Civic Issues #4: Inequality in College Admissions

We’ve all been lectured with the importance of education. Knowing that without an education, getting a job nowadays is near impossible. Education is highly valued in the workforce, and represents a lot about a person’s character, and ability to function in reality.

Getting into college is challenging, it is not just handed to you; but even if you work hard all throughout high school you still may not receive the acceptance letter that you deserve. What decides if you get into college nowadays? What is that factor that pushing you to getting in over someone else? Are admissions looking at GPA, SAT scores, essays, everything combined, what is more heavily weighted?

It is tough to know what helps you get into college; I work for admissions here at Penn State and the criteria that sets a student apart varies drastically. When a parent or student asks me what they need to do to get in, I say generate a strong application, and hope for the best because it is hard to tell what will push you to the top of the list.

Colleges that were once considered “safety” schools have now dropped their acceptances as low as 20-30%. This is unsettling to know that if you have the same qualifications as another person, you are not accepted because of your race, ethnicity, or income background. An article written by the Heritage foundation addresses the concern of students being emitted into college because of their minority background, “Abigail Fisher argues that the school’s policy of giving racial preferences to preferred minorities is discriminatory and violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” It is understandable that colleges look to diversify their campus, and select a class that promotes diversity, but comments such as she got in because she is a minority should not be the deciding factor of who gets in and who gets denied.

Not only is minority selection a problem with admissions, income inequality is prevalent, and prominent in recent college acceptance studies.

“Students from high-income families are eight times more likely to get bachelor’s degrees by the time they’re 24 than those from low-income families.”

“Historically, colleges and universities served as a great “equalizer” by providing gateways for social mobility for the poor.”  The student affairs administrators in higher education share their take on what changes admissions is portraying in their acceptance today. Students in lower income families are not receiving equal opportunity in the admissions process. There are various arguments as to why, perhaps the environment is which they grew up did not harvest their abilities to get into college. However, college was not as competitive in previous decades, and it opened doors for everyone to have the opportunity to obtain a higher education. Now it seems as though if you are not coming out of a wealthy private school, or middle class family and above getting into college is a lot more challenging. The income gap seen in admission rates in recent years is large.

“It’s not about academic ability. The lowest-income students with the highest scores on eighth-grade standardized tests are less likely to go to selective colleges than the highest-income students with the lowest test scores, according to the Education Trust” this is disturbing to think that in this day and age we select people because of their money, not because of their intellect.

When I tour around students and parents, it becomes difficult to determine what will actually get their student in because inequality in admissions is high and prevalent today. Average tuition rates have doubles since 1970, and are continuing to go up. This makes it hard for students to pay for the college of their choice unless they are making a large sum of money. Even for wealthy family’s college tuition is unreasonable.

It is apparent that minority profiling and a large income gap make college harder to get into (if it is not hard enough already). I guess if someone asks me what they should do to get into the college of their dreams is to not have one set college in mind. Getting into the top college of your choice is undeterminable, and it is better to apply to a wide-range of universities to guarantee acceptance nowadays. Admissions changes every year, and research shows that it is getting harder to get into any school today, and certain qualifications that set people a part are sometimes not attainable for others. Therefore, it is not about being the smartest person in high school, or getting a perfect SAT score, it is about what the college is looking for that year. Whether it is a class of wealthy students, or a class that is predominantly minority, this is not something one can control; inequality is present and continues to rise as applications come in every year.

Civic Issues #3: Gender Gap in the Workplace

“On average, a woman working full-time in 2016 earned £5,732 less a year than a man.”

“The gender pay gap reduces women’s lifetime earnings and also affects their pensions – this is one of the significant causes of poverty in later life for women.”

“In terms of women in leadership positions, in 2009 only 24 percent of CEOs in the US were women and they earned 74.5 percent as much as male CEOs” (BLS 2010 p.9).

The gender gap in the workplace is an on-going issue, and further highlights a form of inequality seen in American culture. As addressed in my previous blogs, I discussed the inequality issue in Hollywood, the inequality in the Presidential cabinet selection, and now I am choosing to discuss a broader, but heavily noted topic of gender inequality. The gender gap in the workplace started early on when women began working; research shows evidence from the 1960’s; trends show that the gap has been closing, but at a very slow rate, “Since the Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963, the wage gap has been closing at a very slow rate. In 1963, women who worked full-time, year-round made 59 cents on average for every dollar earned by men. In 2010, women earned 77 cents to men’s dollar. That means that the wage gap has narrowed by less than half a cent per year!”

“It wasn’t until the passage of the Equal Pay Act on June 10, 1963 (effective June 11, 1964) that it became illegal to pay women lower rates for the same job strictly on the basis of their sex.” Although the intent of the equal pay act was meant to eradicate gender inequality in the workplace the wage gap is still significant. Two court cases were meant to strengthen the equal pay act, but there is still a large pay difference. Schultz v. Wheaton Glass Co. and Corning Glass Works V Brennan both exemplify cases to mitigate this inequality.

Some reasons people believe women receive less pay then men is due to pure discrimination. Women’s skills are not valued as highly as men, and therefore receive a lower means of compensation. In the United States, the gender pay gap looks at the ratio of male to female yearly earnings. In 2012, women received 77% as much as male workers. This percentage, although low, rose significantly in the past decade from 60% to 77%. The inequality seen in the workplace is definitely improving, but is still present today; having problems with gender inequality seems quite absurd for 2016. As stated in my earlier blogs, I was quite clear that America’s values center around the fact that each citizen in America has equal rights and opportunities. Yet, this gap still exists in America. The only measure that can be taken to address this means of inequality is to bring greater attention to it, and continue working towards equal opportunity.

These facts below show percentages of reasons for the gap existing in the workplace:

  • 22% of the gap is due to industries and occupations in which women work
  • 21% of the gap is due to difference in years of full-time work
  • 16% of the gap is due to the negative effect on wages of having previously worked part-time or of having taken time out of the labour market to look after family
  • only 5% of the gap is due to formal education levels

I am not a feminist, and believe there are certain roles that men do better than women, but I also think there are roles women are better fit for than men. Coming from an unbiased and honest standpoint, I think the facts show that there is a gap in the workplace that favors men over women, and this should not exist. Especially not today. It is surprising to me that when women are performing the same tasks as men they receive less compensation. Who decided that women did not deserve the same pay as men?

Evidence shows women are consistently paid less for doing the same work as men, which is disturbing; modern society should move away from this gap of inequality. “Based on research, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimated in 2015 that women won’t receive equal pay until 2059.” This is not reassuring, and is in fact disturbing that women should receive this treatment, especially in today’s society.

Inequality proves to be a major issue in civic life, effecting various people in different ways. Whether it has to do with race, education, economics, or gender it is all present and relevant to our life as citizens. As I continue my blog on this issue more examples will demonstrate the prominence of the existence of this civic issue for our nation.–en/index.htm

Reflection on Deliberation: Destructive Drinking at Penn State

Destructive Drinking at PSU

February 21


A candlelight vigil was held in loving memory of Timothy Piazza, who passed away on February 4th. This event impacted me deeply. After the death of Timothy Piazza, although I did not know him personally, I felt that there was something I needed to learn, I needed to become more aware about. I wanted to understand why students were compelled to binge drink. What at Penn State made students have this idea, this notion that over drinking was the cultural norm? Or is that what students think?

As I looked through the deliberation titles, I wanted to attend a deliberation that I felt was applicable and relatable. I felt this deliberation would answer questions that I had, and give me further insight into what solutions are out there to address this issue at Penn State. As a student at Penn State I see the effect of drinking on students, the dangers involved; I wanted to understand the research and viewpoints behind this act. I wanted to gain a greater awareness of what approaches these students felt would push towards an environment at Penn State that is not strictly drinking motivated.

When I first got to the deliberation I was not sure what to expect, I had never been to one before, and was not entirely sure how they were structured. I took a seat in the audience, there was a decent turnout, and the deliberators sat in the front. At 7pm three students stood up to begin the conversation. Immediately they posed statements of problems with drinking at Penn State. What I felt was very interesting is how they structured their introduction; they engaged the audience in the conversation. They stated some facts, and obvious ideas that the audience could relate to, and then asked the audience, “What do you feel Penn State should do to address this situation?” I found by doing this it opened the floor to the audience to offer suggestions, before the approaches were even presented. One of the audience members, a mother in the community shared that she often struggled with the amount of drinking going on at Penn State. She said that her son had lacrosse games on Thursday nights, and after she would take him out to dinner; she would see students on the streets intoxicated at 9pm. This was not a scene she wanted her son to be exposed to. Listening to her made me realize that Penn State is surrounded by the community of State College, and often students do not take this into account. Another girl shared that at New Student Orientation often tour guides will impress upon the party life at Penn State, and almost act proud of this aspect at Penn State. The notion that “Penn State is the #1 Party School” has been listed on sites, and is known to outsiders; this reputation is not necessarily beneficial to the university as a whole.

The first approach looked at what the university is doing to mitigate the problem; the second approach looked at what the police downtown is doing to address the problem; the third approach took a completely different angle, and presented ideas on lowering the drinking age, and how this would have an effect whether positive or negative.

Each approach brought up interesting conversation among the audience and the deliberators, and listening to it all I learned a lot. A mother from the community who works with students who have received citations/under ages shared that sometimes because students over drink the community runs out of ambulances, and even one time the ER had to shut-down because they ran out of beds; students were getting their stomachs pumped, and a man suffered from a stroke because he was unable to receive the care he needed. Hearing this made me stop and think about the actions of students. I think after this conversation it became clear to me that drinking, although fun for many, is not something that should be taken lightly. At Penn State it is a part of the “culture” as they explained, but the idea that stricter punishments should be implemented on students who abuse this, is definitely something that should be looked into.

When the summary team came up to conclude the night, I saw three questions on the board: What are we doing now, and what can be improved? How can we implement change in this culture that is party driven? Why has it taken another students death to make a change? Why can’t change be put in place before?

These questions we discussed as a group, and I left feeling impacted. I know the effects of drinking, yes, but hearing personal stories, and community members who are effected really made me step back. I think this deliberation is something other students should hear as well, because it definitely was insightful and worth discussing; especially as a student here at Penn State.

Inequality in Government

Trumps history of racism is concerning. He is the President of the United States, but the mosaic diversity of America is not seeming to agree with President Trump. America is a country that promotes the idea of equality and Trump does not reflect this belief. His use of twitter has reflected a means of racism to the public eye; he even goes as far as disrespecting Obama, our current President. Some of his tweets include blaming race for crime, and blaming people of color for issues that are not due to race.

As Donald Trump appoints members to his cabinet, his racism comes out not just in tweets, but directly in who he has chosen to appoint.

“He’s choosing people who have shown hate toward immigrants, people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people and women. And he’s giving them a huge amount of power to act on that hate” Donald Trump’s administration has been referenced in various articles to be a bunch of “racist white supremacist.” Trump has filled his advisory positions with white males, who reflect a history of racism.

Trump, known for his offensive and overbearing attitude was recently targeted for “building a team of racists.” The political campaign brought up a lot of controversy and uproar from the public. Where some believed Trump was what we needed in office to make a change, because he is a businessman, others found his speech and language to cross the line. His racist remarks to promote a unique campaign to the interested public, was not just speech to add entertainment in the media. He carried out his racists beliefs in his choice of cabinet members. From the website Rewire, it was titled, “Team of Racists: Trump’s Cabinet Looks Just Like His Campaign Sounded.” Trump’s campaign rooted in racial slurs, and offensive, anti-immigration statements is reflected in his cabinet appointments.

His first appointment Steve Bannon is the prime example of a “leading white nationalist.” A comment by David Duke read, “You have an individual, Mr. Bannon, who’s basically creating the ideological aspects of where we’re going…And ideology ultimately is the most important aspect of any government…Quick reminder: this is the former head of the KKK speaking.” We have racist white men agreeing on the righteousness of these appointments, but where is the equality and diversity in the government. Something is missing…

He is Trump’s new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, commented racial remarks addressing a colored lawyer as “boy” and warning him to be careful on how he spoke to white people. Sessions is also known for “fighting against legal immigration into the United States and has voted against virtually every immigration bill introduced in Congress in the past two decades. He opposes a path to citizenship for those who entered the country without documentation or prior approval… No Senator has fought harder against the hopes and aspirations of Latinos, immigrants, and people of color than Sen. Sessions.” He is a critic of civil rights and have no acceptance or awareness for inclusion and equality.

Trump’s national security advisor General Michael Flynn is not much better than Bannon and Sessions. Tweeting offensive comments about the Islamic religion, and leaving remarks that it is a “malignant cancer.” Since when is religion causing our world problems? “Michael Flynn, has two huge marks on his record. Let’s start with his fear-stoking repudiation of an entire religion, Islam. Seeking to distance himself from moderate Republicans from as early as a decade ago, Flynn has dangerously lumped millions of people into one radical group.” Is this the kind of person we want helping lead our country? It’s nerve-racking and unsettling.

These choice of appointments puts our society at danger. Danger of inequality, danger of racism, and danger of losing what America was originally sought on, freedom and equality.

The members of the cabinet will be advising Trump, and helping make decisions for the nation over the next four years. As citizens this becomes an issue; if inequality and racism is present in the government what decisions will be made regarding our rights? They will be making crucial decisions for our society and this should concern us as citizens. After extensive research, it became clear that America is known for “Equality. The American Declaration of Independence states that “all [people] are created equal,” and this belief is deeply embedded in their cultural values.” Is this something we are going to lose is our government does not carry out this idea. Inequality has been a major civic issue, in the workplace, in government, in economics, in Hollywood. But our government can help counteract this issue; only if they truly carry out what America was originally built upon; freedom and equality.

Inequality in Hollywood

Inequality in racism, education, economics, and gender is prominent. It is prevalent in our country, and is a worldwide global issue. Although we have created laws against this issue, it still exists. America is one of the most diverse and accepting nations, yet it still falls victim to inequality. In my blog I will be addressing different issues that have represented this civic issue to demonstrate inequality seen particularly in America.

One clear example, that brought a lot of media attention was the 2016 Oscar Academy Awards. In 2016 when the Academy Awards nominees were announced a large controversy was brought up on the internet. Various movies in 2016 consisted of actors with color, who displayed talented performances, but no actors of color were on the nominee list. The actors felt strongly that this was unfair, and represented the issue of inequality and racism in Hollywood.

Articles all over the internet, and tweets from the stars caught the public’s attention. Stars commented on twitter that generated an uproar.

Chris Rock tweeted an add for the annual show, writing, “The #Oscars. The White BET Awards.” Jada Pinkett Smith tweeted a comment that aimed to boycott the Oscars entirely writing, “At the Oscars … people of color are always welcomed to give out awards … even entertain, but we are rarely recognized for our artistic accomplishments. Should people of color refrain from participating all together?” She wrote in defense of her husband Will Smith. His stellar performance in the movie Concussion was not recognized which she felts was due to racial profiling. Some stars added sarcastic comments to the pool, and clearly had a stance on what treatment they were receiving. Don Cheadle added, “@chrisrock Yo, Chris. Come check me out at #TheOscars this year. They got me parking cars on G level.”

Not only were actors of color commenting, George Clooney mentioned his disappointment in the Academy, and shared “If you think back 10 years ago, the Academy was doing a better job. Think about how many more African Americans were nominated. I would also make the argument, I don’t think it’s a problem of who you’re picking as much as it is: How many options are available to minorities in film, particularly in quality films?” He feels the opportunity for colored actors now to obtain roles in Oscar worthy movies is challenging.

The last comment I felt was extremely tasteful, and worth noting was Lupita Nyong’o comment. An Academy Award winner and extremely accomplished actress still had an opinion that spoke out against the Oscar’s promotion of inequality, “I am disappointed by the lack of inclusion in this year’s Academy Awards nominations,” she wrote. “It has me thinking about unconscious prejudice and what merits prestige in our culture. The Awards should not dictate the terms of art in our modern society, but rather be a diverse reflection of the best of what our art has to offer today. I stand with my peers who are calling for change in expanding the stories that are told and recognition of the people who tell them.”

This is only a sampling of remarks that were shared after two years of no colored actors being nominated for the Academy Awards. The twitter #OscarsSoWhite stood clear to the Academy and the public. This civic issue of inequality became clear through media. But why is this still an issue in 2016? Shouldn’t inequality be non-existent? The laws created against it would make me think that, however, inequality is something that is not going away. It is present in society, and must be addressed when an issue presents itself. The reactions generated an awareness; it called the Academy’s attention. The Academy responded thoughtfully, and respectfully, saying, “We will work towards diversifying our selection of nominees in the years to come.” This shows that even though inequality may not be entirely effaced, it can be addressed every time a situation occurs.

Although Hollywood is not what culminates the entire public, it does have a major impact. People watch television, film, and movies every day. The average American spend around five hours a day watching some form of television. This statistic goes to show the impact film has on each individual. Therefore, when an issue such as inequality arises in this field it becomes well-known to the average citizen. It is important to be aware of this issue, and help to counteract it so it does not fester beyond what is manageable.

The links below are resources I used to gather information on this topic. If you find interest in this specific civic issue, feel free to take a look at some of the comments and arguments shared.