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Jeffrey P. Bigham

Individualized Consideration a Proxy for Quotas

Jeffrey P. Bigham

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    The Supreme Court recently ruled that as long as race is included only as part of an individual's entire package, that it may be considered as part of their application. The well-meaning court wanted to allow admissions offices to look at the individual, perhaps taking into account the person's sex or race, but not to decide one way or another between equal candidates simply based on race. Unfortunately, what they've done is simply provide an easy and impossible to disprove scapegoat for admissions committees - record something about how the decision was made based on some part of a prospective student's application that was subjective and you can't be doing it illegally.

    This may not be a horrible decision by itself, but something needs to be done to insure that this ruling isn't used as an excuse by university admissions committees to continue racist practices. "Diversity," as measured exclusively by race and sex are in fashion and universities officials are under immense pressure to increase their "diversity" numbers. An easy way to do that is to simply say that those students that you happen to be recruiting have better essays than those you aren't. On the surface this ruling is great because it would ideally require universities to attract truly diverse and interesting student body. Unfortunately, given the narrow scope of the current diversity definition, this ruling simply allows administrators to meet the unspoken quotas they met more explicitely before.

    How do we stop this bending of the rule? A good solution would be to prevent universities from collecting and advertising numbers on race and gender. Let students visit the campuses and decide for themselves if they feel they would fit into the culture there. If the university wishes to promote its support of minorities, then it can support and promote its programs for minority students. If they want to encourage women to pursue engineering, then let them support groups with that goal. If a university wants to attract a diverse student body, then let it enact programs that make students of all races, sexes, religions, and backgrounds feel welcome. Everyone should feel welcome to do whatever they want, but such encourage shouldn't be delayed until an application is reviewed.

    Jeffrey P. Bigham
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