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Submitted by Fred Rossoff on Fri, 2012-02-03 17:04

Yesterday Bloomberg published an article by the Physicist Stephen Hsu calling for more transparency in the college admissions process. Hsu takes the opportunity provided by a recent investigation by the U.S. Department of Education into anti-Asian discrimination in undergraduate admissions by Harvard and Princeton to argue that we won't be able to get a good sense of whether or not discrimination is occurring, particularly as most colleges use “holistic admissions,” without a general commitment to transparency by the higher education community.

“It's a common belief among Asian-American families that their children are held to higher academic standards than college applicants from other ethnic groups,” Hsu claims, but then goes on to make an argument against using race as a factor in admissions, regardless of whether or not Asian-Americans are, in fact, being discriminated against: “It is terrible corrosive to use race as an important factor in what are superficially (disingenuously?) described as meritocratic evaluations. Perhaps the most objectionable outcome is to produce a distribution of students on campus whose intellectual strength is strongly correlated to their race.”

Race, meritocracy, and affirmative action are all sensitive subjects, but the discrimination Asians may (or may not) be facings is an under-explored aspect of the issue, and further investigations may strengthen the “anti-affirmative action” case.

Hui Soo Chae Says:
Tue, 2012-02-07 02:52

Fred, check out this story by the AP (not Alex Park) on how Asian American college applicants are choosing not to check the "Asian" box.

Fred Rossoff Says:
Tue, 2012-02-07 09:41

I once checked the "choose not to self-identify" box in a race question for a job application... I didn't get the job.

Joann Agnitti Says:
Tue, 2012-02-07 14:58

I've always hated the applications that only let you select ONE race. It's like picking your favorite child! >:o

Alex Park Says:
Mon, 2012-02-06 09:07

The extreme opposite from the "holistic" way to do things, is how Korea and some other Asian countries do it; that is, take one supertest that takes place once a year, rate everyone based on how they do on that, rate everyone based on how they do in school, and admit them only if they are above the cutoff line for that year. Of course, it is changing a little bit, but this used to be the ONLY way of getting in to colleges for the longest time.

Fred Rossoff Says:
Mon, 2012-02-06 09:44

It's interesting how stable selection criteria for the elite can be. I remember back in grade school reading a book called "The Examination" set in Ming Dynasty China where all the protagonist has to do to become a very high-status government administrator is score very high on the regional and then national examination. (His test was basically the equivalent of the Verbal/Writing sections of the SAT, plus a lot of memorization, so I suppose "the rise of math" is one change).

I wonder if English Universities back in the Early Modern period were on the holistic track.