Opportunity Gaps, Science vs. Power, Race in College Applications

November 1, 2018

Whether a student pursues an advanced degree depends significantly on their parents’ level of educational attainment, according to a new study by Gallup, the Association of American Law Schools, and the Law School Admission Council. Students with at least one parent with an advanced degree were more likely to report “relying on family as a source of advice about graduate school” and “seeing or receiving information about graduate and professional degrees,” compared to students whose parents didn’t have advanced degrees. In contrast, Black, Latinx, and Asian students considering an advanced degree—especially the first-generation students among those groups—were less likely than white students to report “seeing or receiving information on any advanced degrees.” To address the opportunity gap, the researchers point to another finding of the study: all students reported that professors and academic advisers were “key influencers” in the matter, meaning that it’s on schools to ensure all students receive the support and guidance they need to pursue advanced degrees.

Study: Parental Education is a Major Factor in Considering Advanced Degree, by LaMont Jones for Diverse


After news broke last week of the Trump Administration’s proposal to redefine sex as “either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with,” there has been significant backlash—not only from the trans and intersex communities, but biologists and medical professionals who echo the scientific argument that sex is not a binary. Journalist Beans Velocci agrees with this critique, but points out that, “This redefinition of sex has little to do with biology. This isn’t a scientific debate…It is about power, and it reflects a long history of hiding violent and exclusionary policy behind claims about the natural order of things.” Throughout history, scientific findings not only affected people’s perception of whether women should be allowed to vote and whether racial segregation was justified, but whether people with certain sexual characteristics could join the military or even emigrate to the U.S. Over the past 200 years, scientists have attempted to define sex in varied and scattered ways, most of which have been inconclusive and politically convenient. Velocci says these scientific attempts “exposed the reality: Officials cared less about scientific understandings of sex than sociopolitical goals: maintenance of a racial hierarchy, a strong military, a sexually ‘normal’ immigrant population.” Ultimately, Velocci says, what sex is or isn’t doesn’t matter—what matters is that “trans and intersex people deserve rights and recognition.”

The battle over trans rights is about power, not science, by Beans Velocci of The Washington Post


In the third week of trials between Harvard University and Students for Fair Admissions, a group that believes race should not be considered in college applications, students and recent graduates of color gave testimony regarding their personal experiences at the university. While most of the witnesses described Harvard as a “work in progress” on the diversity front, when a lawyer asked sophomore Catherine Ho if her experience would be affected if Harvard no longer considered applicants’ race and the numbers of students of color on campus subsequently declined, she said, “Without a doubt. For the worse.” Itzel Libertad Vasquez-Rodriguez, a recent graduate who identifies as indigenous Mexican-American, talked about how much she learned from a diverse student body and the solace she found in campus organizations amidst a predominantly white institution. Another student, Sally Chen, who wrote about being the daughter of Chinese immigrants in her application essay, said that she probably wouldn’t have ended up at Harvard if the university didn’t consider her race: “There’s no way in which flat numbers and résumé could’ve gotten across how much of a whole person that I am…My story was heard.”

At Harvard Trial, Statistics Give Way to Personal Stories About Diversity, by Eric Hoover of The Chronicle of Higher Education