Should Harvard Start Admitting Kids at Random?

Now that the topic of discrimination in college admissions has hit the papers again, I thought I should repost this from the sister blog:

Ron Unz provides evidence that Jews are way overrepresented at Ivy League colleges, with Asians-Americans and non-Jewish whites correspondingly underrepresented. Unz attributes this to bias and pressure in the admissions office and recommends that, instead, top colleges should switch to a system based purely academic credentials (he never clearly defines these, but I assume he’s talking about high school grades, SAT scores, and prizes in recognized academic competitions). He recommends that Harvard, for example, get rid of preferences for athletes, musicians, and rich people, and instead reserve one-fifth of their slots based on pure academic merit and with the remaining four-fifth “being randomly selected from the 30,000 or so American applicants considered able to reasonably perform at the school’s required academic level and thereby benefit from a Harvard education.”

A lot would depend on where that lower threshold is set. . . .

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

Andrew Gelman

Andrew Gelman is a professor of statistics and political science and director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University.