Adversity of Diversity
My youngest daughter is applying for college this fall. She tells me how stressed out her classmates are during this process. What alarms me and has with each of my older children, is the overt blaming of Blacks and Hispanics for Asian and Caucasian insecurities about getting accepted to the college of their choice. While these events upset my older children, my youngest daughter thinks its amusing because she knows that when these classmates bemoan that they won’t make it into their preferred colleges and then directly stare at her, she has nothing to do with the acceptance decision. She’s an old soul and pretty mature for her age. Yet I worry because these attitudes carry over into college interactions (or non-interaction) and eventually the workplace. (And that’s another story!)
At less than 10% of her school’s population, blacks and latinos are not displacing many or any students from top-tier college openings, since most of her classmates apply to local in-state universities due to cost. However, of the 37% college age underrepresented minorities (URM) in the US applying to top tier schools, just 19% were admitted freshmen in 2015. Compare this to stats for Asian and Caucasian students, it’s reflective of a society trying to be fair and diverse, yet not succeeding very well.
It’s a game of musical chairs; there aren’t enough openings for everyone who applies. The admissions process for the top tier schools is “very selective” as classified by the College Board. The very definition of selective means that demand is greater than supply. Domestic students are competing with international students for these openings as well. Of note, the percentage of Asian student admissions increased while White student admissions decreased at Ivy League colleges in the last 40 years. Yet Asian students feel their access to the top tier schools is being purposely stifled, and at my children’s schools, both Asians and Whites openly complain of perceived competition for available spots reserved for URM students due to affirmative action.
It’s just tragic to learn that high school students have already adopted the outlook of us versus them at the very beginning of their careers. Sharp skills, hard work and relationships are key to social and economic success in academia, industry and government at all stages for all people. Yet mature adults blame others for perceived impediments to their professional and economic goals from diversity and non-discrimination initiatives in the workplace. Let’s face it, the pyramid is smaller at the top. And everyone wants a competitive edge.
My questions for readers are: Is this learned or primal behavior? Can we educate educated people with facts? Can there be equity at all levels?
Can inclusivity and exclusivity co-exist? I say yes. With purposeful and optimistic policies, the benefits of deliberate diversity in recruiting, admissions and hiring are: “diversity prompts better, critical thinking. It contributes to error detection. It keeps us from drifting toward miscalculation. …..When surrounded by people “like ourselves,” we are easily influenced, more likely to fall for wrong ideas.” Diversity makes us brighter.
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