Affirmative Action info coming soon

This isn’t a debate, but I didn’t want to resurrect the lengthy old thread regarding this topic. I had left a recent thread with the promise that I would be speaking with a friend of mine who had worked in college admissions for many years and see if he could offer some insight on the process. He did provide me with a ton of information, and I just want to clear with him what I can and cannot repeat here on the SDMB. Suffice to say that some of what he says confirms the suspicions of IzzyR and others concerning less-qualified minority applicants, while some things were quite surprising (e.g., the biggest beneficiaries of “affirmative action” in college admissions are male athletes of all colors; the group benefitting the least is poor women).

Thanks for the heads up, pldennison.
::begins girding for baby/bathwater debate::

OK, I got permission to use the following comments. I have edited them to remove the names of particular colleges. These come from someone who worked as a professional in the college admissions process for about a decade, at two private and prestigious colleges.

I make no comment on these statements for now; I just wanted to present them as promised, and let the debate flow as it may.

If anybody wants, I will be happy to go back to him for clarification on any of these statements, or get him to post here himself.

Since we’re dealing with generalities here, some clarification and concrete examples from your friend are desirable. For instance, how much “more qualified” are the non-minority applicants he feels are being unfairly excluded? (In the famous Bakke case, a few of the black students admitted to med school ahead of him had C averages in college, as compared to his straight As). Is the disparity ever that great now?

Your friend appears to be saying that affirmative action should not benefit males. What’s his reasoning there?

Some comments:

  1. In what way are women the “most hurt”? Is this solely due to affirmative action for men? (To what extent is this done?)

  2. I don’t think the athletes have anything to do with affirmative action. (I see that the guy hedges his language in apparent recognition of this). The schools let them in to help the schools athletic programs out. Debatable, perhaps, but not affirmative action. they are being let in because they have something to offer (not merely who they are).

  3. Jackmannii, I think he means that males are favored over women (there’s a growing shortage of men in colleges these days). Correct me if I’m wrong pld.

I’m not at all suprised that athletes are STILL getting slip through admissions…just recently Michael Vick was drafted into the NFL from Virginia Tech. He’d been there for two years. Now I’d always thought that Tech had a pretty good rep as schools go. But then Virginians are very proud of their schools anyway. (Snobbish sometimes) Why it shocked me to see this guy on TV and he couldn’t put two sentences together I don’t know. My nine year old has a better vocabulary, and much better pronunciation. He had been at Tech for two years! Playing football of course. Let’s not call letting in athletes affirmative action, that’s been going on a lot longer. Just because so many of them happen to be black does not make this process anything close to AA. A detestable practice maybe, but not AA. I don’t think these school would care if the guy is plaid as long as he can handle a ball and help them win the penant.


Since schools universally lose money on athletic program spending, what exactly is it these athletes are offering the school?
And if these athletes are taking the place of others eligible for affirmative action programs, then in what sense is their admission not affirmative action?

I think they make money on some sports and lose on others. I’ll bet that the guys who have the real edge in admissions are the ones from the sports that make money. But even for the others, they are obviously adding something (student interest, school pride, alumni connections, etc.) That’s why they are getting in. (What do you think?)

Something of a stretch there, don’t you think?

I should mention, in regards to the portion regarding athletes, that the specific schools being discussed here are both Div. III schools, and neither is high-profile in any sport in which they participate.

Keep in mind that Div. III schools do not offer NCAA/athletic scholarships, so if athletes at these schools are cruising through the admissions and financial aid processes without following the rules, they are taking merit and academic scholarships as well as, probably, other need-based aid.

If they are losing money on the programs (which I am not convinced of), they are very likely gambling that they will make money because of the programs–at least if they can put together a winning season.

A huge source of college revenue is the endowment, generally funded by donations of the alumni. In an awful lot of schools, the key to the alumni pocketbooks is a successful sports program. [Anecdote Alert!] My brother attended Michigan State University before and during the Magic Johnson era. After years of disappointing football and basketball seasons, MSU was suddenly in the sports news everywhere. After the first season, MSU suddenly began a huge construction binge that owed nothing to new appropriations from the state legislature.[/Anecdote Alert]
(I have heard stories with similar themes from every college prefessor I know.)

Oh, it’s a good thing we have college sports to raise the price I will pay to send my children to college, while lowering the quality of their education at the same time. At least they’ll have lots of school pride, though. :rolleyes:

Absolutely not, even if you don’t consider athletic admissions affirmative action in and of itself. Suppose two equally qualified athletes (really that should read equally unqualified) are up for admission. One is a minority, one is not. The school has an affirmative action program. Which one gets in?

As for whether college sports lose money for schools in most cases, I could not find a web cite. However, there are many books on the subject, such as The Hundred Yard Lie, and several others by Murray Sperber. Even if tomndebb’s anecdote is true, how often does a Magic Johnson come along? And can you show that the cash the school took in as a result was more than it lost in the long run? Seems about as practical an income source as a lottery ticket to me.

This is turning into a bit of a hijack, but it is possible that college sports are partly responsible for some of the failings of affirmative action admission programs. Instead of academically qualified minority admissions, you have unqualified athletes being used to fill quotas. Remove affirmative action and college sports still steals more seats from academically fit students than affirmative action ever did.

I suspect that one of the reasons that white women are becoming the most discriminated against may have to do with the rise of women’s collegiate sports programs.

Could you put some numbers on that?

Sorry, that was meant as an opinion. I don’t know if anyone has done a study that would provide numbers on that. However, if you reread the OP you will see a simlar statement, ostensibly based on the (admittedly anecdotal) testimony of someone who worked in college admissions.

I went back and asked for more specifics based on questions people have asked in the thread, and here’s what I got.

First, I asked him if the things he’s discussing in terms of his experience are fairly typical of most colleges (he would be in a position to know, having done a lot of travel to meet with students and other college admissions people):

I also asked him about the degree of difference in qualification, which Jackmanii asked about, and he said this:

He said if I want specific case examples or more information, he’ll be happy to provide them.

IzzyR: 3. Jackmannii, I think he means that males are favored over women (there’s a growing shortage of men in colleges these days).

Yeah, that’s what “affirmative action for men” is about: the ratio of female to male applicants just keeps growing (certainly at my university), and the ratio of females to males admitted keeps staying about the same.

However, I wince a little bit at describing it as a “shortage of men”, although that’s certainly how college admissions offices with desired gender/race/ethnic balances to maintain think about it. A big part of the phenomenon is simply the fact that men without college degrees tend to make more money than women without college degrees, so males in high school are more likely to view college as optional. A few typical situations:

  • strongly unionized or independent skilled-trades jobs which don’t require a college degree and still pay pretty well (construction, auto repair) are much more common among men than among women. “Women’s jobs” for high-school graduates are in the much lower-paying categories like nurse’s aide, sales clerk, or receptionist. I believe the median entry-level salary of women with a college degree is still actually less, or only very slightly more, than that of a man without one (can find the cite if you want).

  • going directly from high school to a career in the armed services is still much more common among men than among women (though I don’t know if very many career servicemen these days don’t get a college education out of it at some point along the line).

  • “high tech highschoolers”, the kind who walk straight from their hacking projects in their parents’ basements into high-paid tech jobs, are much more likely to be boys than girls. (I’m not sure this is a significant portion sizewise of the college-aged crowd, though.)

And of course, the majority of young people jailed during the prison expansion of recent years are male. But other than that, what you call a “shortage of men” in higher ed isn’t some weird extinction of the species Vir collegialis, but is mostly due to the fact that the investment in a college education is more apt these days to look like a paying proposition to women than to men.

(And by the way, I rather agree with pld’s informant that the least constructive kind of “affirmative action” break you can give an applicant is to forgive poor grades, especially from a high-quality school, and especially after the first year or so of high school. Yes, there are lots of biases and problems that disadvantaged kids have to contend with, but someone who has not learned how to get at least solid high B’s after a couple of years in a good school where the teachers really work to challenge and motivate students is going to be caught very off guard by the demands of college, particularly a “selective” college.

And I completely agree with the conclusion that the worst served by such policies tend to be athletes. Another problem that he doesn’t mention is that of social adjustment: college athletes who’ve been coaxed to a school that they don’t really like and aren’t really prepared for sometimes form a rather antisocial, if not downright hostile, clique with a “we’re-not-really-part-of-your-stupid-school” mentality that, especially after a few brewskis, can lead to some very unfortunate incidents. I gnash my teeth every time I read a letter from some rich old fart in an alumni magazine complaining how horribly the football team did in their last game and how they’re going to stop their contributions if the university can’t do better on the field. It’s those idiots (and how the hell did they ever graduate from college if all they cared about was football? the folks who moan about how much better higher education used to be in the old days really make me laugh) who do the most to perpetuate the affirmative-action-for-athletes problems.)