Wednesday, March 15, 1989
The Michigan Daily
On February 22 and 28, reporter Henry
Park interviewed Admissions Office
Associate Director Donald Swain about
SATs (Standardized Aptitude Tests) and
other standardized tests, how they are used,
and how admissions policies affect the na-
ture of the University community and en-
vironment. The interview appears below.
HP: A New York State judge ruled that
SATs discriminate against girls, that they
should not be used to award scholarships.
What role do SATs play in admissions
here at the University of Michigan?
DS: The standardized test scores are just
one of the factors that we use in reviewing
an application. Grades are the most
important. The kinds of courses that a
person has taken, the consistency in the
progress, the strength of the curriculum is
one aspect and the most important aspect.
With that we look at standardized test
scores. Test scores are just one of the fac-
If I may go back and comment on the
situation in New York. What they were
saying is that a single test score - in this
case the SATs - should not be used as
the sole factor for selecting. If it is used
appropriately in combination with other
things, then it could be a valuable asset
for making a decision.
HP: Going back a little to the news, does
Michigan employ any statistical formula
or correction correcting for bias against
women - prediction of women's first-
DS: We have not made any adjustments
on the basis of gender in our admissions. I
don't know whether or not the SATs or
ACTs (American College Tests) on this
campus project such bias.
HP: I raised with you the Ralph Nader re-
port last time, from 1980, on the SATs.
Have you had a chance to see the study
there in terms of the correlations?
- SAT scores compared
to parents' mean income
.. .. . . . . .. .
/. . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . .
for University of
20,000 or less
100,000 and up
0 250 350 450 550 650 750
There is certainly a weighting that the
better the person's education, the more
rigorous the education, the more they have
been involved in, the more likely that
their test scores will be high. There is a
correlation that the stronger school sys-
tems - where they have a lot of acceler-
ated programs, a lot of interest and support
in people going to college - are more
likely to be in wealthier communities,
more affluent communities.
HP: The ETS did release a study that
showed that out of 15,000 students there
was no correlation between income and
DS: I think if you look at what research
there has been done on tests, on the SAT
and the ACT you'll find that people who
are in the higher socio-economic bracket
in communities have higher scores than
relatively lower groups. And it's not a
factor that the test in itself is so poor or
biased, but it does show that there are dif-
ferences between the educational programs
- what is being learned in some schools
We deal with so many different school
systems, that we cannot humanly know
all the ins and outs about them. So does
an "A" from one school mean the same as
an "A" from another school and so forth?
HP: I have a table here that I got last
week from Academic Planning and Analy-
sis. It shows the income distribution of
students at the University of Michigan.
What's your reaction to that table? Is it
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DS: I don't know that it's skewed at all.
To tell whether it's skewed, then you've
got to see how it compares to the popula-
tion, and this says the parental income
distribution of our students. Now if its
skewed we've got to look at it in terms of
a broader population. Is it the state of
Michigan? Is it the country? Is it other
students at public institutions in Michi-
gan? Is it all students in college?
HP: It doesn't just strike you? I mean
there's 10 percent at over $100,000 a year.
It doesn't strike you off the top of your
head as a little skewed?
HP: You don't think the SATs, or to your
knowledge the ACTs, discriminate against
DS: No, I don't think the test discrimi-
nates against them. It's how you use tests
that may be discriminatory.
HP: And, the same question for Blacks and
DS: Same answer, it's how you use
HP: Did you say there are separate admis-
sions standards for Blacks at the Univer-
sity of Michigan?
DS: No, I didn't say that. We use the
same standards. We use the grades, the test
scores, the courses and so forth. The stan-
dard is whether or not we can predict suc-
cessful students. We will take a wider
range of students from the underrepresented
minority populations than we do others,
but we are still using as our standard a
reasonable probability of success.
HP: What does it mean to accept a wider
DS: It may mean we have a greater
flexibility in using combinations of
grades, test scores and other factors in or-
der to achieve the kind of mix and diver-
sity that meet the goals the University of
Michigan has established.
HP: Why do you think we don't have a 12
percent Black student body?
DS: Part of the difficulty is just the ab-
solute numbers. Okay, let's just take it in
terms of minorities that are American In-
dians, Blacks, Hispanics - just the num-
bers of those people who are graduating
from high school.
DS: Then we look at, let's say, our co-
hort, the kind of student we think would
be acceptable for the University. It then
begins to deal with a relatively small pro-
portion of those students. They are among
the best. And the competition for those
students by other colleges is really deep.
HP: Do you think it's possible to have 12
percent Black enrollment?
DS: I think it's going to require a num-
ber of things. One is how patient you
want to be. Is this something that you
want to achieve in three years or do you
want to achieve it in 15 years?
I think one thing that many colleges are
trying to do is to lend the system of sec-
ondary education help, to improve those
programs so that there will be better stu-
dents graduating from high school. If we
want to expand just beyond the state of
Michigan population, we might be able to
achieve it quicker. But then we're in a bind
with the legislature that is putting a cap
on the out-of-state enrollment and concur-
rent with that bind is the cost.
HP: So, within the state, do you think
money is really at the root of these prob-
DS: Yes, but it's only one of the prob-
lems, financial aid support. In-state we can
do a pretty good job of competing with
other state schools. You run the problem
that the kind of students we are looking at
are going to be sought after by other well-
known institutions, where they may give
them the full financial package for four
years. And we may do the same thing, but
a full financial package here for the same
period of time might be $32,000 or
40,000, where if they go to Berkeley,
they're telling them 'hey, this is
$60,000.' Now the wealth of difference is
not there because it costs more to go to
Berkeley, but it sure sounds like a whole
lot more money. And they may guarantee
it for four years, where we're talking more
about guaranteeing the first year and then
subsequent money afterwards. But it's not
as guaranteed. It's not as tied up.
HP: Doesn't this kind of consideration
show that there is a class constraint on the
enrollment here - that there's just a cer-
tain distance we can go?
DS: Well, there's a certain distance, but
I don't know if its really just class
HP: Well, the money is the problem
Black makeup of:
U-M fall '88 undergrad
White 20-24 year-olds
with high school
Black 20-24 year-olds
with diploma ......................80.8
DS: Yes, money is a factor, that's right.
And there are minority students, who are
as well qualified as anyone else who come
from families that are in the $100,000
range. They're asking for financial aid in
terms of scholarships.
HP: What about those who are poor?
DS: Same thing.
HP: If the state of Michigan changed its
spending priorities, do you think the stu-
dent body would be more diverse?
[President] Duderstadt is talking about
prisons taking up all the money of the
DS: I think that would be a factor. I'
don't know that you could just say it
would be cause and effect. It would help
I was talking about the diversity, not
only the diversity, but the support system.
And beyond this economic thing is what
happens whenthe person gets here. Where
do the students spend most of their time,
once they're enrolled - in the classroom
and with other students, right?
What is being done to support these
people in the classroom and outside of the
classroom to make this a good environ-
ment? So the people will feel comfortable.
Have you seen much of that on the part of
When BAM (Black Action Movement)
was here there was a lot of interest: get
more people. Students were admitted who
were very much at risk. There were not
supportive services for them. There was
not a good atmosphere here. And a large
percentage of those students left the Uni-
versity with both academic and social dis-
HP: Do you think the fact that we have
relatively lower retention rates of Black
students represents institutional racism or
do you think a failing in the students'
DS: A combination. I don't think you can
say that it's this or the other. But I have
talked to Black students here who gradu-
ated and said that they have never en-
countered a single problem with racism on
this campus, either by the institution or
by other people. And I've talked to other
people who say you see it all the time.
HP: How about on class? Do you think
there might be some things about the
University that burn out students from
DS: Yes, competition.
HP: Do you think it's just a general com-
petition or do you think it's a certain-kind
of competition that disadvantages poor
students, in other words that the standards
are skewed against them somehow?
DS: I really don't know if I'm in a
position to answer that question. I'm no
longer a teacher here. I haven't been in a
classroom in a long time. You hear the
horror stories. You don't hear the good
It's not a one-dimensional problem and
the solution is not one-dimensional. It's
going to require efforts from many differ-
ent parts of the institution - the eco-
nomic is one; institutional racism maybe
one, the attitude of the students, maybe a
different mix of people that are here, dif-
ferent kind of financial aid and delivery,
identification of other students, intense re-
cruiting of a different group of students,
helping people with summer jobs, intern-
ships. Maybe being more aggressive
helping people find a job upon graduation,
getting into graduate school, making sure
they are prepared to achieve on the Gradu-
ate Record Exams. But it doesn't come:
from one office or group of people.
LATER THIS SPRING the Michigan
State legislature will vote on a bill to
create a state holiday in recognition of
Vietnam veterans. The bill is the work
of Ann Arbor's Colonel Tackett, a
Vietnam veteran who has lobbied each
state to create such a holiday. Last year
Maine became the first state to do so.
The proposed holiday would be dis-
tinct from the Veterans and Memorial
Days, which tend to glorify wars and
U.S. involvement in them. The new
holiday would allow focus on how and
why the U.S. came to be involved in
Vietnam, the war's effects on the peo-
ple who fought in it and the im-
plications of this experience for U.S.
foreign policy today.
Given the historical revisionism cur-
rently prevalent in this country, the in-
tent of the holiday is to be commended.
General Westmoreland, commander in
chief in Vietnam, has always main-
tained that the U.S. lost the war in
Vietnam because the far left managed to
capitalize on the weakness of the pub-
lic. More recently, this view was taken
up by President Reagan, who main-
tained that the war was necessary and
just, and should have been won.
Popular culture has played a role in
this as well, with movies such as the
Rambo series glorifying the war. This
type of portrayal of the war is inaccu-
rate and misleading. The glorification
of our wars makes it easier for the
government to justify similar involve-
ment in the future.
A more realistic image of the war and
basis for the war that would follow.
When the French were defeated, the
U.S. took up the burdens of the war,
having learned nothing from the French
experience. These lessons concerning
the nationalistic sentiments of people in
what we call the Third World are still
The manner in which the U.S. con-
ducted the war is also potent ground
for thought. Unable militarily to defeat
the Vietnamese, the U.S. tried a strat-
egy of attrition. "If it's dead and Viet-
namese, it's Viet Cong" became the
rule. Under pressure to achieve a good
body count (proof of victory), U.S.
soldiers murdered civilians, often times
indiscriminately. The massacre at My
Lai was not as unusual as most people
would believe. The Central Intelligence
Agency's Phoenix program also killed
thousands in the name of democracy.
The willingness of the U.S. govern-
ment to not only tolerate, but to pro-
mote, such actions has great implica-
tions. For instance, in El Salvador the
United States has already participated
in death squad killings and indiscrimi-
nate bombings of civilians that have
killed almost 70,000 people. Reflection
on the war in Vietnam shows a dis-
gusting lack of morality in U.S. for-
eign policy which has not changed.
Further reflection on the war would
impart important lessons on the ability
of common people to influence policy
making in Washington. Tens of thou-
sands of students, people of color, and
others organized in opposition to the
war until their vnies were heard In
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To the Daily:
Your article, "Forum Dis-
cusses Racism in Israel,"
(2/20/89) contains both serious
misrepresentations and danger-
ous insinuations. As students
who were interviewed for this
column, we feel compelled to
respond to the prevarications
printed in your newspaper.
To begin with, the title of the
article emits a bias that
emanates throughout the col-
umn. The focus of the article
centers nnnn the cmmnlicated
peding an objective account of
the subject matter.
This predisposition manifew
itself repeatedly in the word
that follow the header. It i;
your last statement, however,
to which we point most
critically. Your remark, that
"others at the discussion be-
lieved the Jews are oppressing
the Palestinians," is offensive
on two counts.
First, it labels Jews, and not
Israelis, as the oppressors. The
term you chose, Jews, is per-
ilously inclusive, and inher-
ently encompasses Jews at this
University, in South America,
in the Soviet Union, among
those who oppress the Pales-
tinians. This is akin to claim-
ing that our Arab brothers and
treated unjustly. Nothing could
be further from the truth. When
approached about the article,
we were told that this endeavor
would be an opportunity for us
to explain our views in an
open and impartial atmosphere.
We were eager to participate in
what we viewed as an occasion
to help others understand the
background of our feelings and
our concerns. Indeed, we agreed
to do the interview precisely
because we are so deeply com-
mitted to ending the bitter
strife and injustice that pene-
trates the Middle East. Yet
your article forces us to remain
skeptical, at best, about the
prospects of unbiased coverage
of this pressing dilemma.
fnrnn Tln.+ :nrsni+
Fleming (Prez's letter: veiled
threat 318/89) are rather offen- '.
sively ignorant. "All this re--
minds me of former President
Fleming's threats [Against the
Daily] in response to its edito-
rial opposition to the Vietnam
War, and other injustices, in
the early 1970s." I am re- A
minded that one of Fleming's
first acts as president was to
overrule the athletic department'
so that we could have an anti-
war rally in the stadium.
I am reminded, too, of his
1969 address to the University,
in which he proposed a plan for
the immediate withdrawal of
U.S. troops from Vietnam.
This latter act, by the way,
won him a place on the Pen-
mann' c 1 i ct of ti-.n mnet-.uantori