The New York Times published an article on Friday “Colleges Regroup After Votes Ban Race Preferences” that got me thinking about affirmative action, and college selection. Below is my immediate reaction.
Funny, how the admission office at large public universities cannot seem to learn from their counterparts at athletic offices on the other side of campus. If you want the best talent, you must identify and recruit the talent. Any corporate recruiter who has dealt with the issue of creating a diverse workplace would also advise the same. First the universities must address their ability to identify the talented and qualified minority students in their recruiting area. Second, once identified, the institutions must then persuade them to attend? Many of the states, California & Texas for example, miss the second point when they complain about dropping admissions despite admitting the top 10% throughout the state. Guaranteeing the top 10% of students only lets you identify the students, but does nothing to recruit them.
The more interesting statistic to explain is the substantial percentage of minority students who turn down admissions to large public universities. While it is true that UCLA and Berkeley have declining minority enrollment, it is not true for all UC system schools (UC Riverside has growing diversity statistics). The article states the level of minority admissions at Stanford is at all times highs, which would seem to contradict the notion of a lack of talent. The University of California system should have to explain how among the top third of students, 51% of blacks rejected the acceptance to the UC system.
I believe in the underlying premise which supports the goal of a diverse student body- the talent and personal values necessary to make a positive contribution to society are uncorrelated with race. The problem is that too many admission criteria are in fact highly correlated with race. Unstated in this article, but previously stated in a LA Times article on this subject, UCLA and Berkeley each have over 40% of their student body of Asian ethnicity, which only represents approximately 10% of high school graduates. The admission’s office at UCLA does not have a problem attracting minority students, what it has is an over reliance on flawed criteria that produces such lop sided results.
Admissions offices want things too easy. They generally have more qualified students (majority and minority) than they have available positions. The problem is in the selection (criteria highly correlated with race) and recruitment (lack of broad understand of how to create a welcoming environment for a diverse student body).
Removing race-based criteria, on the surface, seems to hurt minority admissions, but in reality, it exposes the weakness of the admission’s process, and the lack of commitment to the entire public.