A new education research report, “Unknown” Students on College Campuses, examines applications data collected from three private colleges in California between 1991 and 2001. The study reveals a trend where some White students claimed their Race was “Unknown” in order to trick the applications process into believing they were minority students.

The result of the applications manipulation was colleges believed they were enrolling more minority students than their applicants led them to believe. Data provided to the federal government indicated a rise from 3.2 percent to 5.9 percent in “Unknown” racial identification on applications.

At one college, students who re-classified their racial identity from “Unknown” to “White” rose to 70 percent post-admission from 42 percent pre-admission. The overall percentage of students in the study who claimed their Race was “Unknown” plunged from 32 percent to 4 percent after admission.

Historically colleges re-categorize students of “Unknown” Race as “multiracial” but that assumption was skewed by White students who pretended not to know their Race in order to skirt majority admissions limits.

Colleges benefited from this scam as well because they were able to point to large “minority enrollment” numbers to impress true minority students with the expansive “multiracial makeup” of the campus.

Minority students were rightly confused when they enrolled only to discover the claimed minority population never existed. Is this White trickery in the college admissions system the expected result of racial quotas and failed Affirmative Action initiatives or is something meaner going on here?

20 Comments

  1. Over Christmas I was talking to my little bother who at 18 is looking for work and he was amazed by the number of job aplications that were asking for his race or “ethnic origin”. I’m inclined to belive that race should not play a role in either employment or education and so see no reason to answer such questions and as a rule I don’t has most official forms I have seen have the option of not disclosing it (althought I now wonder what all the no-disclosed answers were classed as).
    However is it posible that the honest answer is unknown, I look white but do I really know my ethnic origin? No. It was not untill I moved away from England in 2003 that my gandmother told me that her grandmother had moved to England from a town only 10 miles from where I now live, if I don’t even know where five generations of my family are from how can I know where they orginated; are we not all of African origin anyway?

  2. Hi Mark!
    Nice to see you “back” here again!
    You’re in the UK, right?
    In the USA it is illegal for to ask during the hiring process about religious preferences or Race or ethnicity of job applicants as disclosed in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964:
    Requesting pre-employment information that discloses or tends to disclose an applicant’s race strongly suggests that race will be used unlawfully as a basis for hiring. Therefore, if members of minority groups are excluded from employment, the request for such pre-employment information would likely constitute evidence of discrimination. If an employer legitimately needs information about its employees’ or applicants’ race for affirmative action purposes and/or to track applicant flow, it may obtain racial information and simultaneously guard against discriminatory selection by using “tear-off sheets” for the identification of an applicant’s race. After the applicant completes the application and the tear-off portion, the employer separates the tear-off sheet from the application and does not use it in the selection process.
    http://www.eeoc.gov/types/race.html
    Race and Ethnicity are not the same. Race is skin color. Ethnicity is the culture in which you were raised and that includes, language, songs, societal norms, education, morality and aesthetic…

  3. Not so much back as stopped lurking for a while 😉
    Thanks for the information about Civil Righs Act, I offten see see those “tear-off sheets” questions and I’m never 100% confident that the abilty of the employer to sepate the sheets will relate to them doing so, and I will admit to being a little paronoid when both sheets cary the same code numbers. I have just even looked at my passport to see what information it contained since it is always requested when trying to get workand found nothing to scary so I might stop worrying about this risk of discrimination.
    I’m probably out of my depth in this discusion as I have always been used to the term race and ethnicity being the same, whilst being distinct from culture upbringing.

  4. Mark!
    Oh, it’s good to know your “back” has always been here! Harr!
    I think you’re smart to be concerned about those tear-off sheets because they very well may be marked in some way to identify you.
    Universities in America send out a postcard you fill out separately from your application when applying for a teaching position that is supposed to anonymously provide your race and ethnicity and then you mail it back anonymously.
    The process guarantees non-anonymity because oftentimes there are traceable codes on the postcard and with postal marks one could easily track back the card to the applicant in question.
    This reminds me of a story about a friend of mine who thought he had a job at UNLV (University of Nevada-Las Vegas) – he was a writer of very tough and smart fiction – and when the university flew him down and he was met at the airport by the Chair of the Department who then said to my Lily-White Connecticut Yale-Educated friend, “We thought you were Black” and turned around and drove off with my friend standing in the airport stunned and without a return ticket back to New York!
    Many people think Race and Ethnicity and Culture are all synonyms and in some places that might be true, but from a Federal perspective in America — definitions made necessary for clarity in the U.S. Census — Race means skin color.

  5. I don’t know if this was a “trick” to see who was applying, or a way to get pictures for the “face book,” but when I was applying to law school, I had to submit photographs when I was applying for school.
    I wonder about my children when they go to college and if they will suffer from any quotas. My two sons are multi-racial (Asian-Americans). My 8-year-old son always says that he is American when kids at school ask him if he is Japanese. My wife is an American citizen of Filipino origin. To many people, having certain characteristics makes you “Japanese.” My youngest son is too young to realize anything yet, but I’m sure he’ll face the same types of questions from his peers.
    I hope admissions officials don’t make assumptions about intelligence and give preferences based on race or a race-plus standard, as is sometimes alleged happens to Asian applicants at colleges. My 8-year-old is an average American student who isn’t particularly skilled or gifted in science or math, as the stereotype goes. In the future, who knows, but right now he’s trending more toward strength in English.
    If it made a difference, I’d suggest to my son that he checks whatever box would help him get into the best school. If there weren’t many Asians in the school of his choice, go ahead and select that. If it seemed like it would hurt him, i.e. in California, I’d say select the “white” box.
    It’s hard to classify people.
    I have a feeling we are all mixed to varying degrees. Sometimes people forget about the black relatives in their family tree.
    And, today, men and women are dating people they like and love without regard to social mores that prohibited mixing in the past. There are some studies that suggest that there are more African-American women than men, so more interracial relationships are to be expected as women seek out people to date and marry.

  6. I’m having a hard time finding web data to back me up (and I found a very disturbing web site full of paranoia called ‘jew watch’ in the process) but there was a time period in this last century (right before Y2k) in which you were not considered ‘white’ if you were jewish.
    There are plenty of israelis who come here to live that are quite dark in skin due to generations of living there – what are they considered racially?

  7. Hello Chris!
    Thank you for sharing the depths of your personal experience on this issue. It’s fascinating as a parent you would encourage your child to click the best box to get into the choice school. That’s a human and honest assessment of the situation and no one can blame you for advising the best frame to present your child for evaluation by others with motives and quotas that may not be on the surface.
    I wonder if law schools would be allowed today to collect photographs of applicants. That seems to go against every sort of measure of blind fairness in the admissions process!
    I don’t think admissions officers make decisions based on intelligence and race — I think they are separate issues — but giving the selection process as much “color” as possible no matter what the academic standing of the students is extremely important as is geographic diversity.
    I was always told if I applied to an elite undergraduate school like Yale or Harvard or USC or Stanford I would “get points” for being in Nebraska instead of being on the East Coast.
    Is that sort of geographic preference a form of racial profiling or is it just a convenient way to get lots of different perspectives in an incoming class without looking at skin color? In Nebraska at that time the state was over 95% White so geography and Race were pretty close to being identical.
    Nebraska is now much more diversified with the continued immigrant influx from the South where Latinos migrate up to take the jobs the White kids refuse to do like clean toilets and serve fast food. The job crises was so awful – too many jobs and no one willing to do them – 15 years ago that businesses would fly in families of workers and put them up for free in a hotel for a month in exchange for a guarantee to work flipping hamburgers for a certain number of years. The starting price for those jobs was $10 an hour 15 years ago because that’s how much you had to pay people to move to Lincoln to take menial jobs in the middle of nowhere with no hope for future advancement beyond the grease pit.
    I certainly agree America is becoming more colorfully mixed in culture and race and that is a tremendous thing. The sooner racial differences can be mitigated the sooner we can all get on to the business of loving and respecting each other for the people we are and not the race we represent.

  8. I think in the end, ‘white’ is not a race. Every other group on the census form indicates a person’s heritage in some way or another.
    I think we all know that someone from Dublin is not at all like someone from Warsaw.
    Heck, Dubliners and Manchester…ians…. are markedly different. Yet both would fall under the same ‘racial’ category here.
    If I had a fill in the blank for race I’d put Jewish Romanian-American. 🙂 I don’t recall our jewish race discussion but I don’t presently think it offensive if that helps.

  9. Hey Gordon!
    Here’s another interesting article on the Census and Race and reporting and statistics:
    The Associated Press has opted to compare people who identified themselves as all or part of one race in 2000 with those who in earlier years picked that category as their sole race. That means if a mixed-race person chose white and black in 2000, The AP would include that person in both the white-only and black-only categories for the purposes of making comparisons with 1990. The problem with that tactic is that when tallying race, people can be counted up to six times, so the total of the percentages exceeds 100. For example, Tiger Woods would be counted four times, assuming he filled out his Census form the way he describes himself in interviews.
    Hmm… I was certain it was you that told me Jews were not a Race…
    I found this site:
    http://www.cyberlearning-world.com/holocaust/whatisrace.htm
    In my a9.com history from 11 months ago — right around the time I thought we were having the discussion…

  10. College admissions has progressively become an unfortunate game of cat a mouse between prospective students and admissions boards. The admissions process, particularly at private institutions, is by no mean democratic. The game begins well before the actual applications are submitted, with SAT prep-classes, admissions ‘counseling’, personal statement coaching. Those who can afford such services place themselves at a decided advantage over students/parents who cannot or are unaware of the game they are entering. Students/parents in the know play the admissions process from any and every angle they can. I think the race switcheroo is merely one such angle that students are playing in the hopes of gaining in edge in the chaotic admissions process. See this from the Atlantic. Each year the magazine has a series of articles that capture a portrait of the admissions process.

  11. Jonathan —
    It is a strange stew that makes up the admissions process. It always helps if someone at the institution wants you or if your parents are able to make a $10,000 donation to the general scholarship fund. Both of those advantages practically guarantee you admission into the program of your choosing.
    For the rest of us, however, grades matter as do test scores. Then they move on to your letters and then on to your personal statement if you’re still in the running. Many upper-tier institutions won’t even consider anyone under a 4.0 grade average because even in the Realm of the Creamed they can still find enough variety in race, ethnicity and geography to create an interesting class.
    No school is interested in diversity via stupid or the poorly motivated so using grades as the dicing point is statistically simple but humanly and ethically immoral because there are students who, because of educational disparities or familial disadvantages, may have a 3.0 GPA but be smarter and better than a student with a 4.0 — but those 3.0 students need someone in that pipeline to stand up for them and to discover them and believe in them and that rarely happens in the application process today.
    A couple of years ago an elite “bedroom community” in New Jersey offered me $250 a day per household to individually tutor high school seniors for the SAT. It was too far away for me to accept and I admit the price point and the advantage they were willing to earn for their kids turned my stomach a bit because I knew no family in Newark or Jersey City that could afford to fly $250 into my hand for a few hours of learning-to-gain-an-edge without the intention of really learning anything everlasting in the end.

  12. I was thinking about the changes in the Midwest and it is interesting to see how things have changed in the last decade. I wonder how colleges look at applicants from the Midwest, if they used to consider it completely Anglo.
    There is a huge influx of immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries coming to do work in the farm fields and factories here. I’ve seen some courthouses in the north-central part of the state employ Spanish-speaking staff, have signs in English and Spanish, and sometimes have days when they set hearings for people needing a Spanish translator. Other areas, like East Chicago, Indiana, have had generations of people from Latin America living here.
    I predict that one of these days, there will be a huge plurality of Hispanic/Latino people in the Midwest which will make college admissions officers have to rethink their notions about “fly-over” country, if they haven’t already done so.

  13. Yes, it is sad that we have an educational meritocracy for those who can afford it. GPA is very tricky component as many high schools offer advanced classes that inflate GPA’s well above 4.0 (even if they have less perfect grades!). In the numbers game, this places students that come from schools that dont offer such classes as a disadvantage. While admissions boards attempt to take this into consideration, I would imagine it is difficult to weigh each student’s accomplishments based on his or her peers and the educational environment that they came from. Its much easier, though certainly dehumanizing, to simply compare numbers and use numerical cutoffs before human eyes see the applications.

  14. Chris —
    I think colleges have adjusted their admissions expectations to meet the demand of the new lay of the land out in the middle of country. I think that’s a good thing, though, because greater exposure to minority opinions and experiences is healthy for the majority even though it will be resisted – sometimes forcefully.
    When I was growing up in Lincoln there were other kids who would freeze if they saw a Black person in person because they’d never seen one before. It was really sad because their first instinct was to turn around and run away.
    I love it there is a bi-lingual movement in your area of the woods. That only makes things better even though the majority power cowers in hatred of the idea of a change in their status quo. English is a vibrant and alive language that is always changing but the hardcore Midwesterners see “Proper English” as the only language worth learning and memorizing.
    “Fly Over” people are changing rapidly and I love it — the fact that Lincoln, Nebraska now has a strong Latino and Black population is a wonderful thing — it used to be not so long ago that the bad-taste joke on campus at UNL—and openly spoken without fear of repercussion – was if you wanted to see a Black person in Nebraska you had to attend the football game on Saturday to see one playing on the field.

  15. Jonathan!
    Yes, judging people with numbers alone is unfortunate — especially when the idea of a university is to ideally take a whole-body approach to learning.
    Many admissions officers know of the GPA disparity you mention and they try to correct it knowing a student who takes really hard classes in a really hard-grading school and gets a 3.3 may be a better student overall than one who took easy courses at a grade-inflated school with a 4.8 GPA.
    I agree the A grades are ridiculous and created to inflate grades! If an “A” is supposed to be academic perfection — and the “C” the acceptable standard for doing good work (that “C” has become and “F” in the minds of current students) — then “A ” grading is an embarrassment of fools who seek to create what could not be rightly earned.

  16. I think, in the end, I would have to consider the Jewish people to be a race because ultimately, what makes a person Jewish is having a Jewish neshama – soul – all of which we are told were present at the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. Even those people yet unborn – their souls were there as well. (That is the basis of the matchmaking web site sawyouatsinai.com – all jewish souls were there at the time) The jewish convert, we are told, is someone whose jewish soul was hidden in them, but which were pining to be set free. Hence, a person’s desire to be Jewish arises from this.
    So – yes. Race.