“Just Blind Chance”: The Rising Call For “Random Selection” For College Admissions

Random selection is not generally an approach that most people opt for in the selection of doctors or even restaurants or a movie. However, it appears to be the new model for some in higher education. Former Barnard College mathematics professor Cathy O’Neil has written a column calling for “random selection” of all college graduates to guarantee racial diversity. It is ever so simple: “Never mind optional standardized tests. If you show interest, your name goes in a big hat.” She is not the only one arguing for blind or random admissions.

Recently, University of California President Janet Napolitano announced that the entire system will no longer base admissions on standardized tests — joining a “test-blind” admissions movement nationally. Others have denounced standardized testing as vehicles for white supremacy. Education officials like Alison Collins, vice president of the San Francisco Board of Education, have declared meritocracy itself to be racist. There is a growing criticism that the problem with higher education is that it relies on merit rather than status as the driving criteria for admissions.

O’Neil and others are arguing not just for blind but actually random selection to achieve true diversity. O’Neil argues that it would also “take the pressure off students to conform to the prevailing definition of the ideal candidate” and allow them “to be kids again, smoking pot and getting laid in between reading Dostoyevsky and writing bad poetry.”

Others have called for purely random selection. In 2019, the liberal New America foundation argued that highly selective colleges and universities should admit students by lottery. Amy Laitinen, Claire McCann, and Rachel Fishman  argued that not only should admissions be random but schools “would lose all eligibility not only to Title IV aid but also to federal research dollars.” They argued that this “This would do away with admissions preferences that overwhelmingly favor white and wealthy applicants, including for athletes and legacies.”

In her column, O’Neil admits that there is a “downside” like the fact that “applications to the most selective colleges would soar, causing acceptance rates to plunge and leaving the ‘strongest’ candidates with little chance of getting into their chosen schools.” However, she treats the downside of eliminating the value of actually doing well in high school and tests as just a question of privilege: “The kids who struggled to get perfect grades, who spent their high school years getting really good at obscure yet in-demand sports, the legacies and the offspring of big donors, would lose their advantages.”

In an earlier column, I noted that the move by California to get rid of standardized tests occurred after California voters rejected an expensive campaign to reintroduce affirmative action in college admissions. The Supreme Court is also considering whether to take the case of Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College. The Court this week asked the Biden Administration to take a position in the case involving allegations that Harvard has discriminated against Asian applicants. Litigants cite a study finding that Asian Americans needed SAT scores that were about 140 points higher than white students; the gap with admitted African American and Hispanic students is even greater.

The case could allow for clarity on the issue after years of conflicting 5-4 decisions that have ruled both for and against such race criteria admissions. There is a concern among universities that the Court could be moving toward a clear decision against the use of race as a criterion. Even the author of the 2003 majority opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger, Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, said she expected “that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.” That was roughly 25 years ago.

I previously noted:

“In the Harvard case, the scores are particularly important because the litigants allege that subjective factors were systemically used to disfavor them on issues such as likability and personality. While the lower courts ruled for Harvard, the trial judge did note that there may have been bias in favor of minority admissions and encouraged Harvard to deal with such “implicit bias” while monitoring ‘any significant race-related statistical disparities in the rating process.’ But what if there are no ‘statistical disparities’ because there are no objective statistics?”

O’Neil argues for blind and random selection precisely because it would prevent such court review.

“Colleges wouldn’t have to worry about fighting claims of racial discrimination in the Supreme Court because by construction the admissions process would be nondiscriminatory. No more “soft” criteria. No more biased tests. Just blind chance.”

Blind selection is the final default position for many schools. Universities have spent decades working around court decisions limiting the reliance on race as an admissions criterion.  Many still refuse to disclose the full data on scores and grades for admitted students. If faced with a new decision further limiting (or entirely eliminating) race as a criterion, blind selection would effectively eliminate any basis for judicial review.

It would also destroy any value for the students to work to achieve greater achievement in math, science, and other subjects. O’Neil is right. They would be free to spend their time “smoking pot and getting laid in between reading Dostoyevsky and writing bad poetry.” The new model for admissions would range from Hunter Thompson to Hunter Biden.

The push for blind or random admissions is the ultimate sign of the decadence of society. What O’Neil is describing is a system designed for the intellectual dilettante. Of course, countries like China are moving to dominate the world economy with kids who are not focusing on good sex and bad poetry. Higher education has long been based on intellectual achievement and discovery. Admission to higher ranked schools has been a key motivating factor for millions of students, including the children of many first generation Americans. Their achievement has translated into national advancement in science and the economy. It has served to bring greater opportunities and growth for all Americans.

Now, recognition of such achievement is rejected by writers like O’Neil as “perpetuating the privileges of wealth” and preventing true racial diversity in our schools. So we will eliminate merit-based admissions entirely and reduce higher education to a lottery system based on pure luck.

And, when the world discovers that bad poetry holds the key to the new global economy, we will once again rise as a world power.

92 thoughts on ““Just Blind Chance”: The Rising Call For “Random Selection” For College Admissions”

  1. Does anyone need any additional evidence that the progressives are intent on destroying the entire foundation of this nation. They are either mentally ill or are as evil as the Khmer Rouge or Shining Path.

  2. The Supreme Court turned down a challenge to what is left of Obamacare because [they claimed] the petitioners lacked standing.


    We have heard that before on practically every election fraud case to come before them.

    And now they are delaying an important case addressing whether universities can openly discriminate against Asian applicants. They want first to hear the position of the Biden! administration, you know, the guy who can’t recite “We hold these truths…” from the Declaration of Independence without a cheat sheet.

    The Biden Administration? The Court needs help from those people? What kind of Court are they? From space one could see that this is an easy issue. NO racial discrimination for college admissions! There! Solved it!

    We need a ‘Supremer’ Court to appeal these cowardly evasions and I think it should be filled with citizens chosen at random with the sole provision that no ivy league graduate may be in the pool. It would be a great Court. There is nothing ‘Supreme’ about the courage of the current black-robed invertebrates.

  3. Realistically, how many admissions to “prestigious” schools are based on merit, anyway? If nothing else, the Lori Laughlin scandal proved that you can buy your way into a college if you are clever enough to know how to game the system. And, I’d be willing to bet that purchasing your way in via obscure sports isn’t the only way to bypass the usual admission standards. After admissions based on legacy, social connections, celebrity status, purchased admissions and athletic admissions, I wonder how many spots are left for those who scored highest. And, I wonder the extent to which standardized tests and cumulative grade point averages really measure ability. A lot of high schools teach to the test–i.e., how to score high on the tests, so they can boast about the results they obtain. Is this really fair? Plus, there’s the private tutors who guarantee high SAT and ACT scores. Plus, there are those who suffer from test anxiety. Some high schools are far more academically competitive than others are. Where I live there is a high school that has literally thousands of students and one that has less than 30. How much does class ranking count when there’s only 30 students in the whole school (a radical Christian school, to boot, which requires students to take 4 years of Latin)? The school with the thousands of students offers courses in every language you could even think of, they offer the international baccalaureate diploma, and have challenging science courses and even a wide array of fine art classes that rival most colleges. They have multiple national merit scholars and finalists every year. Then, there’s the difficulty of the courses taken by each student. Considering all of this, maybe a lottery isn’t that unreasonable as a way to admit students who otherwise meet certain threshold criteria.

    1. Natch: “Realistically, how many admissions to “prestigious” schools are based on merit, anyway?”
      Ask Asian students with superb records who have been turned away because of affirmative action.

      I like to think Harvard is becoming an ‘historically black’ university.

  4. There was (a long time ago in my youth) the fact that any student in Wisconsin who got at least a C average in a WI H.S. was allowed to matriculate.
    At the Freshman Address the Dean told the freshmen that 2/3 of them would flunk out this year. It worked out fine. The “filter” was not a previous exam. But filter there was that first year.

  5. So the reason to work hard and achieve good grades is useful for what? I suppose meritocracy is dead in America.

  6. If race is only a “social construct” as leftists contend, they should be the first to support widespread intelligence testing to debunk the “racist” myth that different “races” differ on average in IQ. And now they want to select college students by random lottery…

    Wonder how our moral, elite bettors are going to get around this one? I doubt they will get their hands dirty by sacrificing their own kids to wonders of “diversity”, they usually don’t.

    In case anyone is unaware here are the average IQ levels for the various human subspecies (i.e. races).

    Ashkenazi Jews 115

    East Asians 108

    Caucasians 100

    Amerindians 92

    American Blacks 87

    Australian Aborigines 65



    1. You must’ve missed the first 25 or 50 years of the debate. Of course, all IQ or aptitude tests are “racist”, since they were concocted by racists. Purported statistics such as you quoted are worse than meaningless because they maintain white supremacy.

      1. Creeksn “statistics such as you quoted are worse than meaningless because they maintain white supremacy.”


        And yet, somehow they keep favoring Asians.

        Of course you are merely parroting somebody’s ancient talking points. Either that or you are joking. Looks like a joke.

    2. The leftists know this about races even while they pretend everyone is alike. The best evidence that they know it is that they are fighting to destroy any measure of ability that exists. Real physics is too hard so we need stupid physics. Math is racist. Grammar is racist. Requiring students not to disrupt the classroom and not attack other students or teachers is racist [that’s official Obama/Biden education policy], grades are racist.

      Basically any possible measure of ability is declared to be racist. Why? Because they know very well who will, on average, end up near the bottom and they are desperately trying to conceal it from the rest of us.

      I wonder how much ‘diversity’ there actually is in Silicon Valley, by the way. Not much I suspect but that won’t keep them from hectoring the rest of us about it.

      You are right, by the way, to refer to races as sub-species. The genetic distance between many races is greater than the genetic difference between recognized sub-species of other creatures, tigers, for example.

  7. It’s a random walk from diversity [dogma] that practices affirmative discrimination by class. Baby… fetal steps, I suppose.

  8. “Gee Doctor I see you have a degree from one of the finest medical schools in the nation. Your grades must’ve been monstrous?” “No, I was lucky the day they were pulling names from the deans Fedora.” As the patient quickly exists his office, “where are you going your surgery is scheduled for Monday?”

  9. Professor Cathy O’ Neil wants “random selection” and allow students “to be kids again, smoking pot and getting laid in between reading Dostoyevsky and writing bad poetry.”

    Actor Gregory Peck in (The Boys From Brazil) plays Dr. Josef Mengele, the angel of death from aucshwitz who wants to realize his mad dream for the new 4th Reich.

  10. Now that education has been exposed as the emperor with no clothes, academics are just fine with letting in the masses. K-12 and high schools have long been recognized as little more than baby-sitting institutions. Now we can add Harvard and Yale to that prestigious category. Why “racial diversity” and not aptitude should be the major concern in academia testifies to academia’s increasing irrelevance in contemporary society. While they’re playing intellectual race games, serious youth will be developing other skills for success and survival.

  11. Follow the money. If the degree programs don’t in turn reduce their graduation requirements, then this unpredictable input variation will be injected into the education process. 4 year degree programs will necessarily turn into 5 and 6 year programs. Schools won’t lose money. Student loans will be given to students that should be in CC. Taxpayers will end up on the hook for this scheme to redistribute wealth.

    1. Taxpayers are on the hook for a bunch of schemes, it seems. Why not one more? Taxpayers aren’t paying attention to what’s being done with their money…right?

      I hope people are starting to pay attention.

  12. A hierarchy will always appear. It should be one of competence. The facultyof all, everyone has proven they are not what they claim to be. This random selection idea is a false premise. Ability counts. Top performers rise to the top over a wide range of heirarchies. 15% are not smart enough to qualify for the military.

  13. After months of reading Prof. Turkey’s blogs regarding university administrators and faculty I am 100% convinced that as a group they make up the most incompetent and incapable tribe in America, with the possible exception of Democrats.

    1. I’m beginning to think the only donors to universities are liberals because surely conservative alums can’t be supported this cazzate.

  14. When random selection does not meet social engineering goals, the next step will be a national clearing house that determines who gets to go to which school. “We” cannot expect students or parents to make choices that are best for the nation. Then after that a national agency will assign where each graduate goes to work.

  15. Then why not random selection of professors – graduate level degrees not needed, perhaps this would make the faculty more diverse – more conservative!

    Further, random selection of athletes on sports teams, music programs, etc

  16. How the heck do you get to be a professor these days, these people have not got any brains of commons sense. Professorships at universities used to be hard to get. Now they give them away in cereal packets We do not need to cope with China or Russia, these idiots will have the country collapse internally and of its own accord Khrushchev was right in the 1950’s we are decaying from within. Imagine driving over a bridge or flying in a plane designed by a raffle winner

  17. Even Lefties aren’t that stupid.

    This is a deliberate effort to destroy American society as currently structured.

    Take a kid who didn’t perform well in high school and put him in a college environment. What are the odds that he will perform well? Or even graduate?

    Seems so obvious, but the Left is trying to upend American society so that they can remake in their own image.

  18. College in America:. Went in DC umb. Come out dumb too. Hustling round New York in his alligator shoes.

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