Affirmative action in grad school...


Does it exist? Is it prevalent? If so, what ethnicities and backgrounds seem to be favored? 

Jan 10, 14 10:11 pm
Non Sequitur


Jan 10, 14 11:28 pm

In bigger and more generic graduate programs, such as law and business, you can bet that it exists.  Check out this link.  Its cover page talks about underrepresented groups.  Look at the plum member schools, too.  So what does this mean?  That the underrepresented person can present less in the way of credentials and accomplishments to occupy a spot at a top b-school, and be handed a chunk of change to do so?

The MBA is not a profession so maybe, in the end, this isn't such a big deal.  However, when you "displace" a prospective and tangibly more capable student from medical or law school, it IS a big deal.

As for a-school, I would say it's less common.  The whole process is a lot more of a calling.  People don't apply to grad architecture on a lark.  The preparation of a portfolio serves as a veritable gate keeper, if you think about it.  I could see affirmative action coming into play if there is a situation where they had to tie break between 2 candidates on the cusp of being admitted, and not with candidates in the "sure admit" category.  This means that a person may not get into 1 or 2 a-schools, but will probably be admitted to several others of approximately the same caliber.

Jan 11, 14 12:10 am
boy in a well

or hp87 is a paranoid douchebag.

but what do I know?

Jan 11, 14 6:54 am

That makes a lot of sense. It's really annoying when you get into a good school and you're told it was because you were a minority.  Observant, you're right, the portfolio should be use a the determining tool but that still doesn't shut people up. It's not fun to have your achievements dumbed down because of your ethnicity. I guess in the end the individual knows deep down who's right and who's wrong. :)

Jan 11, 14 10:34 am
Non Sequitur

Ah, the minority/race card comes up again... so easy to draw strings together to justify an existing view. I find it strange an applicant's "minority status" can be distinguished from a portfolio's content, perhaps a name, but you would think that quality of the student is more important than nonsense like ethnicity differences. If you don't get into what ever school you want, it's because they judged your work portfolio less than others. Anything else deserves ridicule.

Jan 11, 14 10:57 am

This is a non issue, for the most part, in the a-school game.  It is an issue in other fields, though.  Largely, it is an issue in business and legal education and, sadly, it CAN be an issue for preparing for the health professions.  It's sad in the health professions because the curricula that precede them are among the most challenging and people are burning the midnight oil to differentiate themselves between a 3.7 and a 3.5, along with their MCAT and DAT scores, to land in medical, dental, or pharmacy school.  The only thing that should knock someone out, if interviewed, is some intervening immaturity or social issues that would keep them from being a health provider.  Even some of them get through.  I've had doctors who were douches.

The big problem here is the MBA.  The incoming classes are huge.  I think that Harvard and Penn number some 700 per class.  NYU offers the MBA in daytime, nighttime, and other formats, also making for a huge class.  There is a big difference between someone with a 3.7 in a quant business field from a good school and a high GMAT score and, sorry, is white from someone with a 3.3 in a non-quant business field from an ok school and a medium GMAT score and, sorry, is not white, all else being held constant.  Why cut someone slack?  And then, they can be recruited and hidden in the bowels of a huge bank or consumer products company in perpetuity while being given a middle management income, also in perpetuity.  I'm oversimplifying, but there is a kernel of truth to this.  I've got some anecdotes.

This thread is baseless, in a way, as it relates to architecture.  In the admissions game, demographics are hardly a determinant.  Students who are from minority groups will sign up for the 4 year portion of a-programs and then sometimes bail of their own volition, or complete the non-professional 4 year curriculum and go do something completely different, like prep and cue guests on Oprah or something.  I'm just kidding.  But people of all colors, races, and creeds do get through BAs and BSs in architecture with 2.# GPAs and do all kinds of things ... become chefs, become realtors, become flight attendants, become plumbers, and whatnot, including working for architectural firms.  This is a non-issue for graduate level architectural education, though.

Jan 11, 14 12:06 pm

People bring up the 'minority card' as if it should be a non-factor. Implying it's a card in some figurative deck of cards that people use as a scapegoat when in reality it's more like the box that people filter everything about you through. Society is not colorblind and has a nagging ability to remind you of that fact, so I don't why it's always an issue when the people with that 'card' proactively mention it. In American Society Obama is not the 44th president, he is the first half 'black' president, with a black family, and a Muslim middle name.

Yes, in a perfect world where we all start off on equal footing, are all afforded the same educational opportunities, and all have the same sort of financial backing and stable household  - affirmative action would be completely unnecessary. But this sort of libertarian, idealized, 'we all start in the same place and hard work alone will get you where you need to go' thought couldn't be further from reality.

IMO if you haven't done extensive and unbiased research on the pervasive effects of policy as it relates to race  in American society; (Indian Removal Act) Trail of Tears, to Jim Crow etc. (especially the less obvious ones prevalent nowadays) or haven't actually lived through what they have turned into in modern society then your opinion on the matter is invalid and unnecessary. So yes Hp87 it can be annoying, but it shouldn't be. It should be empowering to know that you're essentially running a race with weights and you've been able to reach the finish line just as quickly as people without those weights. There's also no shame if someone comes along and detach's one of your weights or gives you a slight push along the way.

Someone who hasn't faced any setbacks and has a 3.7 GPA isn't inherently more capable than someone who has and has a 3.3 GPA. If your life is that easy you should have a 4.0 not a 3.7 (disregarding grade differences caused by difference in institutional standards). I'd be more likely to think there's more potential in someone who has faced adversity and gotten a 3.3 than someone who has been spoon-fed all their life and has a 3.7 because then that 3.7 is indicative of your peak whereas who knows what the guy with the 3.3 could get if he wasn't (Black, Native American, Hispanic, etc). With architecture it's a bit trickier and less objective, but in general the same rule still applies. Ultimately your portfolio should be the deciding factor as they're judging your talent for spatial thinking and propensity for design but everything else about the application has more to do with your socio-economic circumstances than anything else.

The race - to - class article is very interesting, and I'm sure we'd find the race boundaries and class boundaries are actually very intertwined with a few exceptions I'm sure most of us would be able to guess. 

Jan 11, 14 4:15 pm

Someone who hasn't faced any setbacks and has a 3.7 GPA isn't inherently more capable than someone who has and has a 3.3 GPA.

I see we have a problem with being trigger happy.  Read my disclaimer:  all else being held constant.

This means that the high school student who lives in a tenement in the South Bronx who has to dodge sketchy people on the way in and our of their housing project en route to and from high school who ask them "Yo, bitch, how come you not hanging out and doin' some good drugs with us, and doing that goody two shoes stuff trying to be all college and shit?" has factors which can make it harder for that person to study compared to someone who lives in Scarsdale, whose parents work in midtown Manhattan, and who is given a BMW to go off to high school with.  I'm using the NY area only to make an example, since many here are familiar with it.  It isn't rocket science that the first person is saddled with a setting making it harder for them to do well in school, in lacking a support system and even encountering hostility.

However, look at this more sensibly.  Say you've got some 3.7s and 3.3s in biology and business.  Their grades are identical in their general ed courses, their electives, but the differences come exclusively from the weed out courses specific to both of those curricula, and where the 3.7s have outpaced the 3.3s.  Every single time I've seen that scenario translated into similar performance in grad or professional school and relevant professional exams.  Again, I'm not talking architecture.

But it can apply to architecture.  An admissions committee / faculty member once told me that "the people who can draw very well and can get the high grades (usually) make the best architects."  I'm talking holistic generalist architects, as opposed to designers.

That said, barring extreme circumstances, my heart is NOT bleeding.  Most of those 3.3s sitting alongside 3.7s in b-school didn't have it that bad, and were probably also funded during undergrad.  Political correctness is convenient because it prevents people from scrutinizing details and having to connect dots which may yield unsettling patterns.

Jan 11, 14 4:41 pm

I see we have a problem with being trigger happy.  Read my disclaimer: Someone who hasn't faced any setbacks and has a 3.7 GPA isn't inherently more capable than someone who has and has a 3.3 GPA. If your life is that easy you should have a 4.0 not a 3.7 (disregarding grade differences caused by difference in institutional standards).

Meaning 2 students from relatively the same educational background were used as the basis for that claim. You're defending yourself against a completely different situation and I'm not sure why.

Also, I'm assuming in your opinion 'didn't have it that bad' refers to maybe a black, middle-class child with a stable home in a nice neighborhood and a decent education? That begs the question didn't have it that bad compared to who? To another black child from the South Bronx? Clearly. To a white kid who went to the same school, who also has a stable home in a nice neighborhood and a decent education? I'm not so sure. Who's more likely to get a job later on in life? Who's more likely to face adversity in the work place for reasons outside of performance? Who has the standard of physical beauty been crafted around?

Regardless of your personal opinion of who has 'had it that bad', in my experience as a minority in 'post racial' America, I've found that in most cases you still have to be more exceptional than your counterparts to get any sort of recognition. Regardless of if you lived in their neighborhood or the crime-riddled one across the train tracks. But, maybe you know better than I do.

Jan 11, 14 5:36 pm

Also, as Hp87 said, the moment you receive any sort of praise or success the first thing people go to in an attempt to discredit your efforts is it was a result of you being a minority. 

Jan 11, 14 5:50 pm

But, maybe you know better than I do.

Ok, so you're a minority.  The truth comes out.  And, being white, and almost to the point of being unable to tan, I must have therefore had it a lot better, right?  My parents were immigrants, they are not college educated, and I even had to handle a lot of administrative processes for them while in high school because they had some difficulties with English.  Could I check any boxes for that or write some neato essays for college based on that?  No ... and probably.  But I didn't.  What I did do is choose to be an A(-) student, depending on which piece of paper we're talking about.  And, guess what?  We had some Mexicans on our street growing up.  Their daughter pulled a 3.9 in undergrad biochem, and got to pick which one of 9 (!) medical schools she wanted to go to.

I am clearly not a fan of affirmative action, especially when they start dipping down real low in GPAs to accommodate students and displace others.  Fortunately, and unfortunately, the portfolio for architecture school counts for a lot.  I say fortunately because it is a tangible piece of work and it would be impossible to hide a palpable lack of ability.  I say unfortunately because there are flaky schools and flakes with personal biases looking at these things.  However, for the better a-schools, very few incapable people are admitted.  From the mid-range schools on down, it happens.  However, no one is handing an a-school grad keys to Fort Knox.  I get more heartburn when the exception was made for law school or b-school, and even more of it when it was made for a health related professional curriculum.

If you come from and live in bad conditions, as did our current Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, you hunker down and hit the books.  Not only did she live in the projects, her dad was a deadbeat and she learned she was diabetic when young.  She was still toward the very top of her Catholic high school class.  In the Bronx.

Jan 11, 14 5:56 pm

Nobody said anything about your very specific experience as a first-generation immigrant in the United States and I hope you don't think your particular circumstance is what is understood as commonplace in discussions like these. That being said, you would have been smart to 'check those boxes and write some neato essays' about it because it's obviously a distinguishing factor for you and something very central to your upbringing and the person you are today. Why you would choose to overlook something so intrinsic to you was obviously a personal choice, so to each his own. It doesn't change the fact that your parents as first generation immigrants were probably more likely to get a job than first generation immigrants from Nigeria because of their skin color. Not really sure what you're trying to prove with the Mexican example other than that she was smart. Good for her.

What I'd really like to see is the data people use when they make claims that reputable colleges will 'dip down real low' to let those minorities with a 2.8 from a C-rate school in as opposed to a white child with a 3.5 from an A-rate school. Does that honestly sound like something that would happen to you? No, me either. Go ask the one black kid in your Architecture Program what their GPA in high school was and tell me where it compares to everyone else's.

Not to mention your response indicates the ridiculous expectation that everyone in bad conditions should be able to overcome it regardless of the severity or any other intricacies. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor proves that every minority has the ability to overcome their circumstances because they all have the same circumstances and they all share her will-power and experiences.  Life just is the way it is, and if your life sucks and you don't have the personal drive to overcome it then o well, but clearly the same government that was instrumental in oppressing you should do nothing to help you right? That would be a hand-out. Instead the government should kick people while they're down, for the future of the country. 

Jan 11, 14 6:54 pm
Non Sequitur

Da fuck?

Jan 11, 14 7:31 pm

That being said, you would have been smart to 'check those boxes and write some neato essays' about it because it's obviously a distinguishing factor for you and something very central to your upbringing and the person you are today.

I was able to be admitted to whichever field interested me and to reputable enough universities at which I chose to study based on the face value of my academic performance and other supplementary requirements.  I did not want special treatment,  nor did I require it.

Instead the government should kick people while they're down, for the future of the country.

The person who did not choose to roll up their sleeves to the extent necessary for medical school can opt to be a dentist and, if not that, a physician's assistant or a chiropractor.  That's hardly being kicked when they're down.  Peripheral factors do not entitle one to their first, or plum, choices in life.  Things which are meant to be meritocracies use rationing devices.  If someone doesn't get into a Top 10 architecture school by banking on checking a few extra boxes, then getting into a Top 15 architecture school hardly constitutes being kicked when down.

This isn't meant to be a policy debate on affirmative action.  It was to inform the OP of the landscape of affirmative action for admission to graduate architecture school.  It is not as big of a factor as it in other fields of study.  The OP can use the above diatribes to inform his or her decisions and strategies.

Jan 11, 14 7:43 pm

Getting help in order to even the playing field is not in any way, shape or form special treatment and it's wrong to operate under the baseless notion that the people receiving this 'help' are otherwise incapable or undeserving of it. There's a reason why there's a an Olympics and then the Special Olympics and I make that comparison wholeheartedly knowing that if you're silly enough to take it literally even then being a minority is often a handicap. A stance against affirmative action is like asking someone from the Special Olympics to compete in the Olympics and then getting mad when the government wants to give them a wheelchair, or prosthetic legs.

Its sole purpose is to assist those who demonstrate a potential to do great things, but come from a more difficult background than the other applicants. The kicked while they're down was in reference to your stance against affirmative action - meaning you don't want the government to help the people that need help, you instead want them to help the people that don't. Which is flawed any way you look at it and very classist. What you're saying is you believe if people don't have the personal strength to overcome their background they don't deserve the opportunity to achieve beyond it. They should operate only within their circumstances regardless of the fact that their circumstances are uneven compared to others for reasons outside of their control. Cool, so why even try then? I'm sure there are people who have worked just as hard as Justice Sotomayor but never made it as far. It's an indecent oversimplification of a much more complex issue.

No one goes into the application process thinking I'm going to rely solely on my minority background as a crutch.  As I said, go ask the minorities at any IVY what their academic performance was like in high school, you'd be surprised to find there probably isn't much if any disparity. Had your original post in response to the OP been neutral and unbiased then you'd have a platform for talking about anyone's 'diatribe' but since it was riddled with your opinion which borders on diatribe as well:

"That the underrepresented person can present less in the way of credentials and accomplishments to occupy a spot at a top b-school, and be handed a chunk of change to do so?

The MBA is not a profession so maybe, in the end, this isn't such a big deal.  However, when you "displace" a prospective and tangibly more capable student from medical or law school, it IS a big deal." 

Surely you can't fault others for weighing in.

Jan 11, 14 8:50 pm

Money is a much greater limitation than race these days.  If you have family connections and wealth you can be a gay black midget and still get ahead of a poor ass white dude. 

Jan 11, 14 8:56 pm

I was including my posts in the diatribes I referred to.  Not to worry.

Money is a much greater limitation than race these days.  If you have family connections and wealth you can be a gay black midget and still get ahead of a poor ass white dude.

If you are of 909 white working class vintage in Southern California, you might get to be a cabana boy/man or girl/woman for a rich Armenian or Iranian, so your being of Anglo stock is of little use, unless you are well-connected and/or made good career decisions, like not being an architect.  Just kidding, of course.  However, your point is noted and makes a lot of sense.

Jan 11, 14 9:33 pm

Affirmative action exists, that's something you should have observed in undergraduate. Is it prevalent? Sure, but architecture programs each year tend to be small, like 30-60 from the numbers I see, so the very most is that it ensures at few represented minorities based on the reality of not wanting a homogenous incoming class. It also might just end up canceling out qualified minority applicants if there's the quota mentality. 

Original question posed is typically a non-issue unless someone wanted an advantage or looking to cancel out someone else's. Tone isn't questioning affirmative action's merits but rather its benefits. Discussion seems to be headed down the political slope. I am not going to follow up on this post.

Jan 11, 14 9:43 pm

Here is an e-mail I got regarding this issue:

From: 80-20PACPresident <>
Sent: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 9:48 AM
Subject: College Admission Strategy -- deny being an Asian

   Many Asian American supporters urged me to make a maximum effort to call
our community's attention to this AP article.
     Some Asian's college strategy: Don't check "Asian"
   One said, " When Asian American students are apprehensive to even state
themselves as "Asian Americans" in their college applications, there is
something fundamentally wrong with the whole process. Being born to be
of a certain race or ethnicity is not something one can choose. To be
handicapped by such a factor is a violation of the very American value of Equal
Opportunity. I am whole heartedly in support of the noble ideal of achieving
diversity, but totally against such crude attempt in social engineering that put
such as a large group of people under such injustice for so long. Therefore I am
in support of 80-20 to take on the issue of race-based affirmative action."
   To read the complete article, click on
   Here are some excerpts:
" Lanya Olmstead was born in Florida to a mother who immigrated from Taiwan
and an American father of Norwegian ancestry. Ethnically, she considers herself
half Taiwanese and half Norwegian. But when applying to Harvard, Olmstead
checked only one box for her race: white.
"I didn't want to put 'Asian' down," Olmstead says, "because my mom told me
there's discrimination against Asians in the application process."
For years, many Asian-Americans have been convinced that it's harder for them
to gain admission to the nation's top colleges. Studies show that Asian-Americans
meet these colleges' admissions standards far out of proportion to their 6
percent representation in the U.S. population, and that they often need test
scores hundreds of points higher than applicants from other ethnic groups to
have an equal chance of admission. Critics say these numbers, along with the
fact that some top colleges with race-blind admissions have double the Asian
percentage of Ivy League schools, prove the existence of discrimination.
The way it works, the critics believe, is that Asian-Americans are evaluated not as
individuals, but against the thousands of other ultra-achieving Asians who are
stereotyped as boring academic robots. Now, an unknown number of students
are responding to this concern by declining to identify themselves as Asian on
their applications.
. . . Amalia Halikias is a Yale freshman whose mother was born in America to
Chinese immigrants; her father is a Greek immigrant. She also checked only the
"white" box on her application. . . . . .
. . . "The whole Tiger Mom stereotype is grounded in truth," says Tao Tao
Holmes, a Yale sophomore with a Chinese-born mother and white American
father. 6387 She did not check "Asian" on her application. "My math scores aren't
high enough for the Asian box," she says. "I say it jokingly, but there is the
underlying sentiment of, if I had emphasized myself as Asian, I would have (been
expected to) excel more in stereotypically Asian-dominated subjects."
. . . Susanna Koetter, a Yale junior with an American father and Korean mother,
was adamant about identifying her Asian side on her application. Yet she calls
herself "not fully Asian-American. I'm mixed Asian-American. When I go to
Korea, I'm like, blatantly white." And yet, asked whether she would have
considered leaving the Asian box blank, she says: "That would be messed up. I'm
not white."
. . ."Identity is very malleable," says Jasmine Zhuang, a Yale junior whose parents
were both born in Taiwan. She didn't check the box, even though her last name
is a giveaway and her essay was about Asian-American identity.
. . .Asian students have higher average SAT scores than any other group, including
whites. A study by Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade examined
applicants to top colleges from 1997, when the maximum SAT score was 1600
(today it's 2400). Espenshade found that Asian-Americans needed a 1550 SAT to
have an equal chance of getting into an elite college as white students with a
1410 or black students with an 1100.
Top schools that don't ask about race in admissions process have very high
percentages of Asian students. The California Institute of Technology, a private
school that chooses not to consider race, is about one-third Asian. (Thirteen
percent of California residents have Asian heritage.) The University of California-
Berkeley, which is forbidden by state law to consider race in admissions, is more
than 40 percent Asian — up from about 20 percent before the law was passed. "
   History will evaluate the worth of this generation of Asian Ams one day.
   I believe one key factor is how we teach and nurture our children. Whether we
are tiger-moms or lion-fathers, whether we pay nothing or $65,000 per year for
a child's college education, if we don't make a concerted effort to alleviate the
current situation -- when one popular college admission strategy is to deny one's
own racial identity -- then we deserve the worst rating. Unite! Help grow our GROUP
Political clout. Do your share.
   80-20's Board will vote on filing a "friend of the court" legal brief with the
Supreme Court supporting a "merit-based college admission that does not
discriminate against any race" tomorrow evening. Express your view. Forward
this e-newsletter to your friends & relatives.
   To join, using a credit card, click on . Or
send your check to    80-20 PAC    13337 South St. #189    Cerritos, CA 90703. 

Basic $35; Family 
$50; Student $15; Life Member $1,000.
Respectfully yours,
S. B. Woo, a volunteer for 80-20 PAC for 13 years & donated $100K

For unsubscribing, copy/cut the keyword "" WITHOUT the
quotation marks and REPLY by pasting the keyword at the beginning of your subject
line.   Thank you.

Jan 12, 14 12:29 am

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