Macaulay Honors at Brooklyn College Shows Stark Racial Disparity in Admissions

At Brooklyn College, diversity enrollment statistics of acceptance rates at the college compared to the Macaulay Honors College show important disparities.

There exists a clear racial disparity between the student body of Macaulay Honors at Brooklyn College and Brooklyn College in aggregate, the gap in Latino admissions being most obvious. / The Kingsman

Enrollment statistics for Brooklyn College show a fairly equal acceptance rate among Asian, black, Hispanic, and white students; however, enrollment statistics for the Macaulay Honors program at Brooklyn College show a different story. Macaulay’s top two largest ethnicity groups for the class of 2021 are White students, who make up 37.50% of the incoming class, and Asians, who make up 51.23%.

The disparity is most obvious among Hispanic/Latino students. For Brooklyn College as a whole, the Hispanic/Latino population is the second highest, making up one-fifth of the school’s population. but when compared to Macaulay, the Hispanic ethnicity (for the class of 2021) has the lowest number of applicants and acceptance rate. Of the 153 applicants accepted to the class of 2021, only one applicant is Hispanic.

Dr. Stefano Ghirlanda, Director of Macaulay Honors at Brooklyn College, provided comment on the disparity in the statistics via e-mail.

“As you see, it looks like Black/African American and Hispanic or Latino are disadvantaged in admissions, but the main reason is that these two group apply with lower scores overall. Just to give an example, the average SAT score for the Asian category was 1362, while for Hispanic or Latino it was 1219. I personally think this is very unfortunate but it is beyond our control,” said Ghirlanda. “I am definitely looking into ways to increase the success rate of these applicants.”

In January of 2015, The Atlantic reported on a “system-wide overhaul that began in 2000” with CUNY raising admission standards and enrolling fewer freshmen from New York City high schools. The pattern that followed was “colleges that increasingly favored Asian and white freshmen, while the system’s black and Latino students ended up more and more in its overcrowded two-year community colleges.” The pattern possibly shines light on the education of certain ethnicities and the neighborhoods in which they grow up.

At the time the article was written, Interim Vice Chancellor and Provost Julia Wrigley argued that the majority of graduates
in the selective colleges don’t enter as freshmen but as transfer students from other colleges.

“Transfer provides an important means of access,” Wrigley told The Atlantic. Students transferring from other colleges are not required to meet SAT benchmarks. This fact could help explain the disparities in the diversity statistics at Macaulay Honors College and throughout CUNY’s four year colleges.

“That’s one thing about admissions programs, we have to look at if we are creating barriers for people of color and women, and stopping them from surpassing those barriers,” said Tony Thomas, Diversity Chief and Title IX Coordinator at Brooklyn College. “How do we recruit for the honors program? Who are we looking at? What’s in the application materials? Are we just looking at GPA and SAT score, and if we just look at SAT score there is a large body of work out there that the SAT negatively impacts minorities […] if that’s a concern that’s been brought forward, then we need to be having a conversation about it.”

The vast majority of MHC Brooklyn applicants are white or Asian. / The Kingsman

In May of 2017, The Excelsior published an article titled “A Seat in the Honors Academy,” featuring student disdain within the program and claiming that acceptance within the Honors College clearly shows skewed levels in diversity. “The Honors Academy, with the exclusion of MMUF (Mellon), is a clubhouse for racist whites and South Asians where they can be told that even their s–t smells beautiful,” claimed one of several anonymous students quoted in the article. “It coddles them and reaffirms their belief in meritocracy. [Most] didn’t get there from working hard; they got there from going to elite high schools in segregated school districts.”

When asked about the environment at Macaulay and whether there are disparities in how some students are treated or how they feel, Ana Luiza Teodoro said, “Macaulay itself exists as a program and has helped me and other students, but that’s what it is: a program and forum for education and people who want to be involved in the educational setting. I agree that racial demographics affect setting and backgrounds and how things are discussed but I think it’s a matter of students and their conversations rather than the program itself.”

Teodoro continued, “Yes there’s some distasteful things that are said occasionally, but also what also should be acknowledged
is how these comments are frequently combated and discussed by the students that affect them.”

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