Seven months after the previous College of Arts and Sciences director of admissions left Cornell, the college appointed a new director and added a new deputy director of admissions position in late March.
The University received 49,118 applications this admissions cycle — 2,210 fewer than last year’s — and accepted 105 fewer students this year, according to a University press release. Nearly 55 percent of this year’s admitted students are “students of color” — underrepresented minorities or Asian Americans — a new record for Cornell.
Lidia Mandava ’20 has returned home just once since she came to Cornell. Arzu Mammadova ’20 — who speaks four languages — struggled sometimes in her first-year writing seminar. Georgia Makris ’20 and AbdulRahman Al-Mana ’20 both described missing out on their changing hometowns. All these students are either the only, or one of a handful, student to ever attend Cornell from their home countries.
President Martha E. Pollack and Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, spoke to the Student Assembly at Thursday’s meeting, focusing on the recent college admissions scandal, ongoing efforts to improve mental health on campus and diversity.
The biggest college admissions scandal the FBI has ever prosecuted: wealthy individuals paying for their kids’ admissions into elite institutions with fake athletic records and artificially inflated test scores. And a Cornell alumnus, Gordon Caplan ’88, is among the offenders. This scandal goes to the root of a noxious, pervasive problem in higher education — the influence of money on opportunity. Though the $500,000 in bribes from actress Lori Loughlin to the University of Southern California is an extreme example of this national problem, universities like Cornell let wealth legally influence their admissions in small but unfair ways every year. While our University is “need-blind” for domestic applicants, we do not remove money from the admissions process.
An elite education is said to be priceless — at least, that could be the motivation behind the actions of Gordon Caplan ’88, who allegedly wired $75,000 to procure a fabricated, inflated ACT score for his daughter.
Boasting nearly one million views and more than 17,000 subscribers, Anna Fang ’19 runs a successful YouTube channel that showcases the different facets of Cornell life to thousands of eager high school and college students from across the nation.
Cornell admitted 1,395 out of 6,159, or 22.6 percent of the early decision applicants for the Class of 2023, down from the admission rates of 24.4 percent for the Class of 2022 and 25.8 percent for the Class of 2021.
In high school, I found that most discussions of affirmative action came in the form of a snide remark. During the standardized testing days, it went like, “If only I were black, then I wouldn’t have to worry about this test.” And later, as acceptances and rejections drew smiles and tears, the remark bobbed back up: “Makes sense why he didn’t get into [elite school]. It’s so hard to get in if you’re Asian.”
There is a vital, sometimes frustrating, debate to be had on affirmative action. The common story on race-based admissions appeals to the passions. Surely, any just admissions system will ensure marginalized groups — disempowered by centuries of compounding disadvantage — get a fair shake.