On Monday night, activist, politician, physicist and former editor of the American Conservative Robert Unz presented on his article, “The Myth of American Meritocracy.” The lecture, which was made possible by the 2014 Uncomfortable Learning lecture series, centered on Unz’s views about perceived inequalities in the admissions processes at elite colleges.
Unz began by explaining that the main problem with the discussion about the admissions processes is the media’s focus on conservative versus liberal ideals. According to Unz, conservative values emphasize the need for a meritocracy, while liberal values emphasize a need for diversity on college campuses. However, “both meritocracy and diversity are trumped by outright corruption,” Unz said.
One piece of this “corruption,” Unz explained, is that elite universities no longer publish their applicant pool statistics. “What you really have here is evidence that elite universities have been disingenuous about how they admit students,” Unz said. Specifically, Unz believes that elite universities hide these data in order to cover up discriminatory practices that they use in the admissions processes.
Unz focused on Asian American students applying to elite universities. “Most Ivy League schools have shown no increase in the percentage of Asian American students in the last 20 years, even though in that time, the population [of Asian Americans in the United States] has doubled,” Unz said. “The easiest way for the Ivy Leagues to prove they aren’t discriminating in their admissions process is to reveal their applicant data.”
Unz suspects that if these data were released, it would become clear that Asian Americans are being discriminated against in admissions processes of elite universities.
Unz then explained how these potentially discriminatory practices affect the United States as a whole. “Top investment banks really only hire from the top universities,” Unz said. “The elite that control this country are coming from these top universities, like Harvard, Yale and Princeton. But these top universities are selecting their students based on unfair criteria.” According to Unz, these increasingly “unfair criteria” for admissions could partially explain disasters like the stock market crash of 2008. Unz explained that if certain under-qualified students are admitted to top universities, then the elite that controls American societies might similarly lack proper credentials.
Unz also pointed out other forms of corruption in the college admissions process, including “outright bribes.” Additionally, Unz said that “if you go to an elite private school and admission officers from elite institutions are friendly with your high school administration” and that friendship garners an individual access to an elite education, then that “is just a matter of corruption.” Unz also discussed the possibility for personal bias on the part of admissions officers.
“An argument that has been made in the past is that if a university is private, can’t they do what they want?” Unz said. “Well, a lot of universities receive mass amounts of government funding, so if a mass amount comes from taxpayers, then it’s not okay to practice discriminatory admissions processes. But if private institutions want to be discriminatory [in their admissions processes], then they need to stand up and admit that they practice racial discrimination, and deal with the consequences.”