Current Issue

Apr.25, 2012

Vol. 112, No. 11

A nonlevel playing field

In response to: Base admissions on merit

Published on April25, 2012

Most of us in the graduate-admissions game agree with Russ Nieli *79 (Inbox, Feb. 8) that talent, hard work, and achievement ideally should be the only criteria for advancement in academia. However, it would be extremely naive to think that abandoning considerations of diversity in the admission process would lead to this ideal state.

As a science faculty member (physics and astronomy at Vanderbilt) who has been heavily involved in graduate admissions for several years, I have seen up close how students from certain demographic groups face an uphill battle in the pursuit of a science Ph.D. Poor undergraduate preparation, lack of role models, and lack of economic resources for some groups create a highly nonlevel playing field that does not reward hard work and talent equally. As a direct result, representation of these disadvantaged groups in physics Ph.D. programs is appallingly low. Considering diversity in the admission process is an attempt to somewhat level the playing field.

Nashville, Tenn.

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