The Underside Of The Ivies
Yet you seem to relish the irony that admissions policies initially designed to exclude a campus minority are now being used to include minorities.
I want to emphasize that the discretion and the opacity that were put into place in the 1920s, though used then for discriminatory purposes, can also be used for purposes of social inclusion.
Today, the Big Three say they're committed to using these more subjective admissions tools to admit more African-Americans and Latinos. But you argue that they had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the affirmative action era.
I used to think the moral claims of the civil rights movement were so compelling that they were the source of affirmative action. But what I found in the course of the research was that the sharp increases in the enrollment of African-American students occurred only after the huge social unrest of the late 1960s, which climaxed in the riots in over 100 cities in the wake of Martin Luther King's assassination.
And which, you suggest, scared the Ivies into action. In 1969, one year after King was shot, the number of black admits at the Big Three jumped 89 percent. Critics have argued ever since that the Ivies and other elite schools lower their academic standards to admit more minority students--and that this hurts the schools by making them less meritocratic.
These institutions have not ever been meritocracies, and to this day they are not pure meritocracies. They still practice various forms of affirmative action for the privileged, including preferences for alumni children. I think when deviations from particular definitions of merit are used for purposes of social inclusion rather than social exclusion, it's hard to identify them as just the contemporary equivalent of what used to be quotas against Jews. That's a misunderstanding of not only how admissions works but how the larger society works.