Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Modest Proposal to the Supreme Court Regarding Affirmative Action in Higher Education

Clearly, you can not trust admissions offices to comply with the intent of your rulings.  Witness below:


So here's a suggestion, tell the admissions offices that they are inherently suspect, much like was done to Southern states regarding civil rights.

Tell them that they may promulgate whatever admissions rules they want, with several provisos:
1.  All of the metrics MUST be quantifiable, and judged independently
2.  All of the rules for selection MUST be published and publicized at least one year before implementation
3.  Civil service/tenure protections for all employees in said departments are hereby revoked permanently.  If the public doesn't like your definition of merit, they can fire your ass at will. 

Basically you can set the rules however the hell you like, but they have to be totally transparent and as  nondiscretionary as is practical.  You also have to be able to defend them publicly without any institutional protection. 

So, if you thought that you wanted to avoid too many pencil-necked grinds, you could add NFL combine-like metrics to your selection index.  40 yard dash time, maximum press of whatever type you like, 30 mile march time, whatever you like.
Say you want leaders or joiners?  Ok, you can give points for leadership positions in organizations, you can even scale it according to the size of said organization if you like.  But Model UN and FFA and JROTC all have to be on the same scale.
Say you want an attractive student body?  Ok, you can include things like BMI, 'Hot or Not' Scores, or the like.  But any discretion (as is the case in 'hot or not') must be your own.
Say you want academic or artistic excellence?  You can give points for placing in various competitions, for gpa, for SAT/ACT scores, or the like.  But guess what, you have to publish EVERY jot and tittle that you use.  Your formulas have to be published and have to be computable by anyone who can use an Excel spreadsheet.
Say you want large alumni donors?  Fine, but the amount of dollars to points has to be laid out EXPLICITLY, and guess what, you've got to defend it in public without institutional protection.
No holistic bullshit.  Transparency, accountability, and no discretion involved. 


Anonymous said...

This post is masturbation.

Jehu said...

Courts have done similar things before when they get frustrated in the US to school districts. I agree this particular rubric is highly unlikely but it clarifies I believe what most people actually want.

Anonymous said...


How popular was No Child Left Behind again?

Your obsession with quantification is flawed. Almost patholgical.

"no discretion involved"

ugh, I don't even want to get started.

Jehu said...

If I trusted (or the public trusted) the one with discretion, we'd be happy to grant it.
But the fact is the public doesn't trust them with discretion, and for good reason.
Sham aristocracies are worse then democracies. Non-sham aristocracies are not presently on offer.

Anonymous said...

What exactely do you mean?

Do you think that universities are actively choosing to do things that hurt them?

I doubt that.

What you really mean is you don't like the results, and you believe regime X would give you results you'ld like. You probably have reasons why you believe your results would be superior, but I largely reject them.

I feel the difference between our view of the results, which you describe as "discretion", is legitimate. I think you just aren't putting much effort into thinking through other peoples motivations.

Jehu said...

Of course its about results. Have you mistaken me for a libertarian or someone who believes in the sanctity of democracy? No, this is about who...whom. If discretion produced results that the median voter liked, they'd be in favor of it. Since it doesn't, the median voter is unhappy with it. That, btw, is why the voters continually inflict things on the bureaucracy when they get a chance.
If the bureaucracy were generally in line with what the public wanted, the people would be fine with them having plenty of discretion, larger salaries, and staying as invisible in people's daily lives as possible. That'd be what Carlyle would call a genuine aristocracy, as opposed to a sham one.

Anonymous said...


Who cares what the people want? I value the people's opinion only when I think it has merit. I disregard it when I don't think it has merit.

Harvard clearly believes its admissions policies are the best. Why would I believe that a bunch of metrics are better then Harvard's admission committee? Because some people who didn't get in are butt hurt about it?

Harvard doesn't want to use metrics more then they do because they don't want more of the kind of person that laser focuses on playing metrics games. They've already got plenty of that. And they know its limitations.

You have yet to present a case that Harvard is wrong, only that you think person/group X that you favor might do better under a metrics regime. If you aren't in group X, why would you give a damn about group X. If your only appeal is to group X, how do you plan to force Harvard to change its policies based only on the support of group X.

Jehu said...

Through force of course, how does anyone get anything in our society? That's what politics is really. Some groups recognize this and play the who...whom game well. I'm attempting to get people in my demographic to get in the game.

Anonymous said...


What demographic? Your white. You want to know what a metrics game would do. Hint: less of you and more Asians.

Do you really think you'ld enjoy a metrics game society? Metrics are like mana from heaven for second sigmas. People like us are too smart for that bullshit, you'ld hate it.

Jehu said...

All depends on the metrics being used Anonymous. You could probably even engineer a metric that would give you mostly smart and highly athletic men and smart and attractive women if you tried. As it is, such groups use metrics anyway, it's just that they don't publish their scoring guidelines and use a lot of wink,wink, nudge nudge games of information asymmetry. Most Euro elite universities play the metrics game pretty honestly.
You might note also that I'm explicitly allowing for non-academic things to be worth points. You know, the whole sound mind in a sound body thing?

Think about what people do now to pad their applications for college. What lasting good does that energy expended in the positional competition give to us as a society? Damned little in most cases.

On the other hand, if it incentivized people to get into good shape we'd at least get a better SMP/MMP out of the deal. Maybe we'd even get improvements in the artistic scene if giving points for virtuouso status in various instruments became common.

Anonymous said...

So your case is that people already use these metrics informally, but publishing them is going to cause things to be vastly different? I don't get your point here.

Schools already use athletics. They already use looks. They already use family name. They already use clubs.

The only thing your saying is, "put a hard number to everything and stop using any sort of wisdom and intution in your evaluation." Also, give us the numbers so that we can run a bunch of min/max bullshit and try to game the system in a complete zero sum game. Why would one support this?

You do know there is a reason google doesn't publish its algorithims, right? Because they have designed their algorithims to be the most accurate they can. If users got a hold of them, they would game the system and make them less accurate. Transparency would make search engines worse. And they would make college admissions worse too.

Jehu said...

Schools already use these metrics, in some cases their formulas have even been seized via legal discovery. But in those cases numbers like white -50, asian -100, hispanic +50, black +100 have cropped up also. That's the sort of thing the publication is intended to clamp down on.
Here's the issue with transparency. Things are pretty transparent if you're of the elite ingroup. Ever heard of a 'Harvard number'? Making them transparent for everyone at least lets people min/max with equal access to what the rules actually are. The world where players could largely be expected to be ignorant of the proverbial 'Dungeon Masters Guide' doesn't exist anymore. Transparency is the solution that sucks least in the aggregate for groups I care about and it has a political appeal to the Anglo-Saxon segment of the country, which likes to imagine things are 'above the board'.
BTW, google DOES sell consulting on how to game their own system...

Anonymous said...

"Schools already use these metrics, in some cases their formulas have even been seized via legal discovery. But in those cases numbers like white -50, asian -100, hispanic +50, black +100 have cropped up also. That's the sort of thing the publication is intended to clamp down on."

So they already use these metrics, and everyone knows about them, but they go on doing it anyway. And for the most part, everyone is cool with it. So what are you talking about again?

"Making them transparent for everyone at least lets people min/max with equal access to what the rules actually are."

Why is letting people min/max a goal I care about?

"Transparency is the solution that sucks least in the aggregate for groups I care about"

Who? Whites? Whites benefit from this system. Lower class whites with very high IQs? It's never been a better world with more options for them. Besides, a little legacy is neccessary to make society run.

"BTW, google DOES sell consulting on how to game their own system..."

Yes, when you determine you can't stop something you ought to at least get a little money from it.

Jehu said...

People AREN'T cool with that, which is why affirmative action loses in every single referendum or initiative that comes up when the people actually get to decide.
People were NOT pleased when it came out that things like FFA or JROTC actually hurt their applications.
And whether we like it or not, pretty much every SC judge comes from these schools. It is in our interests to bend them to our will.

Anonymous said...


The people making decisions (Harvard admins, its alums) are cool with it. The general public is cool enough with it not to change it. That is good enough.

Jehu said...

The public tries to change it every time they get an initiative opportunity. They're being thwarted. Thwarting the public wouldn't be an issue if the elite wasn't so dysfunctional. Should most of my demographic wake up and start openly playing who...whom, things will change, but it will be messy. My sympathies, of course, are with non-elite white people in the US and their maintenance of demographic hegemony in same.

Anonymous said...

Non-elite white people aren't going to benefit all that much from metrics being public.

1) They aren't going to change (people already know and don't do enough about it).

2) The people most likely to gain from knowing more about metrics are Asians, not non-elite whites.

3) Suppose you did know fencing at Exeter or climbing Mount Everest was going to increase your odds at Harvard. What are you going to do about it? The whole point is that these activities are too expensive for nobodies.

4) Are you really going to stop doing the things you like that are part of your culture to get into Harvard? If then, what's the point. If by the end of the process you are what Harvard wants you to be what's the difference between you and them.

5) Harvard etc are private colleges. They can use whatever admissions they want. Do you really think people are going to support a program to have the government handle Harvard admissions? No.

Jehu said...

Most people were downright surprised that FFA/JROTC and the like were so penalized. If they did know the rules (and asians on the whole know the rules a LOT better than non-elite whites), they'd do better and would likely massage their PRESENTATION if not the actual activities that they do. They'd conveniently not mention 4H even if they continued to do so.
Harvard is nominally private, but I don't think most people would care to much about that when making decisions.
Politics after all is about rewarding friends and punishing enemies. Plus there's all of the state universities to consider, which aren't private--in fact they attract the majority of the public's ire.
But convince the public that the Harvard/Yale/Princeton are de facto requirements for higher office or SC, and they'll recognize the necessity of bringing them to heel.