Hide the Ball: Columbia U Becomes First Ivy League School To Permanently Eliminate Required Standardized Admissions Testing
As affirmative action likely comes to an end later this SCOTUS term, higher ed will not give up its obsession with racial preferences, it’ll just eliminate the key type of evidence relied upon by the Asian students in the Harvard case: Standardized test scores.
The U.S. Supreme Court has under consideration the Harvard and UNC cases that puts up for decision whether or not racial affirmative action will be allowed to continue. The oral argument on October 31, 2022, did not go well for the universities:
During today’s oral argument in the cases of Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina and Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, Justice Kavanaugh, joined by Justices Barrett and (to a lesser extent) Gorsuch, hammered counsel about whether that 25-year mark is a hard deadline. Justices also asked how to measure the success of diversity efforts and how the Court should respond if “diversity” could not be achieved by race-neutral means at the end of 25 years. Justice Alito also seemed dissatisfied with responses to his questions about, how much diversity is enough, implying the hunt for a “diverse” student body was just a quota by another name….
Justice Barrett asked Harvard’s counsel, Seth Waxman, whether the university’s admissions policies had changed appreciably in the last fifty years. No, Waxman replied. In that case, Barrett followed up, how should we think there’s an end point? “We’re getting closer,” Waxman insisted….
Justices Thomas and Alito and Chief Justice Roberts seemed generally skeptical of allowing racial classifications. Thomas repeatedly asked for a clear explanation and evidence that “diversity” offers educational benefits; he was unconvinced by the responses from counsel for the universities.
The Chief Justice asked, doesn’t racial classification make the point that race matters? He does not seem to believe that squares with the concept of equal protection. Cameron Norris, petitioner’s counsel in the Harvard case, played into that concern in his rebuttal comment. Racial classifications cause resentment and are very harmful, he opined.
Justice Alito implied racial classifications were so broad as to be meaningless. He also suggested they were too easily caught up in subjective self-identifications.
The Legal Insurrection Foundation filed an Amicus Brief urging the SCOTUS to hold universities to the same standard applied to others:
The grand judicial experiment of excusing racial discrimination in university admissions in the hope it would promote the educational objective of diversity of viewpoint has failed, and accordingly, this Court should overrule or modify its holding in Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003) (“Grutter”). Despite the Court permitting the use of race in higher education admissions, viewpoint diversity is increasingly endangered on campus. Since Grutter, the range of viewpoints permitted on campus, particularly on matters regarding race, has narrowed. It’s time to return to the constitutional prohibition against racial discrimination without an exception for education.
I also argued against racial preferences at a debate at Cornell the week before the SCOTUS oral argument, and (get ready for it) . . . the majority of students in attendance at the non-partisan event agreed with me in a secret ballot vote (I think the result may have differed if students feared putting their names on the vote):
Thousands of higher ed institutions and professors filed their own briefs, including Cornell, insisting that racial preferences were needed to achieve a diverse racial mix, and that such a racial mix justified racial preferences. Do you think they will give up racial preferences just because SCOTUS says so?
I don’t think so. “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” is so deeply embedded in the philosophy and bureaucracy of higher ed, that racial preferences undoubtedly will continue. That discrimination will be hidden even better. Remember, it was the shocking statistics as to admission of Asian student that was the primary evidence for students in the Harvard case:
“an Asian American in the fourth-lowest decile has virtually no chance of being admitted to Harvard (0.9%); but an African American in that decile has a higher chance of admission (12.8%) than an Asian American in the top decile (12.7%).”
Higher Ed is not going to give it up. Many people, including me, long ago predicted that elimination of objective evidence through standardized testing would be the remedy, not elimination of racial preferences.
And so it is coming to pass, with many schools using Covid to go test-optional temporarily, and groups such as the American Bar Association proposing (so far unsuccessfully, but they haven’t given up) removing standardized testing for law school admissions.
Now Columbia University has become the first Ivy League school to make permanent the temporary Covid-inspired policy of not requiring standardized testing. In its announcement, the school stated:
The holistic and contextual application review process for Columbia College and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science is rooted in the belief that students are dynamic, multi-faceted individuals who cannot be defined by any single factor. Our review is purposeful and nuanced—respecting varied backgrounds, voices and experiences—in order to best determine an applicant’s suitability for admission and ability to thrive in our curriculum and our community, and to advance access to our educational opportunities. We have designed our application to afford the greatest possible opportunity and flexibility for students to represent themselves fully and showcase their academic talents, interests and goals. Standardized testing is not a required component of our application.
For students who choose to submit testing, Columbia’s testing policies remain the same. Students who choose not to submit test scores will not be at a disadvantage in our process. We will continue to evaluate all submitted information within an individualized application review process that considers the unique combination of circumstances shaping each applicant’s journey. The rigor of a student’s curriculum, their academic achievement and their demonstrated intellectual curiosity will remain central to our review.
I’m not buying it, and neither are many others:
Yiatin Chu disagrees. She runs Asian Wave Alliance, an organization and political club that advocates for causes on behalf of Asian New Yorkers.
“Everything else besides a standardized test score is subjective,” Chu said. “The S.A.T. and the ACT is the only standardized metric that these colleges have to really be able to evaluate students uneven playing field.”
To the argument that the tests are discriminatory and eliminating them might make colleges more diverse, she doesn’t buy it. In fact, she says it could actually lead to further discrimination when it comes to Asian-American students.
“With [tests] gone, it’s kind of a free for all,” Chu said. “Like whatever you want to pick and choose to select– the student is going to be in the hands of the admissions officer… I see this as furthering the discrimination of many Asian American students.”
The entire US elite system is ditching merit in favor of an affirmative action regime. No test scores for college, no LSAT for law school, soon no MCAT for med school https://t.co/L1JzDFmZCY
— Saagar Enjeti (@esaagar) March 3, 2023
The SAT, LSAT, and MCAT will be dead in a decade. Prepare accordingly
— Saagar Enjeti (@esaagar) January 25, 2023
Let us be very clear: this is being done in order to make it harder to prove in court that the college is discriminating on the basis of race, & for no other reason. https://t.co/wdalVCElA7
— Dan McLaughlin (@baseballcrank) March 5, 2023
Other Ivies are likely to follow Columbia. They watch affirmative action lawsuits work through SCOTUS. Best way to avoid them forever is to have no data to hand over in litigation. Entirely ‘subjective’ metrics as cover for quotas – hard to challenge in court. https://t.co/K159BVHamA
— FischerKing (@FischerKing64) March 3, 2023
The perverse impact of this is that while it may allow undercover racial preferences, it also will benefit the wealthy families who can afford to buy their kids the soft credentials elite schools seem to desire, like personal essays (written by coaches), starting non-profits (actually done by parents), service trips abroad to help the poor ($$$), etc. Elite higher ed will stratify even further and will continue to be a credential, not an education.DONATE
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