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A Raw Look at Harvard’s Affirmative Action For White Kids

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A few days ago a team of researchers published a paper about Harvard’s admission policies. In particular, they looked at affirmative action for four different categories of freshman admits: athletes, legacies, “dean’s interest,” and children of faculty. These are referred to as ALDC admits.

The question at hand is how many applicants who were otherwise unqualified were admitted because of their ALDC status. This is usually shown as a percentage or a distribution, but I think it’s useful to show it as a raw number too. For those who want to follow along, here’s an example for white applicants taken from Table 10 of the paper:

  • Total ALDC admits: 2,179
  • Percent who were otherwise qualified: 26%
  • Number of unqualified applicants who were admitted as ALDC: 1,612

Here are the numbers for all applicants:

It turns out that more than 40 percent of Harvard’s incoming white students from the classes of 2014-19 benefited from their ALDC status compared to about 15 percent for other ethnic groups. As a result, 1,612 otherwise unqualified whites were admitted, triple the number of every other group combined.

Keep this in mind the next time you hear someone complain about affirmative action for black or Hispanic students crowding out better qualified white students. Whatever sort of affirmative action Harvard may have for marginalized groups, the raw numbers come nowhere even close to the preferences they already give to white applicants. And needless to say, there’s no reason to think that Harvard is unique in this regard. This is standard stuff at elite universities across the country. If there’s anyone being screwed by affirmative action, it sure isn’t white kids.

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istoner
21 days ago
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Near Miss

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https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eupodotis_cristata_-_1820-1860_-_Print_-_Iconographia_Zoologica_-_Special_Collections_University_of_Amsterdam_-_UBA01_IZ17200037.tif

I just bumbled into this: In 1978 Isaac Asimov judged a limerick contest run by Mohegan Community College in Norwich, Conn. He chose this as the best of 12,000 entries:

The bustard’s an exquisite fowl,
With minimal reason to growl:
He escapes what would be
Illegitimacy
By grace of a fortunate vowel.

It was written by retired Yale official George D. Vaill. Asimov said, “The idea is very clever and made me laugh, and the one-word fourth line is delightful.”

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istoner
26 days ago
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Please Rate

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istoner
28 days ago
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Four stars out of all the stars in all of the galaxies.
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Unintentional haikus of the philosophers

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Eliran Haziza, a graduate student in philosophy at the University of Toronto, has written a program to strip occurrences of "unintentional haiku" from corpuses of text. When run on the philosophers of our time, the program locates various gems,which Mr....
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istoner
31 days ago
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The Russell, Lewis on time travel, and Hume are especially great.
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Pluto in True Color

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What color is Pluto, really? What color is Pluto, really?


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istoner
33 days ago
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Advice for new college students

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A couple of years ago the Midwest conference of the Junior State of America asked me to be their keynote speaker. I still have no idea at all why they invited me – it seemed and still seems rather unlikely. I stupidly agreed, and then agonized about what to talk about. The organizers suggested talking about how I got to where I am, but, although there are parts of how I got to where I am that are quite interesting, where I am is not interesting at all. Then, mercifully, the Thursday before the talk two of my students brought one of their friends to meet me in my office. (You can tell how exciting their lives must be!) And they told me to tell her my tips for how to get the most out of college. I was put on the spot and tried, desperately, to remember what my tips are. Fortunately, I did remember. And then I thought, oh, actually, I could talk on Saturday about how to get the most out of college. It’s something I know something about, and that would actually be useful to audience!

Since it is the time of year that some of our readers in the northern hemisphere are getting ready to welcome students to college (I am teaching a small first-year class, which I only do once every three years), and other readers are getting ready to send their kids off to college and, conceivably, one or two readers are getting ready to go off to college themselves, I thought I’d excerpt the part of the talk where I actually give the advice. About 2/3rds of the talk was about what the point of going to college is and I’ll skip most of that, but just say that the point that I gave them was to learn knowledge, skills, attitudes and dispositions that will enable them to make a better contribution to the good of all of us; and to enjoy that learning itself. I know going to college has other purposes, but these are the ones that get neglected by the college recruiters, and school counsellors, and movies, that shape their ambitions about college.

Here goes with the concrete advice:

Work in the summers to support yourself, but during the school year devote yourself as much as you can to schoolwork. Bear in mind that while there’s such a thing as getting into too much debt, there’s also such a thing as working too many hours. Seek balance (Finding it is easier said than done).

Choose classes on the following bases: does the subject interest you?; how big is the class? (seek out small classes even if you are shy; especially if you are shy, because that’s how you’ll learn not to be); how good is the professor?

How do you know who’s a good professor?: Here are some questions to ask about them. Do they engage students? Are they open to a full range of disagreement? (Avoid professors who preach at you, unless you strongly disagree with them, in which case maybe you can learn from them). Do they make you write a lot? (if so, that’s a positive, not a negative) Do they seem to enjoy teaching? (plenty of people enjoy things they are not good at, but very few people are good at things they don’t enjoy). Find out from your friends. Or from your enemies if that’s the best you can do!

Some people enter college knowing what they are going to major in. That’s great for them. But it’s not normal. Most people have to find what they’re interested in. Beyond taking good classes, and really engaging with the material, to discover how interesting you find it, I don’t have lots of advice about this. But, don’t major in something you find uninteresting – you’ll be wasting time.

If you choose a professionally-oriented major, don’t restrict yourself to that major. Take classes in the liberal arts that will challenge and interest you. (See next point). Conversely, if you choose a liberal arts major, don’t restrict yourself to the liberal arts, take some professionally oriented classes to learn about professional fields. (This can be more difficult, because professional schools sometimes restrict enrollments to interesting classes to their majors).

The key skills you need coming out of college are to be able to communicate effectively orally and in writing, and to be able to work on solving problems with people you have not chosen to work with: take classes which give you the requisite technical skills for the field you want to enter, but also take classes in which you’ll do more abstract thinking and which you can’t necessarily see how they’ll be relevant to your career.

Go to office hours. Talk to the professor. Students say ‘but I won’t know what to say”. So here’s what to say. If the material is easy for you go and ask the professor for suggestions of a couple of other things you should be reading. If it is difficult for you, find one or two specific questions to ask about the material. Most professors actually want to talk to students in their office hours. Some don’t – but there’s no need to be embarrassed if that happens – if they are so self-centered that they don’t want to talk to you, they’ll forget who you are as soon as you leave.

For every hour in class spend two hours studying, when you are awake and alert.

Take classes with your friends, and if you’re in a class without friends, make friends in class, and talk to them (and your family) about the material you are learning about. The point is to make learning feel like leisure: doing schoolwork without feeling that you are doing it, which is what happens when you talk about the material with people you want to spend time with anyway. (I this is really obvious advice, but am surprised how many students don’t just automatically do it, and how few of them have been told to do this by their parents).

You are all interested in politics (This was the Junior States of America). Do yourselves, and the rest of us, a favor. Make friends with people you disagree with about politics. And about religion. And about particular issues. And who are from a different social class than you are. And who are from a different race than you. Exploit the diversity you find, to have a richer more diverse array of friends, and talk to them about things that matter. Learn that you can really disagree, and really argue, about things that really matter, with people who really are your friends.

Feel free to add, subtract, or substitute (which, I suppose, involves adding and subtracting). And to pass the advice on to people who may need it which, if you teach at a college, includes the first year students you will be teaching.

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istoner
55 days ago
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Always a pleasure to read Harry B. on teaching.
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