Which, just off the top of your head, sounds like a better way to get a diverse student body: Requiring that applicants do well on the SAT and get good grades (the former evidently relating to family income, and then there are the families paying for tutors; but the latter by necessity opening things up to students from all schools), or asking them to write 10,000 words of research paper?
Bard’s audition is open book: Along with the menu of 17 questions, the college’s Web site will provide all the relevant source materials — from a Nobel lecture about prion disorders to the United Nations Charter to an Aeschylus play — with which to address them. (Additional research is permitted if properly documented.) Mary Backlund, Bard’s director of admission, said that that access will place students who may not have encountered the subjects in school or do not have good local libraries on equal footing with those who attended elite high schools.Note the parenthetical bit. Kids who appear to be doing graduate-level work (citing scholarship, etc.), aren't they just that much more impressive? Or on a simpler level: kids who cite outside sources seem more committed to attending Bard. Kids who demonstrate existing contextual knowledge about the topics are bound to come up with something more impressive. The ability to write at the college level while still in high school seems like a good proxy for how nice of a high school you've attended. (You'll have an edge if you were in Mr. Gern's Stuyvesant English class, it seems, because by coincidence he assigns the same poetry as the Bard application. While yes, just reading that passage was a bit jarringly high-school-flashback, it's always nice to see a former teacher be the voice of reason.)
But to return to the main issue here, it's just bizarre to think that fairness is achieved by throwing primary sources at kids from all backgrounds, as if the ability to write a long essay on a complicated topic without any particular training is something equally distributed throughout the population. I understand the appeal of eliminating "potential" from the equation, but the way of doing so can't possibly be expecting college-level work (the real deal, not what APs cover) from those who haven't yet dealt with the steep learning curve of first term freshman year.