There is a highly controversial article in “The American Conservative” by Ron Unz in which he discusses Ivy League admissions practices. According to Unz, Asians and Asian Americans face discrimination in the highly selective college admissions process (on this point, we’ve said it for years so this is nothing new to our readers). Unz goes so far as to say that the discrimination that was built into the Ivy League admissions process years ago in response to a high number of qualified Jewish applicants is now aimed at Asians and Asian Americans. Years ago, Jewish students who had better grades and scores than their non-Jewish peers were often denied admission to Ivy League universities because of their “holistic review” process. On this point, we don’t believe Unz’ assertion that Asian and Asian Americans are now victim to similar discrimination is a huge stretch by any means.
In his super long editorial, Unz goes on to write about Ivy League admissions officers and their backgrounds. He wants readers to get a better understanding of just who it is deciding on the fates of applicants. In fact, Unz writes, “The job of admissions officer is poorly paid, requires no professional training, and offers few opportunities for career advancement; thus, it is often filled by individuals with haphazard employment records.” Let us be clear — we do not agree with Unz entirely on this statement. Are college admissions officers poorly paid? Yes. Does the job require no professional training? No, they’re trained. What exactly does professional training mean anyway? It’s not as though applicants just start reviewing applications without any guidance. That just doesn’t happen. Do they apprentice like a blacksmith? No. But who does these days? So that point is a bit absurd.
Are there few opportunities for career advancement? Sometimes. But, like in any profession, college admissions counselors often have the chance to advance their careers in college administration. They can rise up in admissions. They can take another university post. It’s not a hard and fast rule that college admissions counselors have no shot to move up in their careers. And what about them having haphazard employment records? Like in most professions, there are folks with seemingly arbitrary career tracks. Are there college admissions counselors who previously worked in camera shops? Sure. Are there advertising executives who previously worked as cashiers at the supermarket? Sure. On this point, Mr. Unz fails to provide us with data across highly selective universities and instead relies on anecdotal evidence.
Anyhow, that’s just a sampling of the controversy brewing in this editorial on Ivy League admissions practices by Mr. Unz. Again, some of it we agree with and some of it we don’t. But it’s important to remember on many points that just because what he’s saying is controversial doesn’t mean he isn’t right.