April 06, 2007

Bust out the Crystal Ball, Y'all. Admissions are going holistic!

I realize that I am prone to cynicism. However, I don't think my cynical nature is solely responsible for the fact that when I read something like this (may be subscription only, so I've excerpted below):

After adopting a new, "holistic" approach to reviewing applications, the University of California at Los Angeles has reversed a decline in the share of black students in the freshman class it has admitted for the fall, university officials said on Thursday. ...

Prior to the university's adoption of the new admissions policy last year, two application readers reviewed each prospective student's academic records while a third took into account the applicant's outside achievements and any challenges he or she might have overcome. Under the "holistic" approach, every application is read and considered in its entirety by two readers, and the readers give more consideration to the opportunities that had -- or had not -- been available to applicants.

My "cut the academic crap" detector translates it like this:

Okay, we can't overtly take race into consideration in admissions anymore, and we're in trouble because our numbers are askew. Hmmm. Perhaps a new approach is in order, whereby we "closely examine" each and every application, which will give us details about where the students lived and attended school...not that we can figure out someone's ethnic background just from that information or anything. And then we can sort of subjectively triangulate advantages versus disadvantages, and "correct" for the "imbalance," and then, based upon that information and the signs and portents that the Provost sees in the weekly reading of chicken entrails--we make admissions offers!

The mental acrobatics involved here are astonishing. If administrators spent as much time trying to fix the public education machine that perpetuates these problems as they do trying to fix their admissions numbers, maybe they wouldn't have to tie themselves into holistic knots anymore.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at April 6, 2007 10:11 AM
Comments

If administrators spent as much time trying to fix the public education machine that perpetuates these problems as they do trying to fix their admissions numbers, maybe they wouldn't have to tie themselves into holistic knots anymore.

Seems to me that they wouldn't be doing the jobs they're paid to do if they went to work fixing the public schools that need fixing. God knows I don't want my provost doing something other than focusing on the academics at my university.

Posted by: Michael at April 6, 2007 05:12 PM

Taking things too literally is fun. Lets people know the big dog is in the house. Oh, wait, no. Because then they would expect a real dog to be there. Never mind.

Posted by: marc at April 6, 2007 05:39 PM

"The mental acrobatics involved here are astonishing."

Sadly, not. But read Mencken on the 'pedagogues' of eighty years ago; at least academic crap is nothing new.

Posted by: PersonFromPorlock at April 6, 2007 05:55 PM

Marc, BAW is a better writer than that paragraph indicates. I got what she was trying to say; she does funny and pissed off better than most writers these days, but that one just didn't work. Your snark was at least pithy.

Posted by: Michael at April 6, 2007 08:05 PM

No, I don't expect college administrators to fix public schools. It would be nice, however, if occasionally they would own up to the fact that they're stuck: They aren't allowed to have admissions quotas by law, but they get all kinds of criticism when the quotas they aren't allowed to have somehow decrease.

So instead of saying, "look, how about we figure out how to make sure the playing field is actually level," which would no doubt involve social and moral engineering and associated political crapfests, they just gerrymander the admissions process so that they can attain the quotas they aren't supposed to have.

There. Is that clearer? Sometimes, the words, they don't come out quite right. Not surprising, given my overall lack of focus in the past few days.

Sigh. As it is, I will summon my inner Scarlett O'Hara and remember that tomorrow is another day.

And that at least I don't have to make my clothing out of draperies, so I have that going for me...

Posted by: BAW at April 6, 2007 11:39 PM