Why I Quit Recruiting for Princeton

Princeton, like many top Universities, requires a face to face interview of every candidate.  They do this mostly through their alumni network.  I volunteered for this effort for well over a decade, and it was fun to meet and talk to a lot of bright kids.

However, it was becoming clear to me that Asians, with the same qualifications, had a much worse chance of getting in than other similar kids of other ethnicities.   I started getting Asian kids asking me about this and I had some canned answer from the University to give them, but that answer looked like BS to me.  I felt like I was being asked to lie if I told Asian kids they did not face discrimination in the process.

So I quit.  Princeton is a private institution (though it accepts a lot of public money) so I suppose it can pick candidates any way it wants, but that does not mean I have to act as an agent for them if I disagree with what they are doing.

The WSJ has a follow-up today on a couple of cases being made by Asians against Princeton and Harvard admissions:

In 2006 Jian Li filed a complaint with the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights after he was denied admission to Princeton University. Mr. Li, who emigrated from China at age 4, had a perfect score on the SAT and graduated in the top 1% of his high school class. He alleged that Princeton violated civil-rights laws banning discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin. The complaint was initially rejected, but Mr. Li appealed and the government reopened the investigation in 2008. Seven years later, in 2015, the Obama administration, which strongly supported the use of racial preferences in college admissions and obviously took its sweet time reviewing Mr. Li’s case, issued a report exonerating Princeton.

Last year Mr. Blum’s organization filed a public records Freedom of Information Act request with the Education Department to gain access to the same documents that the federal government used to clear Princeton of any wrongdoing. Mr. Blum’s organization represents a group of Asian plaintiffs who are suing Harvard University over its admissions policies. The judge in that case has ordered Harvard to turn over six years of admissions records, and Mr. Blum suspects that the data will show that Harvard is unlawfully capping Asian enrollment.

America’s Asian population has exploded in recent decades, and Asian attendance at highly selective schools with colorblind admissions, such the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley, reflects this demographic trend. At Harvard, however, the percentage of Asian undergrads has remained remarkably consistent for an institution that claims race is not a determining factor in who is admitted. Mr. Blum suspects that Princeton engages in similar shenanigans, but the school has been pressuring the Education Department to deny him the information that he requested more than a year ago.

Concerned that the government was finally going to fulfill the FOIA request, Princeton sued the Education Department on March 17 to block the release of the admissions documents. The suit argues that the material being sought is exempt from FOIA, a claim that the government has rejected. The school also maintains that releasing the data would compromise student privacy, and it likened its admissions process to “trade secrets” that, if exposed, would put Princeton at a competitive disadvantage in attracting students.

Don’t believe it. Admissions officers switch schools all the time, presumably taking knowledge of admissions procedures with them, and the criteria used by elite institutions to evaluate applicants is not the equivalent of an iPhone patent. Nor is student privacy an issue since names, addresses and other personal information can be redacted. Mr. Blum’s organization simply wants the number of Asians who have applied to Princeton, their SAT scores and grade-point averages, and other information that the school used to analyze applicants academically.

What really concerns Princeton is a potential discrimination lawsuit. What ought to concern the rest of us is the apparent determination of elite colleges to punish Asians students for their academic success. Asians have long been the forgotten victims of liberal affirmative-action schemes, subject to unwritten “just for Asian” admissions standards that recall the treatment of Jews in the first half of the 20th century. Princeton wants them to shut up about it. Let’s hope they don’t.

I will say that the act of turning down a perfect SAT is not limited just to Asians, so I don't take that as necessarily proof of discrimination.   Harvard and Princeton (and I suppose other Ivies but I really only know something about these two) seem to take a perverse pleasure in turning down perfect SATs.  I don't have the facts, but I wouldn't be surprised if the admit rate for kids with SAT's one notch short of perfect is better than those with perfect SATs.

My evidence of discrimination is based on years of actually meeting the kids, seeing their scores and resumes, and talking to them about their activities and passions -- and comparing who gets in and who does not.  And, of course, one merely has to look at the percentage of kids with Asian heritage at Princeton and compare it to universities like Berkeley that have color-blind admissions systems.

  • Silent Majority

    There is probably some merit in the assertions about the Ivies, but Berkeley is a bad comparison because of the very high Asian population in the Bay area.

  • joe

    Grutter - where 6A created facts de novo - ignoring the findings of facts at the trial court, where the facts were clearly a quota (see CT's dissent at the SC which pointed out the obvious quota system at UM).

    Look also at Shutte v BAM - the michigan constituional ban on discrimination aka : affirmative action - Sotomayer's dissent joined by Ginsburg - whereby the people should not be entrusted with the power to ban the elites ability to discriminate - especially if it bans the discrimination which the elites believe is proper.

  • Cardin Drake

    The real scandal here is that "holistic admissions" is just a cover to favor the wealthy and well-connected. There is nothing objective about the process at all. If you are from a middle-class neighborhood and public school, your application to Princeton, Harvard, Stanford and Yale is more like a lottery ticket. No matter what your test scores & grades look like, you are almost certainly not getting in. It's not just Asians. There is a reason people pay $40,000 per year to send their kids to elite private high schools, and it's not the quality of the education.

  • sean2829

    The LA Times had an article a couple of years ago about test scores needed to gain admission at Princeton. http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-adv-asian-race-tutoring-20150222-story.html

    "Lee's next slide shows three columns of numbers from a Princeton University study that tried to measure how race and ethnicity affect admissions by using SAT scores as a benchmark. It uses the term “bonus” to describe how many extra SAT points an applicant's race is worth. She points to the first column.
    African Americans received a “bonus” of 230 points, Lee says.
    She points to the second column.
    “Hispanics received a bonus of 185 points.”
    The last column draws gasps.
    Asian Americans, Lee says, are penalized by 50 points — in other words, they had to do that much better to win admission.
    “Do Asians need higher test scores? Is it harder for Asians to get into college? The answer is yes,” Lee says."

    So apparently, someone has quantified the extra height of the hurdle for admission.

  • johnmoore

    We saw something like this 20 years ago when my daughter's class at Xavier (Phoenix) was applying to universities. Some students clearly got a huge boost, based on their known SAT scores and what they got into. There weren't enough Asians to tell about them, but there was no question that Anglos were discriminated against. I saw a few good kids turn into racists - at least for awhile - when they saw this.

    Affirmative Action / Diversity goals / "multiculturalism" - all are very destructive social policies and have had the effect of worsening racial and ethnic tensions in the US.

  • billyjoerob

    So why don't Asians start their own university? It's always amazing to me to hear "but there were Jewish/Asian/etc quotas in the Ivy League" and the thought never occurs to anyone that *you can start your own university.* The Dominos Pizza guy has started exactly one more university than America's Asian population and exactly the same number as America's six million Jews. Mormons no doubt aren't welcome in the Ivy League but that's OK, they started their own universities. The Irish Catholics weren't welcome at Harvard but they started Boston College. That's the American way.

  • kidmugsy

    And yet unaccountably all the snowflake students at Princeton are not pressing for this injustice to be corrected. How can that be?

    Mind you, if you want the Asian youngsters admitted on academic merit you'd have to stop all the affirmative action rubbish for blacks, sons of alumni, daughters of campus philanthropists, sportsmen, and so on. Wouldn't you?

  • mlhouse

    If you think there is discrimination in college admission, try med school. My son scored a 38 on the MCAT (99th percentile), had a 3.75 GPA, and was a starting varsity football player for 2 years. It was a learning experience and the level of corruption in the admission process was remarkable. He finally got accepted to what were essentially the last two schools that he applied to and because of his credentials he got to play them off a bit.

    What is the corruption? The average cost to apply to these schools is about $150. WHile that may seem cheap, when to guarantee admission you basically have to apply to 10 or more schools it adds up. THe corruption comes from the fact that there are literally tens of thousands of applications to most of these schools to be admitted to 200 or so medical school opening. So, lets say your school gets 9,000 applications for medical school for the 120 open spots and you get $150 a pop (this is actual stats from a medical school my son applied for), that is $1,350,000 in revenue received. It is a scam because of those 9,000 applicants more than 8,000 of them never had a chance.

    The entire process covering several interview trips, the costs of testing, and then the applicaiton fees was over $5,000 total. That is completely unfair to begin with and particularly when you consider the affirmative action going on in the process.

    A better way of doing this admission process is to have the colleges go to the students. On the MCAT,or LSAT, you indicate the schools that you are most interested in. Then these schools approach the candidates that they are interested in and believe are qualified. The top schools would obviously chase the top students that express interest in their programs, the middle schools likewise, and the bottom tier schools would look to the lesser qualified.

    BTW, my son is basically at the top of his medical school class, has never scored less than top honors on any test, had the highest score on 3 out of 5 first year final test and was in the top 10 of the class on the remainder of the two, and just scored a 260+ (99th percentile) on the Step 1 board exam, and has been involved in 4 different medical research projects---> his life ticket is punched.

  • Jeff Guinn

    I have a better idea: the ivies ditch their racist admissions policies.

  • jhertzli

    The proper response to discrimination against talented minorities is to go to a formerly second-rate school, make it first rate, win the Nobel Prize, and accept an honorary degree from the school that wouldn't let you in. (Giving a Bronx cheer in your acceptance speech is optional.)

    The only problem is that this is time consuming.

    Meanwhile, non-Asians graduating from Ivy-League schools should have an asterisk after their degree.

  • billyjoerob

    It's pretty well documented that it's actually whites who are underrepresented in Ivy League admissions. See Ron Unz at Unz Review.

    http://www.unz.com/runz/the-myth-of-american-meritocracy/

    Of course it's hard to virtue signal about that so you don't hear anybody complaining that lots of Purdue physics majors should, judged by merit, be attending Harvard.

  • billyjoerob

    I've read that we need more Syrian refugee surgeons, you're saying that American medicine is a cartel run by med schools? That doesn't compute, it's almost as if the constant "labor shortage! we're falling behind in STEM!" stories are a total sham.

  • DirtyJobsGuy

    I see that this year the Ivy;s are touting their percentage of "first generation college" admissions at around 20%! Read this as an alternative to minority/diversity but with the same effect. So if you take that out of the admissions pool, then the legacy quota, divide the rest by 50% women you get a smaller regular guy pool. The legacies can't be cut since not only do they donate, but the true role of the Ivies is to provide access to the networks of government and industry. You can't do that with regular joes and diversity candidates.

  • GU1

    At least athletes have worked hard and actually achieved something. "Affirmative action" for athletes is not based on immutable characteristics and is therefore not nearly as odious as race-based admissions. I'm fine with giving an accomplished athlete a "boost," but they still must be "in the ballpark" academically. I'm not in favor of admitting jocks who can barely tie their shoes, like many big public universities with major sports programs do.

  • obloodyhell

    Ok, explain something to me...

    What stops these kids from denying their "asian" heritage on college admissions?