The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Failing the ‘Underrepresented’ at MIT

Posted on | June 20, 2017 | Comments Off on Failing the ‘Underrepresented’ at MIT


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is one of the most elite universities on the planet. Only 8% of students who apply are accepted for admission, and annual cost of attendance (tuition, room and board) is $62,662. So unless you’re a National Merit Scholar type with a rich Daddy to pay the bills, don’t even think about going to MIT.

Alas, the idolatry of “diversity” in academia means that MIT makes special efforts to attract students from “underrepresented” groups. (The use of the term “underrepresented” instead of “minority” is necessitated because Asian students, while a minority, are actually over-represented in enrollment at elite universities.) What predictably results from such efforts is a pattern of failure that critics of affirmative action have described in terms of “mismatch theory.” If you thought the geniuses at MIT might be an exception to the pattern, you thought wrong:

Senior House, a dorm beloved by many underrepresented minority groups at MIT, has been described many ways: free-wheeling, experimental, diverse, inclusive — and, in the words of one former student, in constant violation of “campus policy on smoking, pets, drugs, alcohol, public sex, (insert flavor-of-the-month form of rebellion here).”
The dorm is about to be dismantled. MIT has decided to kick everyone out, allowing its current members to reapply for residence in the space for the fall, but insisting it will repopulate it. “You will see that we are seeking individuals who are committed to contributing to a residential environment that supports residents’ academic and personal development,” chancellor Cynthia Barnhart wrote in a letter to current and former student members, obtained by Quartz and confirmed by the university.
MIT, which prides itself on exalting data, says data drove the decision: 59.7% of students who start off (pdf) living in Senior House graduate in four years. That compares to a university-wide average of 83.7%. More than a fifth of students had not graduated after their sixth year, nearly double the rate of the next worst-performing dorm, called Random.
MIT initially proposed overhauling the house, based on the graduation data and concerns over illegal drug use. It halted 2016-2017 freshman from moving in, appointed a turnaround committee, and added more mental health resources to the house. But the administration ultimately concluded that revamping it wasn’t worth the bother. Senior House was filled with “serious and unsafe behaviors” which undermine the university’s goals for the health, safety and academic success of the students, the letter stated.

The data on graduation rates alone would suffice to defend this decision. If you’re attending a school that costs $62,662 a year, and you still haven’t graduated after six years, this is an expensive failure. However, it appears that some MIT students are not exactly objective about the data:

On [an MIT student and alumni] blog, Michelle G., class of 2018, questioned whether the graduation data cited by the university ignored that “students of certain demographic backgrounds are significantly more likely to take longer than four years to graduate.” Senior House, she wrote, is one of the most inexpensive dorms to live in, and attracts a disproportionately high share of low-income students. According to her post, the three most expensive dorms have the highest graduation rates vs. the cheapest ones, which have the lowest. She also noted that, according to the chancellor’s office, 40% of Senior House students are LGBT.

OK, if you’re a low-income Latina lesbian, was it really a smart decision to choose MIT? Does the cost-benefit analysis make sense? And considering that MIT’s admissions process is so highly selective that only 8% of applicants are accepted, what conclusion should we draw from the fact that 40% of Senior House residents can’t graduate within four years?

I’m not smart enough to know the answers to all those questions, so maybe there’s a reason why hillbillies are “underrepresented” at MIT.

(Hat-tip: The Unz Review.)



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