MORABITO: Why are White college applicants lying about their race?
An online poll found that 34 percent of white college applicants had lied about their race.
An admissions expert tells Campus Reform that minority status may or may not benefit an applicant depending on their overall application package.
A new poll shows that more than 1 in 3 white college applicants has falsely claimed to be a racial minority on their application. An online survey commissioned by Intelligencer.com found that 81 percent of the people who lied did so because they believed it would increase their chances of admission.
Additionally, fifty percent said they lied because they thought claiming to be part of a minority group could give them access to more financial aid.
White men were three times as likely as white women to say that they lied about their race (48 percent to 16 percent). Of all those who lied, 48 percent claimed to be Native American. However, men were more likely to claim they are Native American, while women were more likely to claim they are Black.
Leading Critical Race Theorist and Boston University professor Dr. Ibram X. Kendi tweeted about the study on Oct. 29. His now-deleted tweet, as reported by The Blaze, said, "More than a third of White students lied about their race on college applications, and about half of these applicants lied about being Native American. More than three-fourths of these students who lied about their race were accepted." On Nov 1, Kendi posted a thread on why he tweeted the study, noting, "I posted these figures to show how many people may still hold this false belief that White people are disadvantaged."
Though admitted students have no way of knowing if lying about their race tipped the admissions scales in their favor, many believe that being untruthful contributed to their being admitted. “Seventy-seven percent of people who claimed to be a racial minority on their applications were accepted by the colleges to which they lied. While other factors may have played a role in their acceptance, the majority of applicants who lied and were accepted (85%) believe that falsifying their racial minority status helped them secure admission to college,” the Intelligencer report says.
Recent data on the issue is scant, but past studies have shown that these students’ concerns may be legitimate – even if their strategy of lying is not.
Thomas J. Kane in the Ohio State Law Journal looked at college outcomes of the high school class of 1982 and found that at “the most selective 20 percent of four-year institutions… being black or Hispanic has approximately the same effect on one's chances of admission as two-thirds' of a grade point performance in high school or roughly 400 points on the SAT test.”
A 2004 study by three Princeton University researchers found that “African-American applicants receive the largest race/ ethnic preference (by a factor of 5.5 over whites) followed by Hispanics. Asians experience the greatest disadvantage in admissions vis-a`-vis other comparable racial/ethnic groups, including those of other races. The odds of admission for Asians are nearly 30 percent lower than those of their white counterparts.”
Jon Reider, who worked in admissions at Stanford University from 1985-2000, told Campus Reform that being part of a racial minority group – or simply claiming to be part of one - could potentially give qualified applicants an edge. “If you are a strong applicant in other ways, grades, test scores, all that, and you’ve been a good citizen, it could help you…It will not automatically help you. It might help you if you’re convincing,” he said.
Though he expressed skepticism about the survey, he has personally experienced a student lying about their race in an attempt to game the admissions system. When he worked at Stanford, an admitted student approached him with concerns that he, a white student, was receiving materials geared toward Black students. Reider pulled his file and found that someone had identified him as Black. The student said he knew nothing about it, and Reider said he would fix it. Reider later learned that this was not an honest mistake: “We found out with lots of kinds of evidence that he had lied,” Reider said. “Then we heard… some classmate of his back home in Brooklyn said this kid was going around school bragging about how well he fooled Stanford.” The dean revoked his admission as a result.
Reider said that colleges eager to boost their diversity rankings may be less inclined to verify that applicants are who they claim to be: “It’s quite possible that larger schools, which have a tremendous number of applications to read…they may want to just proclaim that they are more diverse than they were a year ago, or five years ago, whatever time frame they’re using,” he said, “so they may in fact take at face value if somebody says they’re native American. They don’t want to look at it too closely, because they just want to be able to brag about their numbers.”
Numbers, he said, are not a good measure of how diverse a campus actually is, or how strong campus communities are. “What you really want with diversity is not numbers, is you want community, you want people who belong and who participate.”
When asked if lying about one’s race could benefit a person’s admissions chances, Reider said, “Three words: It all depends. Does it help to be from Idaho? And the answer, because that’s an underrepresented state, does it help to be Mongolian? Does it help to want to major in French? It’s a major very few people want…It depends on everything else that’s in the file.”
Any potential admissions benefits, he says, are immaterial to the ethics of the situation. “I am always in favor of telling the truth. I do not see any reason to lie on a college application,” he said.
As Campus Reform reported this summer, a paper from the Center for Equal Opportunity examined admissions data in light of test scores, grades, gender, legacy status, and in-state residence and found that the University of Virginia; the University of Wisconsin, Ohio State University, and the University of Michigan, among others, were each placing white applicants at a disadvantage.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AngelaLMorabito