They Think It’s Hard NOW???
A recent article in Inside Higher Ed entitled, “A Multi-Part Question” claims that recent changes in the structure of questions about racial and ethnic background have led to confusion among multiracial college applicants about how they should identify themselves on their applications.
Really?! Do they honestly believe that being forced to deny a part of their heritage and choose only one race was simpler for a multiracial student than being allowed to select all that apply?
The article also reports that when institutions implemented the federally-mandated wording change, many colleges saw an increase in the number of students identifying as multiracial. Isn’t that an obvious outcome? Naturally, when allowed to mark only one race, even multiracial students appeared on paper to be monoracial and when permitted to mark one or more, more students identified as multiracial. What did they expect?
The only real questions are the role that race plays in admissions and the concern that students might try to play the system by falsely claiming to be multiracial to gain a perceived edge in the application process. I am currently applying to colleges and, while I have no problem knowing which boxes to check on my applications, the race issue has arisen in other ways. My PSAT scores garnered me invitations to many recruitment events at highly competitive colleges. Some of these events are for the general population of promising applicants, while others are aimed specifically at underrepresented minority candidates. At MIT this past weekend, for instance, I was curiously placed on a dorm floor where every student was Black. At a school where African American students make up only 7% of the student body, this made me question how MIT looks at race.
Our federal standards for the collection of racial data are not perfect. There may be no reasonable way to ensure that people are responding honestly to the questions. But the standards are not confusing and the increased number of multiracial students is surely no surprise. This system is not perfect but it is certainly a move in the right direction!