October 11, 2011

"I fought against UW-Madison's touchy-feely admissions process when first enacted and still oppose the discriminatory selection process."

"I support admitting students based on academic performance, the only factor that an individual has personal control to achieve."

That's the opinion of Steve Nass, R-La Grange, chair of the Wisconsin State Assembly's Committee on Colleges and Universities, which will hold a hearing next Monday to address UW-Madison's undergraduate and law school admission policies.

45 comments:

JAL said...

So Professor -- are you for touchy-feely admissions? Or cruel neutrality?

Kirby Olson said...

Are we trying to get the best possible people into the best possible colleges and universities? Are we concerned about quality, or about equality?

If we're concerned about equality then everyone should get in everywhere, and everyone should get a C.

Ann Althouse said...

Even if you just want to count GPA and LSAT, there's a real problem with GPAs. What if someone has studied in a difficult field, notably science, or gone to a very difficult college? You're just going to take the number, compared to someone who went to an easy school and took easy classes?

You have to look at some soft factors! What about people who've been out of college for a few years and worked in business or served in the military or were nurses or engineers and want to study law now?

Would you just compare the numbers when one person has had to overcome real adversity, such as poverty, disability, or growing up in a family where no one has had a higher education?

Ann Althouse said...

Another soft variable is being a Wisconsin resident. That normally counts for a lot around here.

Alex said...

And this is exactly why Nass and his ilk are so disingenuous.

"I support admitting students based on academic performance, the only factor that an individual has personal control to achieve."

But then how do you control for the factors that people don't control. Like being homeless, for example. Is Nass really saying that if a person got bad grades for a year because their family was homeless, that that should receive no consideration whatsoever?

Ann Althouse said...

What if it's an older applicant, someone in their 30s, with lots of accomplishments?

Nass's quote doesn't make sense in that situation!

Carol_Herman said...

You know the number that never shows up?

How generous are the alumni?

There was once a time. Back in the "dark ages" ... when alumni were mostly male. And, they accumulated wealth. And, when they died, oftentimes, they were very generous to their collegiate ties.

You think I'm kidding, huh?

edutcher said...

Have to agree, a college should be a meritocracy.

JAL said...

So Professor -- are you for touchy-feely admissions? Or cruel neutrality?

It better be cruel neutrality. you can get arrested for being too touchy-feely in your admissions.

chickenlittle said...

Are you saying that Nass is all wet?

Pogo said...

Fine, give points for socioeconomic disadvantage.

But that is not an issue of skin color. More often true, sure, but not a sole criterion.

Carol_Herman said...

Again, I eschewed college till I was 50.

Then, here, I went to Pasadena City College. Because all I needed to get admitted was a #2 pencil.

And, I learned first hand how excellent their professorial staff was!

On the first day of class, of the Fall semester, it was really crazy when you looked to park.

And, then?

The professors just handed out exams. TOUGH ONES, too! And, it would clear out the student population like nobody's business!

(Later, you'd learn you could drop one of your graded exams.) But it was an amazing system. By the way you were responsible for knowing the material on the syllabus. Another handy device that scared away a portion of the student body.

By the second week of school, there were plenty of seats in the classrooms. And, the professors were definitely in charge!

So, I don't care what admissions system is used.

The syllabus clearly states what a student faces.

Those that stay will earn a minimum of a "C" grade.

Fred4Pres said...

I do not mind other factors being considered provided they are open about it and why they are doing it. For example, Service Acadamies want to see lots of extra ciricular activies (sports, clubs, etc.) because well rounded youth make better leaders. But the standards should be objective and reasonably based on standards for the school's mission. That is especially true for public universities and colleges.

And I would hope being a Wisconsin resident counts for getting into a school. There are public institutions who discriminate against in state students because they can charge out of state students higher tuition.

And most professional schools do favor older students with life experience. That is a legitimate soft factor to consider.

Ultimately you should a minimum objective standard for testing (SAT, LSAT, etc.) and then screen on soft factors to improve the school. And for public unversities it has to be open and balanced.

Fred4Pres said...

Carol is making the case for not admitting older students. But I am going to guess she does not test well on things like a SAT.

Carol_Herman said...

Sorry to disappoint you Fred, but taking tests, for me, are easy.

I didn't need the SAT to get into college. IT WAS A BONUS!

But TESTING WELL is the only way you're going to get through Pasadena City College. Which I did with honors.

And, then I transferred over to Cal State LA. (I didn't want to drive to USC.) But Pasadena City College has "contracts." IF you maintain a great GPA ... you can name the school you want to spend your upper college student years in.

I didn't go to college, back in 1957, because I didn't want to! I wanted to go to Manhattan. And, work. Which gave me the independence to also have my own apartment.

By the way, my mom graduated Brooklyn College at 80. And, only then would should move out here to California.

When she came out, I went to college.

William said...

I had what, as I told my parole officer, a Carrie moment at the high school prom. I have since learned that whatever momentary gratification a chainsaw may bring, it is not the way to negotiate the feelings of resentment and anger that are sometimes the lot of adolescence....Otherwise, my high school grades were pretty good. I just hope that when I get out of here, the admissions officer will not hold this one childish prank against me. I think someone who has survived and, indeed, triumphed over the rigors of our penal system has something to offer in the way of diversity and life experience to his fellow students.

john marzan said...

"Even if you just want to count GPA and LSAT, there's a real problem with GPAs. What if someone has studied in a difficult field, notably science, or gone to a very difficult college?"

"What if it's an older applicant, someone in their 30s, with lots of accomplishments?"

but professor Ann, should we give preferrential treatment to applicants based on race, ethnicity and gender?

john marzan said...

I noticed professor Ann that you did not include race, ethnicity and gender in your rant...mingl

Col Mustard said...

Give me college entrance exams. Pass - You're in. Fail - Oh, well. No exceptions for athletes, veterans, minorities...

I did a semester at a CA community college in late 80s. Quality was as good or better than undergrad at my state university and grad school at Boston U. All classes were packed at the start. Attrition claimed 25-75 percent within weeks. College isn't for everyone.

Steve Koch said...

GPA is pretty much useless but standardized tests are objective and fair.

The problem with the human judgement part of the admission process is the inevitable corruption.

Why do we need teachers? You just read the book/computer, master the material, and take the tests. If you are smart enough, you do well. If you aren't smart enough, you don't pass. Sounds like a feature, not a bug.

This would tremendously reduce the cost of getting a college degree. You would not need a campus, you could eliminate 99% of the teachers and administrators (at the same time eliminating the vast majority of the politics that afflict academia).

br549 said...

I just want the best designing our automobiles, airplanes, computers, and also the means to mass produce them at a reasonable price.

Having had thoracic surgery and a brain tumor removed, it goes without saying I want the best in that department, too. It is my opinion the cream shouild be allowed to rise to the top. It's necessary.

Fen said...

"And the trees are all kept equal

by hatchet, axe and saw"

ricpic said...

I had...a Carrie moment at the high school prom.

But did you clean up the mess, William? If you did I'm sure all was forgiven based on the...er, socioeconomic conditions, you know, the "soft factors" that brought you to such a pass.

PJ said...

Institutions supported by state taxpayers ought to be permitted to have lower admission standards for state residents. Beyond that, consideration of soft factors should be restricted to those that are statistically -- that is, objectively -- predictive of academic success. In other words, if Nass thinks that only past academic performance should count, then I disagree. But if he's saying that statistically expected academic performance should be the bottom line, then I agree. The burden should be on the "soft-factor" proponents to show that each proposed soft factor is (statistically, not anecdotally) predictive of academic success. And the mission of the Admissions Office should be to weight the hard and soft factors so as to maximize expected academic success of the cohort as a whole. Period.

wv: backe (should have used "Preview")

James said...

I have difficulty taking claims of "racial discrimination" seriously after recently experiencing the UW-Madison undergraduate admissions process up close.

My town has three major public high schools; Park, Case, and Horlick. These urban high schools have large numbers of Black and Hispanic students, but the majority of those accepted to Madison are White or Asian with very few Blacks or Hispanics (I saw 2 black students at the awards banquet). This year Case sent 18-19 students to Madison, Park had 7 students, and while I don't know the actual number for Horlick I'd guess its about the same as Park. I'm acquainted with most of these students and they all surpassed the admission requirements. Although what I'm relating is anecdotal I can't imagine its different in other parts of Wisconsin where there are even fewer minorities.

So who exactly is being denied at the undergraduate level? If you attend a WI public school, have good grades, and score at least 26 on the ACT you have a good chance of being accepted.

Should the valedictorian of a school in inner-city Milwaukee be denied the opportunity to attend Madison because he/she didn't attend a "good" school?

Fen said...

Should the valedictorian of a school in inner-city Milwaukee be denied the opportunity to attend Madison because he/she didn't attend a "good" school?

Should your financial advisor be the kid with a 4.0 in Women's Studies?

Or the one with the 3.0 in Economics?

The Pagan Temple said...

If you want to really reform the university system, you need to start at the top by reforming the tenure system and disemboweling the Bolshevik network that runs the places. Then and only then will it make sense to try to go about changing anything else.

Eleanor said...

I tell my students that there is a college somewhere that will take their money. And I am never wrong.

jacksonjay said...

Do Badger coaches consider "soft factors"? Probably not! As we all know, sports are the only truly neutral arena in America. Presumably, they are looking for the fastest, quickest, strongest athletes that can find!? Obviously, some great athletes are overlooked (Aaron Rogers), but the "cream" will eventually rise to the top!

KenK said...

How about a straight quota system based on population stats? In an increasingly diverse society it's the only fair way to go and it's the one solution that will cause the least conflict. If 16% of incoming law school class has to go some racial or ethnic group based on pop stats that's fine and dandy. Then you can justify picking the best of that category. As long as murky and highly speculative criteria are used along with grades and tests all we are likely to get is more system gaming and social unrest.

timmaguire42 said...

A person with parents supportive of their education has a giant leg up over someone whose parents don't give a damn.

Maybe college admissions isn't the place to try and sort that out, but is a B+ student with PhD parents really better than a B- student with no dad and a mom who cleans other people's houses 12 hours a day?

Is a system that says "yes" really a meritocracy?

carrie said...

I support a touchy feely admissions process because it is fair in my opinion. Good grades don't automatically make someone a good lawyer. However, I also think that the admissions procees should predict academic success as well as carreer success, and the touchy feely admissions process doesn't necessarily do that which results in more kids from modest means getting into law school. I always feel sorry for the lawyers who got good grades in college and law school and then find out after graduation that they aren't cut out to be lawyers--they have big loans to pay off and need a high paying job in a private law firm to do that but they lack the other attributes needed to succeed as a lawyer in private practice.

Shanna said...

GPA is pretty much useless but standardized tests are objective and fair.

I agree there is a lot of leeway in various GPA but to some extent GPA shows how hard someone works. Granted there are many caveats (easy class/hard class), but given the same IQ and the same classes, GPA shows the level of effort on the part of the student.

KenK said...

Nope. You social engineer types can't craft a system that gives everybody a fair shot. And if you can't be fair you can at least be transparent. If you have to tell someone "you don't get a seat this time your quota is filled" they will still be disappointed but the lingering grudge factor is mitigated. And they can apply next time.

Lucien said...

The trouble with the "merit only" approach to admissions is that it treats admission as a prize, while ignoring the nature of what happens between admission and graduation, and assumes all those admitted accept, so that schools do not have to compete for students.

But the mix of students admitted, along with the curriculum, facilities and faculty, strongly contributes to the quality of the educational experience. Schools seeking to stand out from the crowd may want to focus on characteristically admitting a certain type of student or producing a certain type of graduate. Diversity in the true sense, rather than as a beard for counting based on skin color, can also make valuable contributions to the educational experience and make the prize of admission that much more rewarding.

The problem is that given the history of racial politics in the US, plus historical quotas against Jews and Asians, plus the fact that "diversity" is so often a sham, makes the consideration of race in admissions more trouble than it is worth.

Dave said...

Nice point Ann. I'm for using "soft" factors as you put it, as long as race isn't one of them. So let's have special consideration for the struggling poor student who had to work extra jobs to stay in school or the older student with life experience. It's the bonus points for being the correct ethnic group that offends me.

TCB-n-a-Flash said...

From what I have seen over the last year, the value of being admitted into the University of Wisconsin has diminished a great deal. The behavior of the students and faculty is shameful. The un-justified arrogance is just sickening. The place doesn't provoke thought and debate; it engages in intellectual suppression.

Fling the doors wide open, and let UW wallow in it's own crap.

And go ahead...keep telling these kids that going $100,000 in debt for a liberal arts degree is good for their economic well being. It's a lie.

If the 'Occupy Wall St.' crowd represents the output of the American University System (idiots who what their debts 'forgiven'), who cares who gets in. I don't want my kids near that type of collectivism.

Peter said...

Carrie said, “I support a touchy feely admissions process because it is fair in my opinion.”

I don’t know if you’re in law school or a lawyer, but I expect lawyers to be able to make a logical argument.

First you say “I also think that the admissions procees should predict academic success” but then you say “touchy feely admissions process doesn't necessarily do that.” So, which is it? Are you OK with a high flunk-out rate, even though that leaves behind bills, and time that could have been used for another purpose and, if so, do you think this is a good use of limited academic resources? Or do you actually want an admissions process that predicts academic success?

And then you go off into how you feel sorry for lawyers who later find out “they aren't cut out to be lawyers.” And in the next paragraph you say, some “lack the other attributes needed to succeed as a lawyer.” So, what are these other attributes, and how do you propose to screen for them? If you screen for them in a touchy feely way, how will you measure the quality of your screening? If you don’t or can’t measure it, how will you know if it’s working?

Carrie said, “I support a touchy feely admissions process because it is fair in my opinion.” OK, you support this and your opinion is that. So, what makes it fair (or at least more fair than alternatives)?

TMink said...

"Would you just compare the numbers when one person has had to overcome real adversity, such as poverty, disability, or growing up in a family where no one has had a higher education?"

Yep.

The people I went to school with who were in those classifications would have felt cheated to know they got in due to their adversity or disability.

Trey

carrie said...

The people I know who overcame adversity would have appreciated getting a break and would have felt like they deserved a break to level the playing field for them.

William said...

@Carrie: When I spoke of my "Carrie moment" at the prom, please do not think it was some kind of veiled allusion to your support of touchy feely admissions. No, my Carrie moment was an attempt to level the playing field of high school. People are so quick to form hostile judgements about assailants who use chainsaws that they are blinded to the egalitarian values that would cause a young man to take up chainsawing. The primary cause of spite and envy in high school is not social position and economic inequality. No, I would put the real locus of pain in the good looks and athletic abilities that some children are blessed with and others are deprived of. I have found nothing so quickly levels the playing field as stubby limbs and extensive facial scarring. A chainsaw is the most efficient way of accomplishing this worthy goal. If the quarterback is a bilateral amputee, the nerd has that much better chance of making the team. If the prom queen has extensive facial reconstruction, Elizabeth Warren has a better chance of dating the quarterback....I would urge the parole board to look beyond the sensationalism of my case and consider the ideals that inspired me. If granted parole, I would like UW to favorably consider my application. I feel that me and my chainsaw have much to contribute to the Madison community.

carrie said...

William, I did not take you comments as being directed at me. Good looks and athletic ability may be the source of social envy in high school, but I think that economic inequality has a bigger impact on how well a student does in high school, the classes a student takes in high school and his/her the extracurricular activities. Parents who didnt' go to college often don't have a clue about what their kids need to do in high school in order to get into a competitive college and they don't know that they should be encouraging their kids to take honors classes and AP classes, to be on the student council, to join clubs and everything else that admissions counselors like to see on college applications. I think that poor kids take easier classes because that is all that is expected of them. Kids from affluent families take honors and AP classes because that is what is expected of them. Kids from poor families will choose work over extra curricular activities so that they can buy the clothes, IPODs, cell phone plans that affluent kids take for granted. By the time poor kids find out that they didn't do enough in high school it is too late to do anything about it.

William said...

Carrie: Thanks for a well thought out response. You're probably right, but you're positing a world where all the perks and pleasures go to the academically successful. That's a Utopian vision in itself.

carrie said...

William, I am sure that the people on this blog are academicallly successful and are enjoying the spoils of that. However, good things still happen in this world to people who work hard and follow the rules, even if they aren't from well off families--at least in small towns because small towns usually don't tolerate elitests. However, I can understand that envy is harder to avoid and overcome if you are from a big city and growing up in an elitest culture. As you can guess, I am from a small town where status is still generally based upon working hard and being a good person. I now live in Madison which I think is a very class oriented city even though its citizens think of themselves as being egalitarian. For example, in Madison, there is no status in having a college degree, but there is a defnite lack of status in not having one, if you get my drift. And it is the same with a lot of other intangibles and there is now a lot of envy in Madison. In a small town, kids would look at the people who had more than them and say that some day I'm going to have all of that too, and it was possible for them to achieve that. In a big city it seems that kids look at the people who have more than them and say I'm going to get you for that--the haves in big cities seem to flaunt their wealth which only increases the divide. But elitism is a self perpetuating so what can you do? Good luck to you.

William said...

To a certain extent I was academically successful. At any rate I finished college. However, I was an English major with a philosophy minor. This was not a license to print money. I made a living, but it was due more to my ability to endure drudgery than to any skills I mastered in college....I live on the east side of Manhattan. There are people in the neighborhood who are far, far wealthier than I am. I sometimes catch them in my perepheral vision, and their lives seem to be complicated, interesting, and pleasant. But who really knows? As I slope towards senescence, I find that health and fitness are greater predictors of happiness than wealth and social position. In like way, most of my young life I was more envious of the athletically gifted than the financially blessed. I'm no stranger to envy but I try to envy those qualities worth envying.....I sympathize with your plight in living in Madison, but I urge you to use your telekenetic powers sparingly if at all. For myself, I find that a night out with a hockey mask and a chainsaw is a fun way to rid the soul of its toxins. But moderation in all things is the key to happiness.

carrie said...

Carrie was on TV last night! I hadn't seen it in years. I knew that Carrie got even, but I had forgotten that she died too so that getting even didn't do her any good. It is interesting you live in Manhatten. My only experience with the East Coast is that I lived in Cambridge MA for one year. Cambridge was the most class conscious place that I had ever been and I was surprised to learn that the elite began segreating themselves from the masses in preschool. It was just about impossible to find anyone who had gone to a public school, drove an American made car, didn't care what labels were on their clothes, shoes, purses, or didn't judge someone by what their parents did. . . .