Sunday’s Platform Address was from one of our own, Sam Rosenblum on the topic of, “To Affirm Affirmative Action: On the Ethics and Politics of College Admissions.” Sam grew up in the Bergen Society and is a Sunday School Graduate. After graduation form one of those “highly selective colleges,” he worked in their admissions office for two years where he helped recruit new students and was part of the committee that decided who got in and who didn’t. He is currently working on a Ph.D. in Political Theory at another of those highly selective schools .
In an address that cut both ways on the topic, Sam explained that originally, the Ivys and other “elite” schools relied on tests – the precursors to today’s SAT and ACT – to select students, but when Jews began to dominate the tests they adopted what’s known as “holistic admissions” which took into account the reviewer’s subjective assessment of the candidate’s character, and also gave them an excuse to implement the notorious “Jewish quotas.”
(As an aside, a older friend of mine who was a Princeton graduate from I guess the early 1950s once told me that he got into a particularly well known Ivy, call it X, “when X decided to start accepting Jews”. Another older friend of mine, a Ph.D. chemist, told me that he originally wanted to go to Medical School at a certain prestigious New York school but fell victim to their Jewish quotas.)
In today’s time Sam pointed out that many people argue, for example, that Asian students in particular may be victimized by race based affirmative action because as a group they do so well on standardized tests that they are in effect denied spots to make room for minority students.
Nevertheless, Sam made a strong point that the simple reliance on what we call racial identity can unfairly categorize students and put them into a box that does not fairly identify their capabilities and futures. He instead argued for a different use of race in the admissions process, one in which race is used not as a mark that boxes in students, but as a frame for admission deans to contextualize their applicants’ accomplishments, and to encourage them to chart new, idiosyncratic paths in college outside of the boxes into which they have been classified.