Inside Higher Ed has a great piece today summarizing Timothy Groseclose’s study on the illusion of race-blind admissions. Oftentimes students make references to things in their persona essay that may tip off an admissions officer to a student’s race or ethnicity: mention of a unique holiday, travel outside of the country to visit relatives, or even the student’s hometown or high school. Additionally, high school activities, like involvement in the school’s Black Student Union, may tip off an officer to the student’s race. Even names can identify someone as a race or ethnicity. These indicators would probably be considered illegal under California’s anti-affirmative action measure, but they are impossible to exclude.
It may not be “fair” that a student can reveal his or her race simply through her name or student activities, but the admissions officer, as long as they aren’t giving preferential treatment solely for race reasons, is doing his or her job: admitting students who will create a positive learning environment for other students.
Conversely, the article points to other factors that make admissions unfair:
Is it fair that a student with C’s gets into an Ivy League school because his father is a trustee? How about the lacrosse player with SAT scores 300 points below the institution’s average? The daughter of a politician? The Republican at a liberal arts institution?
The dean of admissions at Tufts University called such factors another form of “affirmative action.” At it’s root, affirmative action’s goal isn’t to simply give preferential treatment to students of color–it’s designed to level the playing field for the students, like the ones above, who get into colleges simply because they have some other asset working for them.
Cross posted at Pushback.