People like Abigail Fisher KILL ME. It is hysterical how much backtracking people like her would do in three and a half seconds if they knew how overrepresented wealth, whiteness, and privilege is in the typical elite college, and how an actual system of “pure merit” woud knock them back on their asses. Stuyvestant High School in New York City, for instance, operates on a single test for their admissions. Nothing else is taken into consideration and if your test score falls below the cutoff point, you don’t get in, period. The Stuyvestant student body is over 70 percent Asian because of this. At the university across the street from me, the typical Asian student has a higher SAT score than any other racial counterpart. If admissions was purely based on scores, they’d make up a much larger proportion of the student body than they do now. As it stands, the University subtly makes sure that the delicate balance of race representation never strays too far from their ideal vision of a properly diverse student body, whatever that means for them (aka, predominantly white).
Dp you hear me, Abigail Fisher? The current system of “individualized merit” does not exist, and was not created, to benefit minority students. Quite the opposite. It came into being because of anti-Semitism. Yes, that’s right. When the SAT test was installed in the early 1900s as the new way to measure admission credentials, the acceptance and subsequent enrollment of qualified Jewish students rose rapidly within a short period at elite universities in the U.S. As a result, WASPs panicked, parents clutched their pearls, and administrators decided to reconfigure the admissions process in a way that would restore the ethnic makeup of the student body to something more consistent with the pre-SAT system. They decided to factor “character and personal qualities” into the application, a measurement conveniently nebulous and subjective enough to drive the Jewish student percentage back down to safer numbers.
And this is the system that was institutionalized and remains to this day. To many universities, affirmative action is one way used to neutralize the apparent advantages this “meritocratic system” gives to wealthier, private-school-attending students who possess the cultural capital to know “what colleges want,” and furthermore, have the time and resources to devote to grooming their resumes. (As one law professor pointed out, “interesting characters” according to colleges is typically inversely related to being poor.) What the typical high-ranking college attempts to do now, is genuinely weigh what disadvantages an applicant could have had coming into the admissions process. Also, affirmative action isn’t as skewed as most people assume for it to be for race, since racial quotas were declared unconstitutional, and students who are accepted still have prove capable of surviving in a rigorous academic environment. And judging by your 1180 SAT score, Abigail, you wouldn’t have made the cut either way. Sorry.
If anyone wants to read an excellent condensed story on the history of college admissions and why it partially is the way it is today, here’s a great article from the New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/10/10/051010crat_atlarge?currentPage=3 (Slight ironic point here — can I note that during the student interview for my NYC liberal arts college, the mere virtue of telling my interviewer that I read the New Yorker would have given me invisible brownie points over an applicant who didn’t? And who do you think is the kind of person who reads or has even heard of the New Yorker?)