Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Affirmative Action for [almost] All

In case you needed any proof, a recent report by the Associated Press concluded that athletes applying to college "enjoy strikingly better odds of having admission requirements bent on their behalf." While this is not terribly surprising in and of itself, what is surprising is how widespread the practice is. According to the report, colleges in every major conference bend their admission standards on behalf of applicants with athletic aspirations.


Thus, to be clear about one thing: the debate over affirmative action and higher education is about the meaning of merit, often defined narrowly by test scores and gpa. By my rough count, many exceptions exist: residency, geography, and legacy, among others. To this list we may add "athletic proficiency." The reasons for admitting athletes as "special admissions," according to Gerald Gurney, incoming president of the National Association of Academic Advisers for Athletics and senior associate athletic director for academics and student life at the University of Oklahoma, is because the practice "does add value to a university."

How is this for value: at the University of Texas, the average SAT score for freshman football players between 2003 and 2005 was a full 320 points lower all other typical admits to the university. They also happen to sit atop the Forbes list of college football's most valuable teams, at $119 million.

Go 'Horns!

Tell it to the state of Alabama, of course, as they get ready to battle Texas for football supremacy. There is no better value than cold, hard cash, I suppose, and Alabama comes in fifth on the Forbes list, at $92 million.

Try to make sense of this tangled web. A university can consider anything under the sun and nobody cares or objects. In some places, they even demand it. But once a university decides to diversify its student class, lawsuits ensue and propositions spring up in state after state.

Where are Ward Connerly and Barbara Grutter when you need them? Isn't merit the name of the game, and unfairness to none?



Don't hold your breath.