The home of “things said” by the National Association of Scholars.

Episode #21: Last Month Today, March Newscast


March was a busy month, from college admission scandals to free speech executive orders we had our hands full. Listen in and hear what the NAS staff has to say about March's biggest higher education news stories.

Oh, the Varsity Blues

David Randall

What's wrong with American colleges? Admissions departments are a small microcosm of large scale corruption.

On Point with Peter Wood


On Wednesday, NAS President Peter Wood spoke to NPR’s On Point’s Meghna Chakrabarti about the case Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard.

The Stiff Price of Social Justice

Adam Mission

Colleges that let in unqualified applicants hire lots of staff for student retention. This raises college costs, drives away poor, qualified students, and doesn't even keep unqualified admits from flunking out of college.

On the Alleged Need to "Improve Diversity" in Grad Admissions

George Leef

Professor Jonathan Marks critiques Julie Posselt's most recent book on grad school admission processes. 

Give the Poor Students a Chance, Not a Preference

Ashley Thorne

NAS Executive Director Ashley Thorne analyzes the problems with giving college admissions preferences to low-income students.

A Logician Sees Through the Fallacious Arguments for "Diversity"

George Leef

Professor Carl Cohen, a professor at the University of Michigan, opposes granting preference to students on the basis of ethnicity.

NAS Joins New Amicus Brief in Fisher Case

Glenn Ricketts

We join once again with the Pacific Legal Foundation in opposing race-based admissions policies.

Group Preferences Based on "Place" vs. Preferences Based on Race

George Leef

George Leef reviews Professor Sheryll Cashin's recent book, Place, Not Race.

The Resignation of Powers, President of the University of Texas: An Update

Publius Audax

A faculty member at the University of Texas, Austin who previously gave 10 reasons why UT president Bill Powers should step down, recounts recent events leading to Powers' actual resignation.

Telling the Truth About "Holistic" Admissions

George Leef

George Leef weighs in on the recent New York Times article about UC Berkeley's admission procedures.

Roger Clegg versus the higher ed establishment's "diversity statement"

George Leef

Attorney Roger Clegg looks at the higer ed establishment's recent statement in the NYT on racial preferences.

Supreme Court to Hear Proposition 2 Case

Glenn Ricketts

The Supreme Court will rule on Michigan's ban on the use of racial preferences in public universities.

Jennifer Gratz Reflects on the Battle Over Racial Preferences

George Leef

The successful plaintiff in the case against the University of Michigan's undergraduate racial preferences writes about the recently argued Fisher case before the Supreme Court.

Affirmative Action: Absurdity and Beyond

Glenn Ricketts

Academic "diversity" policies just keep on diversifying.

NAS's California and Connecticut Affiliates File Amicus Brief in Fisher v. Texas

Ashley Thorne

The friend-of-the-court brief filed by the California Association of Scholars and the Connecticut Association of Scholars asks the Supreme Court to revisit the "diversity" rationale for racial preferences in college admissions.

Crumbia U President Discusses Diversity

Glenn Ricketts

This really is a joke, but you might well wonder.

Should Universities Continue "Affirmative Action" Policies?

George Leef

George Leef and James Sterba debate the usefulness of "affirmative action" in contemporary college admissions.

Fisher Case Generates Wide Press Coverage, Reactions

Glenn Ricketts

Press coverage and commentary of the US Supreme Court's decision to accept the case of Fisher v. University of Texas for review.

SCOTUS Grants Certiorari in UTexas Admissions Case

Glenn Ricketts

The Supreme Court grants Certiorari in a major affirmative action case in Texas.


Let's Be Frank About Anti-Asian Admission Policies

John Rosenberg

John Rosenberg describes the pervasive admissions bias against Asian students at elite schools, along with the comically untenable denials of those who practice them.

Why the SCOTUS Should Reverse Grutter

Glenn Ricketts

The 2003 Supreme Court decision in Grutter v Bollinger was severely flawed. Larry Purdy wants it overturned.

Admissions Preferences

George Leef

California has a concrete diversity ceiling that discriminates against high performing students of Asian origin.

It’s Not the Test's Fault

Kate Hamilton

Should academe leave the SAT behind? Kate Hamilton examines the current state of the test-optional admissions movement.

Race-Based Affirmative Action Does Intended Beneficiaries No Good

Glenn Ricketts

Admitting poorly prepared minority students to demanding programs in the hard sciences or engineering at elite schools may make admissions officers or affirmative action supporters feel good about themselves, but it virtually sets such students up to fail.

Continuing the Debate Over Admissions Preferences

George Leef

In today's Pope Center piece, Notre Dame philosophy professor James Sterba gives his counter-arguments to the case I made against enshrining "socio-economic diversity" as another goal for elite colleges to attain through admissions preferences. We both participated in a forum back in September at Pomona College where that was the topic. I presented my case against that in a piece we published in October.  Professor Sterba responds and I respond to him. I remain convinced that "affirmative action" -- whether to achieve "better racial balance" or to get more students from poorer families into top schools, has minimal and mostly imaginary benefits that come at substantial cost.

Ready or Not, Here They Come

George Leef

About half of the students who enroll in college every year are not regarded as “college ready.” 

Better Answers Required to Justify Holistic Admissions Process

W. Lee Hansen

After attending hearings discussing recent findings on racial preferences at UW-Madison, NAS member W. Lee Hansen extends his critique of the admissions process at the university.

"Diversity:" How it Might Work Differently

Glenn Ricketts

Ethnic and racial diversity among students needn't be a problem on college campuses, argues long-time NAS member Russell Nieli. 

Should Schools Become "Proactive" in Recruiting LGBT Students?

George Leef

Will LGBT status or socio-economic status become the next mania among college admissions people intent on making their campuses "balanced" and "mirroring diversity"?

A Racially Restrictive Pipeline?

John Rosenberg

Displaying “grit and academic improvement” is not limited to minorities.

Video: Andrew Ferguson on the College Admissions Circus

"The entire edifice of higher education now has a huge propaganda machine at its heart, relentlessly pounding home the idea that everybody should go to college." - Andrew Ferguson, father of a college student

Leave It to the Sociologists...

John Rosenberg

This year's meeting of the American Sociological Association includes a paper about minorities' (rational) choices to apply to selective colleges.

Admissions Insanity

John C. Chalberg

Historian John C. Chalberg reviews Andrew Ferguson's Crazy U, and concludes that the title has some merit.

Admissions Angst Over Race Checkboxes Highlights Underlying Problems

Ashley Thorne

College admissions offices wrestle with the bewildering contortions of race-based admissions.

Debate: Will a Push to Increase College Enrollment Lead to Lower Standards?

Ashley Thorne and Peter Wood debated Education Sector's Kevin Carey on Minnesota Public Radio's online forum Insight Now.

A Flawed Experiment

Peter Wood

Peter Wood comments on a study that looked for political bias in graduate schools

Study Finds Racial Discrimination in Admissions at Two Universities

Ashley Thorne

A report conducted by NAS member Althea Nagai shows major bias against white applicants to Ohio State University and Miami University.

Race and College Admissions: Still More

Glenn Ricketts

The day simply has to be coming when the issue of race in college admissions or faculty hiring generates no new litigation "diversity" policies, because everyone is finally one the same page: we all agree that this is what the law says, and this is what we'll do in shaping our institutional policies. It hasn't come yet. 

Is This the Way to Improve College Admissions?

George Leef

In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, I review Robert Sternberg's recent book College Admissions for the 21st Century. Sternberg's contention is that colleges can admit a better student body -- more students with leadership potential, creativity, and wisdom -- if they would plumb students for their hidden talents. I doubt that it's really possible to engage in anything more than guesswork in that regard from reading essays by college applicants. Even if it's possible to accurately identify those with stellar hidden talents, all that accomplishes is a slight redistribution of where kids go to college. It's not worth the considerable cost. Sternberg argues that revising college admissions as he suggests will help bring about greater "equity" and "social justice" in the world. Color me skeptical about that, too.

Who Should Be a Doctor?

George Leef

Medical school admissions people apparently think that medical training has been going too much toward students with demonstrated aptitude in science and the nation would be better served if more medical students were chosen on other grounds, including geography. In today's Pope Center piece, Duke Cheston, a recent UNC graduate who majored in biology, writes about the shifting emphasis in med school admissions.

Potemkin Admissions: Law Professors Propose to Hide LSAT Data

George W. Dent

A movement is afoot to persuade law schools to withhold LSAT scores from U.S. News and World Report. The idea is to make it harder for the public to see how much the pursuit of racial preferences drags down the quality of admissions.

Diversity Discriminates

Ashley Thorne

How elite colleges and universities unfairly rig admissions standards and call it "diversity."

Russ Nieli Writes About "Diversity's" Dirty Little Secret

George Leef

Princeton's Russ Nieli has an illuminating essay on Minding the Campus entitled "How Diversity Punishes Asians, Poor Whites and Lots of Others." It absolutely knocks the stuffing out of the contention we hear so often from college administrators that their reason for using certain preferences is that a more "diverse" student body will enhance learning and break down stereotypes. If they actually wanted to do that, they would look for students who really do bring different beliefs and perspectives and would drop the bias Nieli shows against students from military families, those who have been active in groups like 4H, and so on. They aren't looking for Justice Powell's phantom "educational benefits of diversity" but are merely looking to fill quotas. Nieli advocates that elite colleges get over their diversity mania and follow what he calls the Cal Tech model: focus on enrolling students who are the most academically talented and the most eager to learn.

The Diversity Mania and Discrimination Against Asians

George Leef

In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, Roger Clegg addresses the question of discrimination against Asian students. Of course, selective colleges don't say, "We're against those geeky, overly studious Asian kids. Let 'em go somewhere else!" Rather, they just don't want to have "too many" of them, so as to have enough room for all the "under-represented" groups, whose students are presumed to add so much interest to the student body. The result is the same, though: some students are rejected on account of their ancestry.

Who Should Go to College?

Glenn Ricketts

That question seems to be on the minds of many higher education watchers these days, and there's an interesting round-table discussion of it over at today's Chronicle of Higher Education. Ashley Thorne also took the measure of it last week when she cited a slew of articles whose authors think too many current college students don't belong there. That's undoubtedly true, but why is it true? From where I'm looking in, not only should many students not matriculate in colleges, they should never have been given their high school dilplomas either. Unfortunately, self-esteem based pedagogy, legions of special education support staff, litigation-minded parents and the presence of a community college in the vicinity, with its open admissions policies, all load the odds heavily in favor of turning out lots of dismally unprepared students. As the numbers of such students increase and the colleges they attend view them as customers to be kept satisfied, the pressure to dilute educational standards continues to work its way upward. As a result, we have one huge mess, from K-12 through the entire collegiate experience. How about this: instead of asking who should attend college, why not consider what educators at that level should demand of all students, irrespective of any other considerations?

How to Get into College

Glenn Ricketts

This seems to be a week for uncovering students who have gotten into college under false pretenses of one kind or another. I'm referring specifically to two instances, one at Harvard, and the other at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. The Harvard student is an allegedly consummate con artist, while the Georgia case involves an illegal immigrant. Dishonesty in both cases, but it's fascinating to compare the institutional responses and the ensuing online reader reaction as well. Have a look, and then see what you think.

Do We Need Class-Based Affirmative Action?

George Leef

I was recently asked to respond to that question for The Chronicle Review, prompted by a recent study finding that many college students who drop out say that the reason they did so was too much pressure to work to earn money. Roger Clegg and I were the Grinches in the piece. There was a tight word limit on comments and there are some points I think worth adding. First, how do we really know why a student drops out? It is easy and I would think tempting for a student who just couldn't or wouldn't handle the academic work to save face by stating that financial pressure was the reason for leaving school. Second, instituting class-based affirmative action wouldn't do anything for poor people (or more accurately, poor people who have children who can get into college) as a group. The tendency of leftists to look at the world in terms of groups (and also to judge policies by their intentions) gets in the way of understanding the true impact of affirmative action. Suppose that all the selective schools decided that they wanted a quota of, say, 10 percent SES (socio-economic status) admits. That would be a small percentage of the total number of students from lower income households who go to college, and those given this preference would undoubtedly be the best of those students -- kids who probably could handle the workload at the non-selective colleges where they'd otherwise enroll. At the same time as a few students are admitted on SES grounds, equal numbers of non-poor students will have to enroll at a less selective institution. Going to a more selective school might be of a slight benefit to those few who are chosen to fill SES quotas (or it might actually prove harmful on "mismatch" and cost grounds), but it doesn't make the mass of poorer people one bit better off.

Diversi-Oaths: Creedal Admissions in the American University

Peter Wood

"Diversity" essays in college applications teach students how to bow to an anti-intellectual idol. At Berkeley, the bow is becoming for would-be grad students a full-scale grovel.

ALERT: Pelosi's Health Bill Would Mandate Race-Based Educational Preferences

Candace de Russy

The NAS has long and wisely opposed the use of racial, ethnic, or other criteria unrelated to merit in (among other aspects of campus life) student recruitment and admissions. Those who support this view will find troubling the following requirement embedded in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's 1,990-page health-care bill, which as I write she is trying to bring to a vote, and which fomer Lt. Governor of New York Betsy McCaughey, writing in The Wall Street Journal,  has unearthed:

Secs. 2521 and 2533 (pp. 1379 and 1437) establishes racial and ethnic preferences in awarding grants for training nurses and creating secondary-school health science programs. For example, grants for nursing schools should "give preference to programs that provide for improving the diversity of new nurse graduates to reflect changes in the demographics of the patient population." And secondary-school grants should go to schools "graduating students from disadvantaged backgrounds including racial and ethnic minorities."

The academic community en masse should, but of course won't, reject such heavy-handed and unfair federal manipulation of student admissions in the name of diversity. This bill - among its other ill effects - will only add to division and lowered academic standards throughout our educational institutions.

Fight Over Racial Preferences at IHE

George Leef

Today's Inside Higher Ed has a piece on a new book lauding "affirmative action" (that is to say, selective racial preferences). My good friend Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a strong opponent of preferences posted a comment and all hell has since broken loose. My thoughts: I haven't yet read the new book, but what I wish the people who keep demanding racial preferences at elite schools would explain is what is so darned important about going to one of those "elite" schools. The courses aren't taught any better just because the faculty is loaded with "academic stars." If anything, it goes the other way. Students at schools where the professors actually handle most of the teaching are likely to get more out of a course than at schools where the profs are mainly preoccupied with their publications. I don't think the mania for admissions preferences is really about the students. Rather, it's about the academic administrators. It makes them feel good about themselves to believe that their little social engineering efforts matter a lot. When mean people like Roger Clegg say that they should drop racial preferences, that's like telling them to stop playing make believe and grow up.

Higher Education And The Great Chain of Being

Mitchell Langbert

In the twentieth century, psychologists who studied  human resource management  realized that employment tests were the best way to select  job applicants.  Tests need to be verified or "validated," though. Much of the personnel psychology literature is devoted to the study of whether one test or another is valid for various purposes.  One finding  is that IQ tests work.  They explain a fourth of the variance in job performance. Despite the efficacy of employment testing it seems likely that the chief method of allocating human resources in the United States is the college or university attended. Graduates of prestigious institutions obtain jobs in high-end Wall Street, advertising and consulting firms.  Other college graduates get good jobs in corporations and government. Non-graduates often do not. Baccalaureate institution attended is accepted by all as a human resource allocation method.  But it lacks validation. Having recently been exposed to medieval history I learned a concept prevalent in the medieval world that seems to explain the fixation on college rankings--"the great chain of being". In medieval times, it was believed that the social hierarchy reflected the celestial hierarchy. The king was like God, the nobles like angels, etc. The interest in ranking colleges and universities and using them to allocate human resources is atavistic.   The twentieth century rejected the nineteenth century's individualism in favor of medieval institutions.  The idea that higher education is first and foremost a liberal and learning experience seems to have been sacrificed in the interest of the great chain of being.

Taking Clout Out: Lessons from the Shadow Admissions Office

Ashley Thorne

What can we learn from the Illinois admissions scandal?

40 Awkward Questions for College Tours

Peter Wood

You choose: either play the role of an

Affirmative Spoils

Peter Wood

Is affirmative action today mainly about equal opportunity, equal results, or neither?

Tuesday Temptations

Ashley Thorne

Transparency, Stereotype threat and the SAT, Lottery admissions, and Immortal sustainability

Wild BOARS in California

Glenn Ricketts

Our California affiliate raises objections to proposals which will guarantee admissions to 9 percent of each high school.

Facebook and the Future of the University

Tom Wood

Will social networking sites like Facebook remove the extracurricular responsibility of the university?

Virtuoso Violinists Beware Texas

Peter Wood

Texas, in the quest for diversity, tries to balance affirmative action and the top ten percent rule in college admissions.

Preferring Merit: Why Racial Preferences Are Worse than Legacy Admissions

Peter Wood

From Our Executive Director