May 1, 2009
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On many of my secondaries there were questions about what kind of "diversity" I would bring to the class. Some explicitly asked for my socioeconomic status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. In a professional interview, some of these questions would be legally off limits to the interviewer. Are these "diversity" essays a way for schools to bypass those restrictions and gain extra knowledge about their applicants? On one hand I can see the benefit of having a diverse class, but on the other hand there is the real potential for discrimination. I completed the essays, but this still troubles me.

Anyone have any insights on this?
 

MilkmanAl

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I'd say that yes, they are at least partially an ethnic screening tool. Mostly, though, essays like that are just around to see how well you can construct an answer to a BS prompt. In other words, they want you to be able to think on your feet and be creative. It's the same as the "Who would you have dinner with?" interview questions.
 
Jan 17, 2010
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On many of my secondaries there were questions about what kind of "diversity" I would bring to the class. Some explicitly asked for my socioeconomic status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. In a professional interview, some of these questions would be legally off limits to the interviewer. Are these "diversity" essays a way for schools to bypass those restrictions and gain extra knowledge about their applicants? On one hand I can see the benefit of having a diverse class, but on the other hand there is the real potential for discrimination. I completed the essays, but this still troubles me.

Anyone have any insights on this?
An application or interview for academic admission is not subject to the same rules as applying for a job. At least that's how I heard it explained once.

There's no hidden intention, I think the reason for questions like this is pretty obvious. I truly think they inquire to know who they're dealing with.

It's easy to see when the response is coming from a middle class or higher applicant from a adequately represented or over-represented group. I don't think any part of this question is used to test someone's ability to demonstrate agility in answering a question.

A question in an interview can be a "thinking on your feet" test. Not so for a secondary question for which some take weeks (and an untold number of collaborators) to respond.