In an opinion piece in today’s New York Times, UC Berkeley sociology professor Jerome Karabel suggests that “despite their image as meritocratic beacons of opportunity, the selective colleges serve less as vehicles of upward mobility than as transmitters of privilege from generation to generation.”

We like think of colleges as meritocratic institutions, open to everyone who meets the standards. However, As Karabel explains it:

bq. The paucity of students from poor and working-class backgrounds at the nation’s selective colleges should be a national scandal. Yet the problem resides not so much in discrimination in the admissions process (though affirmative action for the privileged persists in preferences for the children of alumni and big donors) as in the definition of merit used by the elite colleges.

His proposed solution?

bq. One of my favorite [ideas] is a lottery. This could take the form of reserving a modest number of places in the freshman class — say 5 percent to 10 percent — for applicants who, having met a high academic threshold, would be selected at random. While the admissions office would know the identities of the students admitted by lottery, no one else — not faculty, not employers and not the students themselves — would.

The Clog’s two cents? It’s no surprise that unequal education at the elementary and high school level produces inequalities at the college level. Until we fix that, anything else is just a Band-Aid. Also, there is a place for students who can’t make it at the best schools.

The New College Try [NY Times]
Jerome Karabel [Department of Sociology]


On Thursday, we got a glimpse into Berkeley’s future when the university released data on the more than 10,000 students accepted for next fall. For reasons that boggle the soul, our school felt the burning desire to tell us we admitted

a student who danced with a ballet academy in Salzburg, Austria; several nationally-ranked debaters; a member of the U.S. Junior Olympic Water Polo team; a nationally-ranked chess player; and several members of a high school team that won the first place in the American Computer Science League All-Star Contest. The class also includes 44 sets of twins.

Several members of a prolific comp-sci team???!! Really??!! AND 44 sets of real-life, honest-to-god twins!! Excuse us as we all simultaneously wet ourselves.

Honestly, no celebrities? We couldn’t admit a Star Wars Kid caliber famous person to make things interesting in this urban-hippie-hellhole? Couldn’t we get Jonny Moseley or SuChin Pak for another season? Being on MTV totally proves that you took advantage of opportunities.

You’d figure that we’d get something a bit more substantial from such a gigantic class. Nope, stuck with the usual batch of MCATs-obsessed stress queens and EECS androids. Thanks a lot, Office of Undergraduate Admissions. Now, only an incoming class of 88 Siamese twin debate wizards can salvage fall ’07′s prospects of being interesting.

It’s important to note, though, that these students haven’t decided to join our ranks just yet. Berkeley expects only about 4,250 kids to enroll. It is also important to note that Berkeley accepted 370 more students than they did last year. So don’t expect much breathing room in the RSF come September.


Timothy Egan’s recent feature in The New York Times
packs more slop into the messy ongoing battle between advocates and opponents of affirmative action in post-secondary education.
The racial roulette for classroom seats is a hot-button issue for California’s public university system in the post-Prop 209 era and, as Egan suggests, particularly so at UC Berkeley.
With the school’s Asian American admission numbers reaching around 46% in the past couple years, Egan’s article focuses
on Berkeley’s consequent administrative and social dynamics issues.

    Vital points raised:

  • Race-neutral admissions policies vs. gaping discrepancies between inner-city and suburban high schools vs.
    cultural capital differences as the main reason for increased admission numbers of Asian American students and the
    subsequent drop in African American and Latino freshman counts
  • The sticky plurality vs. majority issue as applied to the Asian American minority on this campus
  • Lumping a bunch of distinct ethnicities together under the “Asian” umbrella
  • Discrepancies in standards among admission candidates of various ethnic minorities
  • Stereotypes and ethnic cliques existing without a lot of protest among the students

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