabulary is more g-loaded than "reading comprehension," which is more of a specific skill."

Why is knowledge of English vocabulary more linked to IQ than reading comprehension is?

"If my theory is true that part of the reason we expect women to do worse on the SAT is because a higher percentage take it, then it would stand to reason that there would be a larger gap in these ethnic groups than in the population at large."

Not the SAT, but according to "The Racial Scoring Gap on the SAT-II," The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, No. 12 (Summer, 1996):
Black women had a mean SAT-II score of 466. Black men averaged 472. White women averaged 541 and white men had a mean score of 564.

So a much smaller gap than between white women and white men.

Andrew Stevens said...

Who do you think actually pays for these lawsuits?

And organizations like that aren't dominated by the upper middle class?

Why is knowledge of English vocabulary more linked to IQ than reading comprehension is?

Good question, and I can't say I have a good answer for you except that it is. g is determined out by abstracting it out from testing of a wide range of skills. Then the skills are looked at to see which correlate most strongly with g (and new tests are designed to correlate even more strongly). Vocabulary is one of those which does correlate very highly with g and reading comprehension has a much lower correlation. (Both are postively correlated with g, of course.) I could speculate on the causes of this, but your guess is as good as mine. I'm just talking about what correlates, not why it correlates.

So a much smaller gap than between white women and white men.

Which doesn't entirely surprise me, actually. Confounding factors and all that. I can think of several factors which could cause those results, but I assume you probably can too.

I should also say that I was assuming that the percentages of black men and women in college would mirror the percentage of black men and women taking the SAT. I now believe that was too hasty. If black men drop out of college at higher rates, then black women could dominate college attendance even though there was much closer parity at the SAT level. So I would like to see what percentage of blacks who take the SAT are men or women and I can't find that statistic. (Half the black men who take the SAT and get into college drop out in their freshman year. I can't find a similar statistic for black women.)

Phoebe said...

PG,

Asian or not, pressured or not, it's unusual to do as well as you did on the math SAT. There's no shame in testing well.

PG said...

Andrew,

Your claim was that lower middle and working class people don't file affirmative action suits because they can't afford to do so. Saying that the organizations happy to pay for the cost of lower-income folks' filing them are full of upper-income folks, doesn't make your initial claim true.

Phoebe,

Eh, it's not precisely shame for testing well, so much as the knowledge that these tests are manipulable, highly correlated with parental housing value and not reflective of long-term performance, yet I've squeaked into two elite institutions on the strength of them nonetheless. Chalk it up to liberal guilt. I may have the guts to donate any literal inheritance to Good Works, but I've never been able to refuse the various legs up in the meritocratic climb that money allows.

Andrew Stevens said...

PG,

I did write carelessly and without much thought. The Center for Individual Rights is looking for perfect test cases, but they didn't just sue the University of Michigan's law school, but also its undergraduate school plus the University of Texas, Texas A&M, and others. They do not sue the really elite institutions since those are private and are not bound by restraints on government. I don't know of any individuals who sue on their own for affirmative action since such lawsuits do not normally succeed. When they do succeed, they succeed state-wide. So I'm still forced to reject your characterization that the concern about affirmative action is only aimed at elite universities.

PG said...

Andrew,

We may be disagreeing about what constitutes "really elite" if you consider public schools categorically excluded from it. The MBA program at UC Berkeley, JD programs at Berkeley, Michigan and Virginia, MD programs at UC-SF, UCLA and UWash ... most people consider these "really elite," i.e. in the top 10 in the country.

In every category, UMich is the best school, public or private, in Michigan. UT is the best law school in Texas. UT and A&M have more-acclaimed engineering programs than Princeton, Columbia and Harvard. Someone who is thinking only in a national or highly generalized sense might not consider these state schools elite, but they certainly are considered to be by the residents of those states and within particular specialties.

Andrew Stevens said...

I certainly wouldn't say categorically excluded. I am considering really elite from a national level, though, and not a state level. I don't really care if the University of Vermont is the best university in Vermont (and it probably isn't); it's still not really elite. I would definitely include the University of Michigan's law school, but not its undergraduate school. I might include Texas's law school, but certainly not its undergraduate. And so on.

Point being that some marginal woman denied admission to the University of Texas's undergraduate program because of affirmative action on behalf of the male population would hardly constitute the kind of test case that organizations like the CIR are looking for. It doesn't mean they don't care about such cases, but demonstrating it was due to affirmative action is going to be nearly impossible. Deciding what affirmative action people care about by who is getting sued is not, in my opinion, an accurate barometer of people's opinions.

If I cared about affirmative action, I'd care a great deal more about people being denied admission to less selective colleges than to very selective colleges. Perhaps this would make me unusual (probably because I grew up poor), but I can't imagine it's that uncommon.

PG said...

Then how did CIR demonstrate that people didn't get into UMich undergrad because of affirmative action? If a school has an affirmative action policy, there will be evidence of it that you will get in discovery so long as you get past a motion to dismiss. We know that Michigan assigned X number of points to being black, from the Upper Peninsula, etc. because it was written down and then handed over in discovery, not because UMich publicized these facts. And that's also what killed such point-systems legally, whereas "holistic" affirmative action is much trickier.

UTexas is a bad example post-Hopwood because of the top 10% automatic admission, which, if it's true that women do better on grades, would advantage women. Top 10% also maintains a reasonable representation of racial minorities due to the high level of racial segregation in Texas public high schools. My East Texas high school was still under a court desegregation order when I graduated. If you're going to a public high school in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, or along the border, the top 10% will be majority black/Latino because that's pretty much all there is in those schools.