Readability

Reduced to a stereotype

Some of the smartest peo­ple I’ve ever met were Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity engi­neer­ing students.

I lived in Prince­ton, N.J. for almost exactly twenty-​five years, but was not asso­ci­ated with Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity. Nei­ther I nor my hus­band worked there, we are not alumni, and our son chose another Uni­ver­sity when he was going to college.

I did, how­ever, audit over a dozen under­grad­u­ate classes under the Com­mu­nity Audit­ing Pro­gram. If you were a Prince­ton res­i­dent, you could attend the class lec­tures for $100/​class as long as you sat in the back of the room and kept your mouth shut.

Like Vic­to­rian chil­dren, us audi­tors used to say, we were seen but not heard. Audi­tors had an oppor­tu­nity to observe.

I audited two classes in the Engi­neer­ing School, a school to which you have to apply specif­i­cally, inde­pen­dent from PU. That is, if you are a PU under­grad you can not just trans­fer to Engi­neer­ing, you have to apply, and most likely start as a freshman.

The engi­neer­ing under­grads are excited about their stud­ies in a way other PU under­grads were not, at least the ones in the classes I audited. The engi­neers were unfail­ingly quick and sharp in class, unlike the vast major­ity of the PU under­grads. Give it a decade or so, but I would not be sur­prised if the next Tim Berners-​Lee had been sit­ting a few rows in front of me in engi­neer­ing class.

So after all that audit­ing, I always read with mild curios­ity arti­cles about PU admis­sions. This caught my atten­tion: Asians With “Very Famil­iar Pro­files”: How Princeton’s Admis­sions. Offi­cers Talk About RaceFed­eral inves­ti­ga­tors high­lighted com­ments “asso­ci­ated with Asian stereo­types” as part of a probe into alle­ga­tions of racial bias at the Ivy League school. It all comes down to meet­ing “diver­sity” dictates,

But doc­u­ments obtained by Buz­zFeed News show Princeton’s admis­sions offi­cers repeat­edly wrote of Asian-​American appli­cants as being dif­fi­cult to dif­fer­en­ti­ate, refer­ring to them dis­mis­sively as hav­ing “very famil­iar pro­files,” call­ing them “stan­dard pre­meds,” or “dif­fi­cult to pluck out.”

Of a His­panic appli­cant, an admis­sions offi­cer wrote, “Tough to see putting her ahead of oth­ers. No cul­tural fla­vor in app.” Of a black stu­dent, another said, “Very few African Amer­i­cans with ver­bal scores like this.”

No cul­tural fla­vor in app.” You can bust an aca­d­e­mic gut and shine in extra-​curricular activ­i­ties, but PU won’t allow you the priv­i­lege of pay­ing them $60,000/yr (thereby grad­u­at­ing a quar­ter mil­lion dol­lars in hock) because you lack what they deem “cul­tural flavor.”

Maybe J-​Lo should apply.

At least J-​Lo can afford it.

What it comes down to is, with affir­ma­tive action we are all reduced to a cultural-​racial stereo­type, no mat­ter the tal­ent or the skill of the indi­vid­ual.

Or, as I was told a cou­ple of times over the years I lived in Prince­ton, “but you don’t even look Puerto Rican!” My “cul­tural fla­vor” must have been lacking.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes in U. S. and Latin Amer­ica at Fausta’s blog.

Thomas Sow­ell cov­ered the dele­te­ri­ous effects of affir­ma­tive action in his 2004 Affir­ma­tive Action Around the World: An Empir­i­cal Study. I rec­om­mend you read it, if you haven’t already.

Some of the smartest people I’ve ever met were Princeton University engineering students.

I lived in Princeton, N.J. for almost exactly twenty-five years, but was not associated with Princeton University. Neither I nor my husband worked there, we are not alumni, and our son chose another University when he was going to college.

I did, however, audit over a dozen undergraduate classes under the Community Auditing Program. If you were a Princeton resident, you could attend the class lectures for $100/class as long as you sat in the back of the room and kept your mouth shut.

Like Victorian children, us auditors used to say, we were seen but not heard. Auditors had an opportunity to observe.

I audited two classes in the Engineering School, a school to which you have to apply specifically, independent from PU. That is, if you are a PU undergrad you can not just transfer to Engineering, you have to apply, and most likely start as a freshman.

The engineering undergrads are excited about their studies in a way other PU undergrads were not, at least the ones in the classes I audited. The engineers were unfailingly quick and sharp in class, unlike the vast majority of the PU undergrads. Give it a decade or so, but I would not be surprised if the next Tim Berners-Lee had been sitting a few rows in front of me in engineering class.

So after all that auditing, I always read with mild curiosity articles about PU admissions. This caught my attention: Asians With “Very Familiar Profiles”: How Princeton’s Admissions. Officers Talk About RaceFederal investigators highlighted comments “associated with Asian stereotypes” as part of a probe into allegations of racial bias at the Ivy League school. It all comes down to meeting “diversity” dictates,

But documents obtained by BuzzFeed News show Princeton’s admissions officers repeatedly wrote of Asian-American applicants as being difficult to differentiate, referring to them dismissively as having “very familiar profiles,” calling them “standard premeds,” or “difficult to pluck out.”
. . .
Of a Hispanic applicant, an admissions officer wrote, “Tough to see putting her ahead of others. No cultural flavor in app.” Of a black student, another said, “Very few African Americans with verbal scores like this.”

“No cultural flavor in app.” You can bust an academic gut and shine in extra-curricular activities, but PU won’t allow you the privilege of paying them $60,000/yr (thereby graduating a quarter million dollars in hock) because you lack what they deem “cultural flavor.”

Maybe J-Lo should apply.

At least J-Lo can afford it.

What it comes down to is, with affirmative action we are all reduced to a cultural-racial stereotype, no matter the talent or the skill of the individual.

Or, as I was told a couple of times over the years I lived in Princeton, “but you don’t even look Puerto Rican!” My “cultural flavor” must have been lacking.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes in U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog.

Thomas Sowell covered the deleterious effects of affirmative action in his 2004 Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study.  I recommend you read it, if you haven’t already.