By Yamilet Medina López
In my continued interest of all things college admissions related, this past December provided another deep reflection period for me as I listened to oral arguments during a Fisher vs. University of Texas at Austin hearing where Justice Scalia made remarks regarding the intellectual abilities of African American students citing ‘Mismatch Theory’. I am familiar with mismatch theory from my grad school days and my thoughts about it have changed little since. I have to admit that because I thought it was egregious then, I blocked it out of my mind until recently when the theory resurfaced in this case. UCLA professor Richard Sander described mismatch theory in 2004 when he made his original argument with regards to the law school admission and the law school admission test or LSAT; Sanders also co-authored a brief in 2011 in the Fisher case where he extended the argument with equal force to standardized tests such as the SAT. In essence the theory suggests ― “that by admitting students of color through affirmative action an institution is actually setting these students up for failure, because they will inevitably fail to meet the stringent academic standards set by the institutions.”
I decided to share the following article which featured on Diverse Issues in Higher Education because it highlights strong counter arguments and, in my humble opinion, most importantly thought provoking questions about resources, academic preparation and opportunities for our students of color prior to the admission process and after. Dr. Richard Reddick, a professor in the College of Education at the University of Texas at Austin and himself a graduate of the institution, discusses how the social structure at many of our PWI’s is not set up to properly support students of color. He also notes what we as admission officers like to refer to as a holistic review process and gives examples about how non-cognitive factors can further inform our decisions in the work that we do.
In examining this article and reflecting again about mismatch, I have been asking myself several questions, if this theory is a supported belief that exists, would it apply in both directions of the spectrum? In other words, why wouldn’t this thinking apply to Fisher – she went on to attend LSU was this institution not a better match for her abilities? If this theory is correct didn’t UT Austin do the right thing by denying Fisher admission? Would it apply to white students as well? If nothing else revisiting this theory and these arguments reaffirm my belief that it is incomplete and fails to take into account what kind of resources, support and environment is available to help students succeed at PWI’s.
Scalia’s ‘Mismatch Theory’ a Foe to Diversity, Inclusion