Former Columbia U Prof: Make college admissions random, leave it to 'just blind chance'

Lower qualification threshold for admissions to increase diversity, argues the professor.

She also created a data journalism program at Columbia University.

A former Barnard College mathematics professor recently proposed that college admissions should “use random selection instead” of the traditional application process. 

O’Neil believes that randomized admissions at certain colleges could test the theory that “diversity adds value.”

“There could be a weak notion of who is ‘qualified’ — say, a high school degree and a minimum grade point average,” wrote Cathy O’Neil — who also launched the Lede Program in Data Journalism at Columbia University — in Bloomberg Opinion. “Beyond that, selection would be publicly and provably random. Never mind optional standardized tests. If you show interest, your name goes in a big hat.”

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Although “kids who struggled to get perfect grades,” “who spent their high school years getting really good at obscure yet in-demand sports,” and “the legacies and the offspring of big donors” would lose their advantages, O’Neil believes that the benefits outweigh the costs.

“Colleges wouldn’t have to worry about fighting claims of racial discrimination in the Supreme Court, because by construction the admissions process would be non-discriminatory,” she argued. “No more ‘soft’ criteria. No more biased tests. Just blind chance.”

Campus Reform reached out to O’Neil for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft