Editorial by John Ziegler

Calling All White Males

4/10/2002 1:08:13 AM

Calling All White Males

With the slowdown in the economy, applications for graduate schools have skyrocketed across the country. It seems that thousands of either underemployed professionals or uncertain recent graduates have sought the safe haven of academia as place to weather the financial storm.

Nowhere was this phenomenon more pronounced than at the University of Pennsylvania's prestigious Annenberg School for Communication. They received a record 470 applications for the Fall of 2002, which is about double what they expect in a normal year. I was one of those 470. Just twenty-five were granted admission. I was not one of those.

After having spent several hundred dollars and dozens of hours taking the required GRE test and completing the arduous application process, I was understandably irritated that all I got was a rather condescending, half-page, form letter telling me that I was not accepted. But more than being aggravated, I was also confused.

I know that the Annenberg School has a fine reputation, but I was amazed that they found at least twenty-five applicants who were more qualified than me. Don't get me wrong. I do not pretend to be a genius in any way shape or form. However, I do think that any objective person would agree that my background in communications is rather compelling.

I found it hard to believe that more than twenty-five of Annenberg's applicants had this kind of media-related resume: government major from Georgetown University, published book author, TV anchor/reporter, radio talk show host, local/national columnist (specializing in media issues), local/national TV commentator (specializing in media issues), webmaster, and analyst for a University-based political polling institute. While my GRE scores (a total of 1750) and my long ago college grade point average (just above 3.0) were probably below that of the average person who got accepted, I also had glowing recommendations from two University Presidents as well as the highest paid media talent in the Philadelphia market, who also happens to have been a college professor (Angelo Cataldi). A few weeks earlier, I had been granted admission by the George Washington School for Media and Public Affairs.

While I know that colleges are usually very stingy with such information, I wanted to at least try to find out what went wrong. I spoke with two of the Annenberg School's top people, including the head of the five-person committee who reviewed and ranked the 470 applications. I was hardly surprised when my inquires elicited only extremely vague and seemingly scripted responses.

Frustrated, I tried to get some basic information on the twenty-five applicants who had been deemed so much more worthy than me. Most undergraduate programs routinely release the average SAT scores, GPAs, and class rank of any particular class as well as the racial and gender breakdown of those attending the school. However, I was told that the relatively small sample of attendees in this case made providing such information a potential violation of privacy because too much could be inferred about each applicant. It was therefore against school policy to tell me anything about these twenty-five communication whiz-kids.

While I understand the need for privacy (how much could you really be able to tell about any one individual in a sample of twenty-five?), my suspicions started to get the best of me. I already knew that academia had well deserved reputation for being extremely liberal. In a recent survey of professors, an incredible 0% admitted to being "very conservative." I had been informed by the self-described "conservative" President of Quinnipiac University (where I was eventually hired for a brief period in their polling institute) that he worried about hiring me because I was a conservative. I had also been told by a respected local professor that I should not expect to be received well at Annenberg because they are considered left wing, even in academic circles.

Were my political beliefs to blame for my rejection? While possible, that seems a bit paranoid for my taste. After all, the people I spoke to did not even seem to have much recollection of who I was. Instead, in the absence of any other plausible justification or even any solid information, I was unfortunately left with an even more insidious explanation.

I believe that it is quite possible that I was discriminated against because I am a white male. I have absolutely no direct evidence for this charge and I will not be pursuing legal action. However, the fact that this leap was so easily made in my mind is a stark reminder of the price we are all paying for living in a society in which merit is routinely trumped by quotas. Even if I am completely mistaken, the system virtually invites me to arrive at this unfortunate conclusion. Obviously it was very wrong when minorities could rightly assume that they were being unfairly kept out of certain schools, but is the situation any better now when virtually anyone can reasonably rationalize their own victimization?

It seems the only way for me to avoid such a destructive deduction is to find about ten white males who DID get accepted into Annenberg and compare notes. If you are one of them, please get in touch.

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