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The Real Campus Bias

April 11th, 2006 by dk

If you’re a high school senior, you’re probably receiving envelopes this month from the colleges and universities you have hoped to attend next fall. Thin envelopes bring bad news: it takes only a page for a school to tell you that you’re not what they’re looking for. Thick envelopes bring the beginning of the liberal bias that pervades higher education today.

It starts with the announcement of how many applicants the school filtered out to make room for you, the recipient. It ends with your dorm assignment and a short blurb about who you’ll be sharing that room with for nine months.

Colleges and universities build their populations of students and faculty around some decidedly liberal ideals: diversity and social engineering. Enrollment quotas at schools have made headlines in recent years around racial distinctions, but overlooked are all the other quotas an admissions employee must try to fill: an even mix of men and women, enough flute players for the band, a good spread of geographic roots, the right socioeconomic milieu.

Why? Because schools have determined (or decided, depending on whom you ask) that diversity produces the best learning environment for all its students. The college years pay the best dividends if students find themselves and their assumptions challenged. A diverse student body will naturally produce a rich learning environment.

Never mind that there are more diversities than there are stereotypes. Blondes have more fun. Longhairs can’t be trusted. Every group needs a giggler. Smokers think more deeply. The naturally tanned always have too many friends. Women who end every sentence as a question are endlessly annoying. Facial hair befits a deep inner life.

Who can best determine which diversities are best for students? The admissions counselors, whose word is final. Social engineering is best done from the top down, because the government (in this case, the administration of the school) knows what’s best for you.

They know what’s best for you, all the way down to your first college roommate. Different schools take different approaches to this task. Some look for certain commonalities so the first few weeks away from home include plenty of quick bonding. Other schools take an almost fiendish pleasure in throwing different types together, either by planning or by chance. But in almost every case, the school knows best who you should be sleeping near during what might be the most formative months of your young adult life.

American teenagers are endlessly adaptive and inventive. If they are thrown together as an example of diversity, but what they want is conformity, they’ll find things about which they all agree. If they are chosen because of their similarities, but they crave distinctiveness, they’ll change to fit their needs.

The Air Force Academy and Bob Jones University are two examples of schools where diversity is not the first concern, but they still exert a top-down control that looks more like big government than free enterprise.

Is there a pervasive liberal bias on campus? Yes. But it has very little to do with the politics of the professors. It flows first from the admissions staff, many of whom you’ll never meet, who have spent the spring playing Sim-World with the applications they have received. If your profile offers a part that fits their idea of an attractive whole, then your envelope will be fat.

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