Tag Archives: La Shawn Barber

CalTech Admissions: This is What a Meritocracy Looks Like (But It Ain’t Pretty for Everyone)

Caltech Meritocracy JadeLuckClub Asian American College Admissions Discrimination against Asians

Students of Asian descent often receive no boost in admissions, unlike blacks and Hispanics, although they are racial minorities.

In fact, admissions officers set the bar higher for these students. 

“Applicants to Caltech are clearly seen as representing only themselves and their own individual merit and achievement, not their race or their ethnic group.”

from American Civil Rights Blog, Caltech’s Meritocracy by La Shawn Barber

This was published on the American Civil Rights blog. For those who believe in Affirmative Action, take a look at Caltech who firmly rejects the idea of admissions as a vague and nebulous “catch up” game for some minority groups, while ignoring a negative impact on other minority groups. Affirmative Action is a party that Asian Americans don’t want to attend anymore. No thank you! There are very few colleges that buck the notion of Affirmative Action but Caltech is the gold standard for an admissions policy built around merit, judging each candidate as an individual. Using test scores. In fact, if you scored a 775 out of 800 on the math portion of the SAT, 75% percent of your Caltech classmates will have outscored you. This is what doesn’t matter: legacy, athletic ability, and ethnicity. Here’s what does matter: a passion and ability  for math and science.

How does this play out from an Affirmative Action perspective? The result is:  Asians 40%, Caucasians 39% , Hispanics 6%, Non-Hispanic Black, less than 1%. (Class of 2008 data listed below). See my other post on Affirmative Action Hurts Caucasians and Asians.

This is not to say that I think that this is the correct distribution of minorities NOR that this is the right system for all colleges and universities. In fact, I do NOT think that less than 1% Non-Hispanic Black is good for society or for diversity within a college. Nor is 6% Hispanic high enough.  CalTech is unique because it is a specialized math and science focused college that also can get funding from outside of its alumni base BECAUSE it is a prestigious math and science powerhouse. My point of this article is just to illustrate what a meritocracy looks like in its pure state and to show that the percentage of Asians is quite high.

For all the posts on Don’t Identify as Asian When You Apply to College, click here.

Caltech’s Meritocracy

by LA SHAWN BARBER on 12/23/2010

Princeton University’s Russell K. Nieli, author of the forthcoming book, Wounds that Will Not Heal: Affirmative Action and Our Continuing Racial Divide, revealed that students of Asian descent often receive no boost in admissions, unlike blacks and Hispanics, although they are racial minorities. In fact, admissions officers set the bar higher for these students. In a pure meritocratic sense, the practice is ill-conceived.

Wounds that Will Not Heal: Affirmative Action and Our Continuing Racial Divide by Russell K. Nieli

In a recent essay at Minding the Campus, Nieli writes that America’s elite colleges and universities capitulated to ridiculous demands during the 1960s and, among other things, lowered their standards. The California Institute of Technology, or Caltech, stands alone among the elite. By admitting students based on grades and scores and not on race, the school blows the rest out of the water. An excerpt (emphases added):

“What this means is that at Caltech, there are no dumb jocks, dumb legacies, or dumb affirmative action students. It is clear from its published statistics that the non-academic criteria that preoccupy admissions committees at all other elite universities count for little at this beacon of pure meritocracy. Perhaps the most striking difference from all other elite universities — including institutions like MIT and the University of Chicago which forgo athletic recruitment — is Caltech’s complete indifference to racial balancing. In a state and a region of the country with the largest Hispanic population, Caltech’s entering freshmen class in 2008 was less than 6 percent Hispanic (13 out of 236). The unwillingness to lower standards for a larger black representation is even more striking — less than 1 percent (2/236) of Caltech’s 2008 entering freshmen were listed as ‘non-Hispanic black.’ This ‘underrepresentation’ of blacks and Hispanics, of course, was more than made up for by the huge ‘overrepresentation’ of Asians. Only 4 percent of the U.S. population, Asians made up a whopping 40 percent of the incoming freshmen class in 2008, a slightly larger proportion than the 39 percent figure for whites. Applicants to Caltech are clearly seen as representing only themselves and their own individual merit and achievement, not their race or their ethnic group. As a professor at Caltech who has taught there for many years explained to me in an email, ‘We try, like our competitors, very, very hard to find, recruit, and nurture underrepresented minorities but we won’t bend our standards.’”

Let’s read these words again: “Applicants to Caltech are clearly seen as representing only themselves and their own individual merit and achievement, not their race or their ethnic group.”

“Applicants to Caltech are clearly seen as representing only themselves and their own individual merit and achievement, not their race or their ethnic group.”

Such should be the aspiration of every individual, regardless of race, ethnic background, or class. We should aspire to be assessed and judged based on our merit and achievement, with race playing absolutely no part in an admissions or hiring or contracting decision. In Caltech’s case, it matters little if only two blacks are admitted for a particular year. Those students know, without a doubt, their grades and scores got them in.

According to Nieli, Caltech doesn’t do legacy admissions, either.

“If you can’t meet the stellar performance requirements and show an intense love for science and mathematics, Caltech isn’t interested in you and will not lower its standards. When you apply to Caltech the admissions committee is interested only in your intellectual merit and passion for learning. It has little or no interest in your family heritage, your race, or your skill in slapping around a hockey puck.”

I don’t know about you, but those words sound like music to my ears. Oppressed people longed to be treated like this! Only when race plays no part in an admissions or hiring or contracting decision can individuals truly strive to excel, knowing their race or ethnicity will provide neither benefit nor detriment to their prospects.

This kind of “rugged individualism” scares some people. For others, it’s part of life’s joy. There are no guarantees of success, but the game is yours to lose. It’s very frustrating to me that people don’t see this and instead choose to believe the world is against them because of their race and rely on race-based government policy to prop them up.

To view Nieli’s book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

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