Changes are coming slowly.
It’s been over a year since George Floyd was murdered.
All the schools issued statements about Black Lives Mattering at the time. What evidence have we seen that there have actually been changes in how things are run at these places?
Darden continues to be more flexible with testing policies, which is pro-equity. It’s not necessarily enough to truly change how admissions work, but it’s a start.
Columbia is perhaps most notable for including a DEI-focused prompt in its application this year — but this is optional. They are not requiring applicants to write about how they have been impacted by inequality or what they have done to grapple with such issues. Still, it’s a start.
We’ve been clamoring for more transparency for awhile. That apparently is starting to happen.
Harvard was the first school we saw that changed its reporting of the composition of its student body. Last Fall they published their Class of 2022 Profile which included:
You may also have seen the P&Q article on all the new cases that HBS is publishing with Black protagonists.
Focusing on the actual students who are being admitted and how they’re being reflected publicly, a more questionable change in data reporting comes out of Michigan Ross. This is unfortunate:
At first glance you’re like, “Wow, Ross is really bringing it! Look at that! Increasing enrollment of BIPOC students by that much? Incredible!!”
And then you actually look at the data, and it becomes depressing. (We’re not even going to comment on that sleight-of-hand where they de-emphasized the GMAT score based on the position in the graphic when it went down. Oh wait. Apparently we are going to comment on that.)
First off, when we’re examining the schools’ data on class make-up by student identity, it’s important to recognize how fuzzy the definitions can be. Some schools name “minority” students as any student who is non-white. Only a few schools call out BIPOC numbers explicitly. Then there’s the whole question of what do you use as the denominator. These questions of equality are not U.S.-only, but in light of the newfound awareness following George Floyd’s murder, it’s really an American issue in grappling with its history of slavery. So should the schools be reporting on the percentage of their entire class who are Black/African-American and Latinx? Or only as the percentage of their students who are American citizens?
And the other aspect of inequality in America is unfortunately one that pitches one underrepresented category against another. The current reality is that it’s quite easy for any MBA program to fill its class with Asian-American students. Asian-Americans are absolutely at a disadvantage in our society, and lots of work is needed for equality to include all people. The violence we’ve been witnessing against AAPI (Asian-American Pacific Islanders) is abhorrent, and not nearly enough has been said about this (including here on this site).
However, when the top schools look at their demographics in the applicant pool, there are lots of candidates who identify as AAPI trying for spots. They are not an underrepresented population in this context. If anything, it’s one of the more competitive classifications of candidate.
Therefore, including Asian Americans in the “minority” category is accurate and also misleading. Yet that’s what we get from both sets of numbers from Ross.
That alone isn’t something we can criticize Ross for, since many other top schools do the same. The bigger issue is how they apparently changed their reporting entirely.
In the Class of 2021 data, it seems that they are reporting the percentage of so-called “minority” to be calculated using the total students in the class as the denominator. If our math is accurate, then that means 22% of the 421 students in that year, or 92 students. These 92 students are either U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Non-white students who are internationals are not included, even though they too are “minorities” in America.
How does it break down for the Ross Class of 2022 though?
Well, that’s where they changed things. This apparently is reporting that there were 36% of only the American citizens and permanent residents who identify as non-White, so that means we have 36% of the 82% non-international students of the 358 total in the class. If our math is correct, that gets us to 105 students. That’s actually better than the prior year, as it’s 29% of the total class compared to only 22%. However, it’s misleading because there were only 18% international students to join the Class of 2022. Yes, kudos to Ross for sure for increasing the number of Black and Brown students. That is absolutely worth recognizing. The way they got there seems like it could have been accidental. 🙁 A full-time MBA class with only 18% international students is an anomaly of the pandemic admissions cycle. Ross quite fortuitously launched its Online MBA in 2019, and they were perfectly positioned to support international students there for their 2020 matriculations. They doubled the class size for their Online MBA for the 2020 intake , and the proportion of non-white American students appears to have been cut in half. Taken as a whole, then, it doesn’t appear that Ross substantively changed its acceptance rates for BIPOC students to the full-time MBA cohort especially.
It would be nice if the schools didn’t get cute with the data. Maybe these changes are going to allow for more transparency in the future, but for now, it’s muddying the waters and not allowing a clear picture of just how much progress, if any, has been made in full-time admissions.
Last year when we issued this call to the schools for transparency, we were hoping for a little bit better.
One school that came through: Wharton.
Here’s a chart they’ve published with their Class of 2022 profile :
Their graphic designer should be fired, because how on earth do you differentiate between those shades of blue??? From an informational design perspective, this sucks. But the data is there. Thank you, Wharton, for the data.
This post isn’t exhaustive; there are other changes happening at other places too. It just seems like very slow going.