Phi Beta Cons

Hollowly holistic

The Chronicle of Higher Education and Los Angeles Times report today that — surprise! — UCLA’s new “holistic” admissions policy has resulted in more African American and fewer Asian admittees (whites and Latinos stayed about the same). The Times article quotes a properly skeptical Ward Connerly, and the best part of the Chronicle article is the last paragraph:

Although the new admissions policy is supposed to take into account disadvantages each student has faced, there was actually a decline in the number and share of admitted students who are the first in their families to attend college and coming from households that make less than $30,000 annually. Last year, the university admitted 1,426 such students, or 24 percent of those who applied. This year, it admitted 1,027, or about 17 percent of those who applied.

There’s nothing wrong in theory with holistic review, but of course this approach always seems to be adopted — doesn’t it? — when the school wants to increase the percentage of some race and, necessarily, decrease the percentage of some other race. If the aim of a selection policy is to help

one race and hurt another, that makes it discriminatory, even if it is facially neutral. Consider, for example, grandfather clauses in the bad old days of black disenfranchisement. Worse, there seems to be little doubt that the reason these more subject criteria are being adopted is because they are more susceptible to manipulation in favor of some racial groups and against others. Consider, for example, literacy tests in those same bad old days — and consider the paragraph from the Chronicle today quoted above. As a practical matter, then, holistic review is hollowly racialist.


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