Edward J. O'Boyle

A 17-year old high school senior wants to know why he was refused admission to one of the best schools of engineering in America. The university did not specify the reason in the letter he received so he is left with this question. WHY?

He is an out-of-state resident but the university did not offer that reason for turning him away. They might have claimed that his academic record is below their standards. They didn’t because his record is superior to almost every other student in America. He is a National Merit Finalist which places him in the top 0.9 percent of all high school seniors. Could he have fallen outside the scope of preferred student applicants as identified in the university’s Diversity-Equity-Inclusion plan? He doesn’t know because the university provided no details in their rejection letter.

The Obama administration promoted the Diversity-Equity-Inclusion plan for higher education in a 86-page report prepared in November 2016 and available at

http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/advancing-diversity-inclusion.pdf. It has been adopted widely at colleges and universities across the United States.

Equity is a value-laden concept whose meaning varies from one person to the next including the persons who sit on university admissions committees and decide which students to admit and which ones to reject. Equity is value-laden because the person who applies it to an admissions candidate is required to provide evidence as to the extent of the disadvantage suffered by each applicant according to these diversity-equity-inclusion criteria: is he physically disabled, from a lower-income class family, LGTBQ, first in the family to go to college, black, female, ethnic such as Cajun or Creole?  

Does the evidence consist of the number of check marks for each specific disadvantage from 1 to whatever number represents the total number of states of disadvantage that is set forth in the university’s Diversity-Equity-Inclusion plan?

Why then are some students admitted on legacy considerations? Why are a select few admitted for their special intercollegiate athletic prowess? Or should we say recruited for their athletic prowess made easier by the transfer portal?

How does a university Diversity-Equity-Inclusion plan circumvent excluding many academically qualified students? Does it have to do with the limited resources available to the university setting a limit on the number of students admitted? Wouldn’t basic fairness be better served if all applicants who met the university’s bottom-line academic qualifications, regardless of race, creed, color, gender and so on, were entered into a pool where they are drawn by random for admission up to the limit on new admissions as set forth by the university beforehand with no special deals for any applicant?

No privilege, no preferential treatment, no discrimination, no favoritism, no recruiting for any purpose or reason. This kind of admission plan where every applicant has exactly the same chance of being admitted would end all the bickering over the details, impacts, and backroom deals concerning diversity-equity-inclusion.

Would that satisfy the coaching staffs of the university athletic programs? Would that satisfy big university donors and boosters? Would that satisfy the parents of National Merit scholars? Would it satisfy the directors of the university orchestra, chorus, and marching band? Would it satisfy those members of the faculty whose own son or daughter is not admitted?

Under the random-selection admission plan, equity would be addressed once any given student who has been admitted needs support in terms of reduced tuition and fees, extra time needed to complete in-class exams, additional tutoring, access to university buildings and facilities, or any other special needs. These equity-based costs would be shouldered by the university, not from additional costs imposed on tuition/fee-paying students, but from a special fund of monies raised and earmarked specifically for the purpose of helping needy students. Any shortfall of monies could be borrowed from the university endowment fund with a commitment to repay those borrowed funds in the short-run future.

These arrangements would achieve diversity, equity, and inclusion without denying anyone academically qualified from having an equal opportunity for being admitted.

Consider the inconsistency if not downright hypocrisy of admitting students on the basis of its Diversity-Equity-Inclusion plan and at the same time recruiting other students, many with questionable academic credentials but all with considerable athletic potential, to play on the university’s intercollegiate sports teams. None of these student-athletes are recruited because they help make the university a more diversified, or equitable, or inclusive institution.

Consider the difference between the university that focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion with the exclusive nature of the professional orchestra where, for example, the first chair in the violin section is the best violinist. Where the best players at their positions on the professional baseball team are the ones the manager selects for his game-day lineup.  Where the best referees in the NFL are chosen to referee the Super Bowl.  

Our 17 year old wants to know WHY is it necessary to disadvantage him in order to advantage someone else, when he had nothing to do with anyone else’s disadvantage? At the university shouldn’t diversity mean intellectual diversity of the left-brain/right-brain type, or the linear vs. circular way of thinking, or the inherently skeptical mind vs. compliant mind? At the university how is inclusion achieved when some are included and others are not? At the university, what ideal is served by equity, which means showing favoritism to some, if it is not to help achieve every student’s maximum developmental potential when that includes learning to treat others without favoritism? Further, what does equity teach about discrimination to applicants who have been turned away for reasons of favoring one class of applicants over them?

Many universities presently allow student applicants to NOT submit their SAT or ACT score which means that some students will be admitted without any standardized evidence as to their academic standing alongside their peers. More importantly that exemption signifies that a student who is physically disabled, from a lower-income class family, LGTBQ, first in the family to go to college, black, female, or of ethnic origins now has a relative advantage over a student with none of those characteristics but has a very high SAT or ACT score.

For years high school students have been told over and over to prepare for and do well on the SAT or ACT because their score is all important for admission to the college of their choice. The reality today is that academic qualifications of American students matter less in a world which is becoming more and more driven by technological and scientific achievement.

WHY?

Edward J. O’Boyle can be reached at 381-4002 or edoboyle737@gmail.com.

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