Medical school cancels honor society because whites and Asians were earning better grades than blacks and Latinos

According to this article from NPR, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, in order to get into the Alpha Omega Alpha honor society, you have to be in the top 25% of your graduating class.

The school is eliminating the honor society because not enough blacks and Latinos were graduating in the top 25%.

I’m not sure how getting rid of this honor society makes anyone better off.

On the contrary – I see this as just one more example of the dumbing down of America’s educational system.

As to the issue of why blacks and Latinos are underrepresented in the top 25%, my guess is that the school has lower admissions standards for blacks and Latinos than for everyone else. I could be wrong. And I’d be curious to hear anyone else explain a different reason in the comment section.

A Medical School Tradition Comes Under Fire For Racism

September 5, 2018

Senior medical student Giselle Lynch has plenty of accomplishments to list when she applies for a coveted spot in an ophthalmology residency program this fall.

But one box she won’t be able to check when she submits her application is one of the highest academic awards medical students can receive, election to the honor society Alpha Omega Alpha.

It’s not because she didn’t excel. It’s because her medical school, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, put a moratorium on student nominations because it determined the selection process discriminates against students of color.

The award is open to the top 25 percent of a medical school’s graduating class and can be a valuable career boost, making students more competitive for desirable residencies and jobs.

Icahn administrators say the disparities in the selection process reflect deeper issues of racial inequality in medical education.

“AOA perpetuates systems that are deeply flawed,” says Dr. David Muller, the dean for medical education at Icahn. “We can’t justify putting people who are historically at a disadvantage at an even greater disadvantage. It just doesn’t seem fair to dangle in front of our students an honorific that we know people are not equally eligible for.”

Over the past five years, around 3 percent of students chosen for the distinction at Icahn were from a racial background that is underrepresented in medicine, which includes blacks and Latinos. In that same period, about 18 percent to 20 percent of each graduating class at Icahn came from those groups.

The school made the change after Lynch led a group of fellow students in an effort to fight inequality at Icahn. The students collected data on how many students from underrepresented minorities were nominated to the honor society at Icahn and presented it in a series of meetings with school leadership last year.

Lynch, who is black, recalls one particularly moving meeting when they showed photographs of Icahn’s past AOA students — and black and Latino faces were conspicuously sparse.

“Where are we? We’re nowhere here,” says Lynch, remembering her reaction. “AOA is an award of student excellence. What was the argument that was being perpetuated about us if we’re not being included?”

Announced in May of this year, the decision at Icahn was a controversial one, because many students and faculty fear that not participating in the award puts Icahn students at a disadvantage when competing for slots in residency programs.

The honor society has existed since 1902 and is a sought-after line on the résumés of medical students across the country. Membership can help students secure training in competitive specialties and is a predictor of success in academic medicine.

Membership is generally open to the top 25 percent of medical students in a graduating class, as determined by their grades and scores on standardized tests, but only about 16 percent makes it in. Each medical school has its own criteria for making final selections including qualities like leadership or professionalism.

Icahn is not alone in selecting a disproportionately low number of minority students for the honor society. A 2017 study in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that nationwide, black and Asian students were less likely than their white counterparts to be selected for the honor.

Dr. Dowin Boatright, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Yale, hypothesizes that the disparities may be related to racial inequalities in grading and standardized tests, a phenomenon well-documented in medical education literature. Grading based on clinical performance is subjective, he notes, since it often reflects a global assessment of a student rather than technical skills or performance on a test.

“You’re graded on things that are completely vulnerable to bias, like, ‘How good is this medical student?’ ” Boatright says.

Other medical schools are also considering how their AOA chapters can accurately reflect the racial makeup of their student bodies, according to Dr. Eve Higginbotham, the president of AOA board. And at the University of California, San Francisco, faculty and students are debating whether the honor society has a future there.

“Systems we use [for student evaluation] fail to take into account the extra work minorities are doing,” says Dr. Catherine Lucey, vice dean for education at UCSF. “[Minority] students have more stressors they have to deal with, low levels of racism that exist in our patients and our clinical environments.”

Lucey says that UCSF changed its selection criteria for AOA in 2016 to focus less on grades. The number of minority students selected for the honor society that year increased to match the percentage of minorities in each graduating class.

Dr. Jonathan Giftos, an internist in New York who was president of the Icahn chapter when he graduated in 2012, says disparities in the honor society are important to address because when medical education favors white students that can mean fewer minorities in leadership roles.

“It feels like a layering on of accolades that makes people who are doing well do better, have more access and power and opportunity,” Giftos says.

National AOA leadership says that diversity is a priority for the organization, but since every medical school is different, they leave the specifics of how students are chosen up to the school.

“We know that improving diversity will hopefully result in inclusion of talented individuals from different backgrounds, and that will help benefit our patient care,” says Dr. Richard Byyny, executive director of AOA. “But the schools themselves need to tackle this.”

Muller notes that Icahn has not officially closed its AOA chapter and will still nominate faculty and residents.

And student activists at Icahn aren’t celebrating yet. Lynch says she now wants to focus on discrimination in grading and medical school admissions. This, she says, can help address the dearth of minority physicians in different specialities — a problem with negative consequences for the health of minority patients.

“Many of us are still wary,” Lynch says. “It is a symbolic gesture, actually. We are interested in the deeper work.”

September 8, 2018. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , . Dumbing down, Education, Health care, Political correctness, Racism, Social justice warriors. 2 comments.

Real world evidence proves that affirmative action hurts black people

This article is from the Atlantic – not exactly a bastion of the political right.

It says that although the supporters of affirmative action have good intentions, the actual results are that the policy hurts black students. It hurts them by putting them into schools that are above their ability, so they either end up dropping out, or, they abandon the STEM major that they had wanted in exchange for an easier major.

It also talks about how blacks are more likely to have white friends at the school if the school does not have affirmative action, because people tend to choose friends who are of the same academic ability as their own.

It also talks about how blacks are happier at schools that don’t have affirmative action because there is never any question as to their qualifications.

It also says that the same problems happen with white students who are admitted for athletic reasons, and for legacy admissions too.

But most importantly, it says that blacks benefited when UCLA banned affirmative action. After the school ended affirmative action, the number of black freshman was cut in half. However, the number of blacks from these freshman classes who went on to graduate stayed the same.

In other words, UCLA’s elimination of affirmative action did not reduce the number of blacks who graduated from UCLA. Instead, UCLA’s elimination of affirmative action only reduced the number of blacks who dropped out of UCLA.

So instead of getting admitted to UCLA by affirmative action and then dropping out of UCLA because the work at UCLA was too hard for them, these blacks ended up going to easier colleges, where they were admitted based on merit, so they were capable of doing the work, and so they had a much better chance of graduating.

I’d also like to comment on this one sentence from a different article which was published in the New York Times:

“A 2009 Princeton study showed Asian-Americans had to score 140 points higher on their SATs than whites, 270 points higher than Hispanics and 450 points higher than blacks to have the same chance of admission to leading universities.”

That sentence is in complete agreement with everything that is in the Atlantic article. That one sentence explains how affirmative actions sets blacks up for failure and dropping out by putting them into schools that are too difficult for them. We should get rid of affirmative action, and put blacks into schools that they get into based on merit. That way, they will have a much better chance of graduating.

Here is the Atlantic article. The bolding is mine:

The Painful Truth About Affirmative Action

Why racial preferences in college admissions hurt minority students — and shroud the education system in dishonesty.

October 2, 2012

Affirmative action in university admissions started in the late 1960s as a noble effort to jump-start racial integration and foster equal opportunity. But somewhere along the decades, it has lost its way.

Over time, it has become a political lightning rod and one of our most divisive social policies. It has evolved into a regime of racial preferences at almost all selective schools — preferences so strikingly large and politically unpopular that administrators work hard to conceal them. The largest, most aggressive preferences are usually reserved for upper-middle-class minorities on whom they often inflict significant academic harm, whereas more modest policies that could help working-class and poor people of all races are given short shrift. Academic leaders often find themselves flouting the law and acting in ways that aggravate the worst consequences of large preferences. They have become prisoners of a system that many privately deplore for its often-perverse unintended effects but feel they cannot escape.

The single biggest problem in this system — a problem documented by a vast and growing array of research — is the tendency of large preferences to boomerang and harm their intended beneficiaries. Large preferences often place students in environments where they can neither learn nor compete effectively — even though these same students would thrive had they gone to less competitive but still quite good schools.

We refer to this problem as “mismatch,” a word that largely explains why, even though blacks are more likely to enter college than are whites with similar backgrounds, they will usually get much lower grades, rank toward the bottom of the class, and far more often drop out. Because of mismatch, racial preference policies often stigmatize minorities, reinforce pernicious stereotypes, and undermine the self-confidence of beneficiaries, rather than creating the diverse racial utopias so often advertised in college campus brochures.

The mismatch effect happens when a school extends to a student such a large admissions preference — sometimes because of a student’s athletic prowess or legacy connection to the school, but usually because of the student’s race — that the student finds himself in a class where he has weaker academic preparation than nearly all of his classmates. The student who would flourish at, say, Wake Forest or the University of Richmond, instead finds himself at Duke, where the professors are not teaching at a pace designed for him — they are teaching to the “middle” of the class, introducing terms and concepts at a speed that is unnerving even to the best-prepared student.

The student who is underprepared relative to others in that class falls behind from the start and becomes increasingly lost as the professor and his classmates race ahead. His grades on his first exams or papers put him at the bottom of the class. Worse, the experience may well induce panic and self-doubt, making learning even harder.

When explaining to friends how academic mismatch works, we sometimes say: Think back to high school and recall a subject at which you did fine but did not excel. Suppose you had suddenly been transferred into an advanced class in that subject with a friend who was about at your level and 18 other students who excelled in the subject and had already taken the intermediate course you just skipped. You would, in all likelihood, soon be struggling to keep up. The teacher might give you some extra attention but, in class, would be focusing on the median student, not you and your friend, and would probably be covering the material at what, to you, was a bewildering pace.

Wouldn’t you have quickly fallen behind and then continued to fall farther and farther behind as the school year progressed? Now assume that you and the friend who joined you at the bottom of that class were both black and everyone else was Asian or white. How would that have felt? Might you have imagined that this could reinforce in the minds of your classmates the stereotype that blacks are weak students?

So we have a terrible confluence of forces putting students in classes for which they aren’t prepared, causing them to lose confidence and underperform even more while, at the same time, consolidating the stereotype that they are inherently poor students. And you can see how at each level there are feedback effects that reinforce the self-doubts of all the students who are struggling.

Of course, being surrounded by very able peers can confer benefits, too — the atmosphere may be more intellectually challenging, and one may learn a lot from observing others. We have no reason to think that small preferences are not, on net, beneficial. But contemporary racial preferences used by selective schools — especially those extended to blacks and Native Americans — tend to be extremely large, often amounting to the equivalent of hundreds of SAT points.

At the University of Texas, whose racial preference programs come before the Supreme Court for oral argument on October 10, the typical black student receiving a race preference placed at the 52nd percentile of the SAT; the typical white was at the 89th percentile. In other words, Texas is putting blacks who score at the middle of the college-aspiring population in the midst of highly competitive students. This is the sort of academic gap where mismatch flourishes. And, of course, mismatch does not occur merely with racial preferences; it shows up with large preferences of all types.

Research on the mismatch problem was almost non-existent until the mid-1990s; it has developed rapidly in the past half-dozen years, especially among labor economists. To cite just a few examples of the findings:

Black college freshmen are more likely to aspire to science or engineering careers than are white freshmen, but mismatch causes blacks to abandon these fields at twice the rate of whites.

Blacks who start college interested in pursuing a doctorate and an academic career are twice as likely to be derailed from this path if they attend a school where they are mismatched.

About half of black college students rank in the bottom 20 percent of their classes (and the bottom 10 percent in law school).

Black law school graduates are four times as likely to fail bar exams as are whites; mismatch explains half of this gap.

Interracial friendships are more likely to form among students with relatively similar levels of academic preparation; thus, blacks and Hispanics are more socially integrated on campuses where they are less academically mismatched.

Given the severity of the mismatch problem, and the importance of diversity issues to university leaders, one might expect that understanding and addressing mismatch would be at the very top of the academic agenda.

But in fact it is a largely invisible issue. With striking uniformity, university leaders view discussion of the mismatch problem as a threat to affirmative action and to racial peace on campuses, and therefore a subject to be avoided. They suppress data and even often ostracize faculty who attempt to point out the seriousness of mismatch. (See, for instance, the case of UT professor Lino Graglia, who was condemned by university officials after he observed that black and Mexican-American students were “not academically competitive” with their white peers.) We believe that the willful denial of the mismatch issue is as big a problem as mismatch itself.

A powerful example of these problems comes from UCLA, an elite school that used large racial preferences until the Proposition 209 ban took effect in 1998. The anticipated, devastating effects of the ban on preferences at UCLA and Berkeley on minorities were among the chief exhibits of those who attacked Prop 209 as a racist measure. Many predicted that over time blacks and Hispanics would virtually disappear from the UCLA campus.

And there was indeed a post-209 drop in minority enrollment as preferences were phased out. Although it was smaller and more short-lived than anticipated, it was still quite substantial: a 50 percent drop in black freshman enrollment and a 25 percent drop for Hispanics. These drops precipitated ongoing protests by students and continual hand-wringing by administrators, and when, in 2006, there was a particularly low yield of black freshmen, the campus was roiled with agitation, so much so that the university reinstituted covert, illegal racial preferences.

Throughout these crises, university administrators constantly fed agitation against the preference ban by emphasizing the drop in undergraduate minority admissions. Never did the university point out one overwhelming fact: The total number of black and Hispanic students receiving bachelor’s degrees were the same for the five classes after Prop 209 as for the five classes before.

How was this possible? First, the ban on preferences produced better-matched students at UCLA, students who were more likely to graduate. The black four-year graduation rate at UCLA doubled from the early 1990s to the years after Prop 209.

Second, strong black and Hispanic students accepted UCLA offers of admission at much higher rates after the preferences ban went into effect; their choices seem to suggest that they were eager to attend a school where the stigma of a preference could not be attached to them. This mitigated the drop in enrollment.

Third, many minority students who would have been admitted to UCLA with weak qualifications before Prop 209 were admitted to less elite schools instead; those who proved their academic mettle were able to transfer up to UCLA and graduate there.

Thus, Prop 209 changed the minority experience at UCLA from one of frequent failure to much more consistent success. The school granted as many bachelor degrees to minority students as it did before Prop 209 while admitting many fewer and thus dramatically reducing failure and drop-out rates. It was able, in other words, to greatly reduce mismatch.

But university officials were unable or unwilling to advertise this fact. They regularly issued statements suggesting that Prop 209’s consequences had caused unalloyed harm to minorities, and they suppressed data on actual student performance. The university never confronted the mismatch problem, and rather than engage in a candid discussion of the true costs and benefits of a ban on preferences, it engineered secret policies to violate Prop 209’s requirement that admissions be colorblind.

The odd dynamics behind UCLA’s official behavior exist throughout the contemporary academic world. The quest for racial sensitivity has created environments in which it is not only difficult but downright risky for students and professors, not to mention administrators, to talk about what affirmative action has become and about the nature and effects of large admissions preferences. Simply acknowledging the fact that large preferences exist can trigger accusations that one is insulting or stigmatizing minority groups; suggesting that these preferences have counterproductive effects can lead to the immediate inference that one wants to eliminate or cut back efforts to help minority students.

The desire to be sensitive has sealed off failing programs from the scrutiny and dialogue necessary for healthy progress. It has also made racial preferences a force for economic inequality: academically well-prepared working class and poor Asian and white students are routinely passed over in favor of black and Hispanic students who are more affluent as well as less well-prepared.

The way racial preferences affect student outcomes is only part of the story. Equally relevant is the way the academic community has proved unequal to the task of reform — showing great resourcefulness in blocking access to information, enforcing homogenous preference policies across institutions, and evading even legal restrictions on the use of preferences. All of this makes the quest for workable reforms — which are most likely to come from the Supreme Court — both more complex and more interesting than one might at first suspect.


June 5, 2018. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Education, Racism. Leave a comment.