No white privilege at Cal Tech

Almost all colleges and universities today engage in affirmative action, which the Supreme Court ruled in Grutter v. Bollinger is permissible as long as it is “narrowly tailored” (“How Yale Became the Latest Target in the Plot to Kill Affirmative Action,” The Nation, Aug. 24).  Whether they strictly adhere to that requirement, however, is another story.  Only one school has refused to jettison pure meritocracy.

The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena enrolls only the most academically advanced students regardless of their race, athletic ability or legacy status. As a result, Asians constitute an overwhelming proportion of its student body.  It’s not that Cal Tech doesn’t try to recruit and nurture underrepresented minorities.  On the contrary, it tries very hard to do so, but it won’t bend its standards.  The school is interested only in intellectual merit and passion for learning.

Cal Tech has paid a price for its refusal to cave in to pressure in the form of its relatively low alumni-giving rate.  But various government, corporate and individuals have more than made up for that in its per-student financial resource picture, which exceeds all the Ivies.  Cal Tech is a reminder that colleges and universities can flourish when they stick to the reason they exist in the first place.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

2 Replies to “No white privilege at Cal Tech”

  1. Cal Tech enjoys the advantage of having an absolutely top-notch academic reputation, so it can attract lots of applicants as well as a lot of govt and private funding. (Of course, that top-notch academic reputation is due, in part, to Cal Tech’s policy of no affirmative action, athletic, or legacy admissions — so there is something of a chicken-and-the-egg issue there.)

    If less academically prestigious colleges abandoned affirmative action, athletic and legacy admissions, they might have much more difficulty attracting enough applicants and alumni $ — unless, of course, all the colleges did so, in which case abandoning these non-academic admission criteria would not disadvantage the colleges. But, that’s not going to happen — at least not so long as colleges rely on non-tuition sources of $.


  2. Labor Lawyer: With the exception of a handful of colleges and universities today, academic rigor is largely gone. Third-tier institutions are little more than extended high schools. What students learn there should have been learned in high school. Yet the obsession with a bachelor’s degree for all persists.


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