Princeton Appears To Penalize Minority Candidates for Not Obsessing About Their Race

Buzzfeed obtained some internal admissions documents from Princeton, and I find them eye-opening, but perhaps not for the reasons others have.   The documents were part of an investigation triggered by several Asian-American students who accused the University of discriminating against them -- a claim I find credible from my own experience interviewing candidates.

There is nothing in the released material than convinces me I was wrong about Asian-American recruiting, but I want to leave that question aside for today and highlight something I have not heard anyone mention about the documents.  I am not sure if they are evidence of discrimination or not, or even if that discrimination really is or should be legal if it existed in a private institution.  But what is very clear is that the admissions department has very particular attitudes about race and ethnicity: it appears that race does not "count" if the student involved hasn't done something to highlight their race.  Or put another way, the admissions folks seem to be penalizing minority candidates for not obsessing about their race.  Here are a few examples:

Of a Hispanic applicant, an admissions officer wrote, “Tough to see putting her ahead of others. No cultural flavor in app.”

“Were there a touch more cultural flavor I'd be more enthusiastic,” one officer wrote of a native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.

officers candidly discussed the race of black, Latino, and Native American applicants, often seemingly searching for those who highlighted their racial backgrounds rather than checking off boxes on their Common Applications.

"Nice essays, sweet personality," one admissions officer said of a multiracial applicant. "Bi-racial but not [National Hispanic Recognition Program] and no recognition of her [background] in app by anyone."

When one reader called an applicant's Native American heritage "appealing," the other noted that the only place the boy had mentioned the heritage was in a checkbox on his Common Application. He called himself "a white boy," the admissions officer noted.

I am guessing these are all code words for, "we don't see any race-based activism in this person's past."  So we only want kids who obsess about their race and ethnicity, and perhaps act really angry about it.  We don't want African-Americans or Hispanics or Native Americans who just seem like normal, reasonably happy, well-adjusted smart kids.

I have always been conceptually OK with ethnicity and some element of affirmative action being part of Princeton admissions, but this looks ugly to me.  I also wonder about how this will filter back to high schools.  Already, behaviors in private schools that send a lot of kids to top colleges has been changed over the years by perceptions of college admissions expectations.  There was a wave of thinking years ago that admissions departments liked kids who played musical instruments, so freaking every kid that graduates from elite private schools can play an instrument, though today it probably has no differentiating power (you will still see a few clever kids who find relatively unique instruments like the xylophone or the harpsichord).  Then there was a belief that you needed some sort of unique activity to stand out, and there was a wave of kids who clogged or practiced falconry.  Then the word got out that it was de rigueur to do community service, so everyone checks that box.  I wonder if we are not going to see a wave of private high schools riven with racial strife and activism because kids will feel like the only way their ethnicity will "count" at an Ivy League school is if they take over the headmasters office.  Well, it worked at Princeton, I guess.

Hat tip to Maggie's Farm, who from their link I think noticed the same thing.


  1. August Hurtel:

    My grandfather on my mom's side came from Cuba. If I had played that up, rather than having a child like faith in the idea that academia would need and identify smart people, I would be in a much better place right now.

  2. mogden:

    The actions of the admissions committee are simply disgusting.

  3. SamWah:

    Not a chance; all Cubans are Republicans. EVERYONE knows THAT.

  4. The_Big_W:

    Yeah, nothing this country needs more of that divisive race baiting from "elite" colleges. /sarc "Elite" needs to be in quotes because they sure seem pretty freaking awful to normal people from the outside looking in.

  5. August Hurtel:

    Admittedly, if any of these academics had actually met my grandfather, I'd probably have fared worse.
    But if I had pretended to be less white and come up with the appropriate leftist topic for the entrance essay, I'd have gone far.

  6. mlhouse:

    The issue that keeps astounding me though is why high end employers choose from this pool, pay them more, and give them golden career tickets?

  7. drobviousso:

    Listen to the Fisher oral arguments and read the decisions. This is exactly what the SC has ordered these schools to do (if they choose to take race into considerations, which they do not). They can only include race as a factor if it will provide all students with access to a racially diverse student body, but they can't pick anyone to be an ambassador for their race, or keep track of how many they have, but they are allowed to aim for a critical mass, but the critical mass can't be defined, and..
    its just a dog's breakfast.

  8. Mike:

    And they wonder why there is so much racial tension at elite colleges. They're actually selecting for it!

  9. joe:

    This might be why there is such a proliferation on SJW on campus demanding SJ -

    The admissions department is actively seeking disruptive candidates

  10. Richard Harrington:

    My great-great-great-great-grandmother was Portugese. If I understand the federal rules, I can claim Hispanic heritage! If I were filling out college applications nowadays I'd emphasize my love of Mexican food and the fact that I went to inner-city schools.

  11. Tenhofaca:

    Or perhaps run for Senate from Massachusetts.

  12. May Xu:

    First, there is nothing inherently wrong with discrimination.
    Third, why is it that customers can legally discriminate against businesses but businesses cannot legally discriminate against customers?
    Fifth, discriminating against someone is not aggressing against him.
    Sixth, discrimination means freedom. A free society must include the freedom to discriminate, not only against someone because he is gay, but because he is straight—or obese, bulimic, attractive, ugly, handicapped, tall, short, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, agnostic, married, single, divorced, transgendered, Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, young, old, pregnant, or named Jeb Bush.
    And Seventh, to ban discrimination is to ban freedom of thought. In a free society, everyone has the right to think what he wants to think about anyone else—including Jeb Bush—and choose to discriminate or not discriminate against anyone on the basis of those thoughts. His thoughts may be erroneous, illogical, irrational, or unreasonable, but in a free society everyone is entitled to freedom of thought.

  13. May Xu:

    The academic vision of diversity calls for the celebration of people based upon their race, religion, genitalia and sexual behavior. And the last thing academic diversity means is diversity in thought, opinions and political affiliation.

    Diversity is an elitist term used to give respectability to acts and policy that would otherwise be deemed as racism.

  14. Heresiarch:

    True. Discrimination is a pejorative term for "judgment"-- but there's no getting through life without making judgments. It's fine to argue that we shouldn't make judgments based on this or that, but that's not what they're doing with that word.

  15. ErikTheRed:

    Yup. And we are all free to discriminate against people who discriminate in ways we disapprove of - which is a huge argument against just sweeping everything under the rug like we do now. The world is full of idiots and assholes. We expend a great deal of effort trying to identify these people. Why not just let them advertise?

  16. Mercury:

    "When one reader called an applicant's Native American heritage "appealing," the other noted that the only place the boy had mentioned the heritage was in a checkbox on his Common Application. He called himself "a white boy," the admissions officer noted."
    This candidate at least "checked the box" so the school can claim him/her in their stats which has real Diversity value (to them). If the candidate also looked "ethnic" that would have "catalog porn" value as well. Don't think these Diversity qualities aren't #1 and #2 in terms of their importance to the school's administrators.

  17. May Xu:

    Second, Bush is as guilty as anyone when it comes to discrimination.
    When he married his Mexican wife Columba in 1974, he discriminated
    against every American woman, every white woman, every blonde, and
    every other woman in the world. He discriminated against the
    Episcopalian church of his youth when he converted to Catholicism in
    1995. He also discriminated against all other religions and
    denominations in the world when he did this. Bush discriminates every
    day of his life. He discriminates against one store when he shops at
    another. He discriminates against vanilla ice cream when he eats
    chocolate ice cream. He discriminates against one interviewer when he
    chooses to do an interview with another instead. He discriminates
    against Pepsi when he drinks Coke. He discriminates against Democrats
    when he votes Republican. He discriminates against English when he
    speaks Spanish. Bush can’t get through the day without discriminating
    against something or someone.

  18. May Xu:

    Fifth, discriminating against someone is not aggressing against him.
    Discriminating against Jeb Bush on election day and voting for someone
    else is not an act of aggression against him. No one is entitled to a
    particular job. No one is entitled to rent a particular apartment. No
    one is entitled to buy a particular house. No one is entitled to enter
    anyone else’s property. Not hiring, renting, selling, or granting the
    right of entry to someone on the basis of his race, religion, sex,
    color, national origin, political views, or sexual orientation may be
    wrong, immoral, hatful, or nonsensical, it may be based on stereotypes,
    prejudice, bigotry, or racism, but since it is not committing an act of
    aggression or violence against him, it should not be prohibited by force
    of law.

  19. Zach:

    Wait, I thought the worst non-violent crime a white person could possibly commit is cultural judgments. Are all these admissions officers white?

  20. CC:

    This is an ideological purity test. "activism" is a code word for leftist. They are preferrentially selecting SJWs--and then they wonder why the kids are rioting. This is also the opposite of a melting pot. Why should mixed race kids be obsessed with being a minority? Why are they necessarily oppressed? This obsession with oppression is sick.

  21. Cardin Drake:

    Since the government, banks, and wall street merged, and they are the employers choosing these guys, and funding the ivies, it's self-perpetuating. It's time to break up this up.

  22. Erik Gertkvist:

    Admission processes as described above are idiotic because both
    a) it allows all kinds of personal bias among the selectors - as described above
    but also
    b) it give social bullshitters a big advantage compared to the badly socialized nerd, especially since the adminssion boards seldoms attract the best teachers/scientists that are doing real research. The result is a lot of generalists that are good att talking and convincing others, instead of future Einsteins or Edisons. (The SJW graduates are covered by my point a above.)

    A British project called "Who targets me" collect what adverts that users gets on Facebook with a simple browser app. It owuld be interesting to do the same with college applicants, to see both what type of questions the board asks and if there are common themes among applicants that succeeds.

    Isn't it time to bury the race quotas in both census and education? As a way to help "discriminated groups" they are worse than useless - just give the school districts with these groups 10% higher budget _and_ a DOE liason.

  23. CC:

    Interestingly, even when the US was full of prejudice, not enough people were acting on it to keep blacks down, so the government got involved by enacting the Jim Crow laws at both state and federal levels. The feds put guidelines in place also for banks to loan money (red-lining). That is, even when bigotry was rampant, it was not keeping blacks from advancing because too many people either didn't care or were looking out for their own financial interest. The idea now that even one bakery that refuses to bake a cake is unacceptable is going too far down the road of perfect virtue. One bakery does not prevent the gay couple from getting a cake.

  24. 增达网:





  25. John Marvin:

    There's another possible reason admissions folks look for activity regarding claimed ethnicity -- applicants claiming they have minority status when they are white. A classmate of my daughters was admitted to Cornell after claiming to be hispanic -- based on the fact that his grandmother lived in Spain for six months. If actions like this become more widespread and go undetected, it might undermine the ability of universities to practice their preferred brand of affirmative action.

  26. Jim Sweet:

    Sounds in-reverse like a Klan membership committee.