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.
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