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Reporting Race / Ethnicity on Applications


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So I've started the preliminary portion of a couple of grad school applications, and I'm noticing that they ask for race / ethnicity, though it seems to be optional. I've never liked having to identify this. I just think it's irrelevant, personally, and I find it mildly annoying (regardless of any legitimate data collection reasons for them asking) to have to click a box that says I'm white, or Asian, or Pacific Islander, or Middle Eastern, or Native American...or all of the above! However, part of me worries that if I don't click on a box, it will look strange or incomplete. It's not about hiding my ethnicity -- I truly couldn't care less -- but rather about it being even the most minute factor on an application.

 

Any thoughts or suggestions on this? Am I just being silly about a relatively innocuous issue?

Edited by Wyatt's Torch
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So I've started the preliminary portion of a couple of grad school applications, and I'm noticing that they ask for race / ethnicity, though it seems to be optional. I've never liked having to identify this. I just think it's irrelevant, personally, and I find it mildly annoying (regardless of any legitimate data collection reasons for them asking) to have to click a box that says I'm white, or Asian, or Pacific Islander, or Middle Eastern, or Native American...or all of the above! However, part of me worries that if I don't click on a box, it will look strange or incomplete. It's not about hiding my ethnicity -- I truly couldn't care less -- but rather about it being even the most minute factor on an application.

 

Any thoughts or suggestions on this? Am I just being silly about a relatively innocuous issue?

 

I wouldn't worry about it as much, frankly.

 

Keep in mind that the general electronic apps are often the same for the entirety of the graduate school, which admits thousands (well, depending on the size of the university) of students into all sorts of programs (academic, professional, etc) with vastly varying admissions criteria, and those boxes are sometimes used to identify students who might be available for extra funding from the graduate school, but the admissions decision in our cases are going to be made by English departments, and predominantly (one would think) on the basis of fit. Do you really foresee a situation in which the admissions committee is deciding between two applicants who both happen to focus on the nitty-gritty details of poetic form, and it's that box that guides their decision, and not the other--writing sample, SOPs, letters, etc--elements of the application? For what it's worth, I'm going to check the box for "overrepresented upper middle-class white guy" without a second thought, largely because of the legitimate data collection purposes.

 

(True story: my partner comes from a country where he's racialized as white, but here in the US that's most definitely not the case. His instinct is always to check "white," and I'm always like "Dude. C'mon.")

Edited by unræd
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Ah, you're right of course, Unraed. I'm almost certainly overreacting. I've heard (completely apocryphal, of course) talk of graduate programs wanting to diversify, and having race become a factor, and I guess the bottom line is that I just don't want that to be the case. But I guess it's a non-issue, for the most part, so I'll just check the all-encompassing "white" box and leave it at that. Incidentally, I am technically part Pacific Islander, as I happen to be a second generation New Zealand citizen, and last I checked New Zealand is comprised of two islands in the Pacific...but I'll force myself to take my tongue out of my cheek and not check that box when prompted.

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 Incidentally, I am technically part Pacific Islander, as I happen to be a second generation New Zealand citizen, and last I checked New Zealand is comprised of two islands in the Pacific...but I'll force myself to take my tongue out of my cheek and not check that box when prompted.

 

Ooooh! Have you been? I've heard nothing but lovely things!

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Ooooh! Have you been? I've heard nothing but lovely things!

 

Oh yeah. I've spent about a month and a half there in total, though it has been nearly 20 years since my last visit. I got citizenship about ten years ago, as New Zealand allows the offspring of citizens to obtain citizenship before they turn 25, and I was 24 at the time, so it made a lot of sense. I had actually planned on moving to Australia back then, as I was fully immersed in music production at the time, and had a few close connections in Melbourne. One of the great things about New Zealand and Australia is that they have what's called a "Trans-Tasman" agreement, wherein a citizen of one country is free to live and work in the other without a visa etc. I kind of wish that the same was true of Canada and the U.S. It certainly would have avoided the seven month immigration process I had to go through to move here...

 

But I digress. New Zealand is indeed as beautiful as people say, and while I probably won't move there during my working life (though you never know...), I can imagine retiring there. It's also probably the most consistently friendly Western country as well. Kiwis are resilient, resourceful, and have a hobbit-like desire to go out of their way to help strangers and friends alike.

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I think it's mainly for an award basis (or so I've been told). I'm a McNair scholar, which is a program mainly for students from underrepresented backgrounds, and I know many of our students receive financial incentives to attend universities that others may not. Some universities have certain funds, such as fellowships, etc., that are designated specifically for McNair scholars, students in similar programs, or minorities in general. So I assume that the race/ethnicity portion will sometimes affect the student's award status depending upon the university.

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My university has a specific fellowship for under-represented minorities in graduate school, so if you can back up the non-White box (even if it is Pacific Islander that is also white), I would say that it opens up funding opportunities at the very least.  I realize this sounds really callous.  These fellowships are meant for disadvantaged applicants, but I would say that the ad-comm/eval board are the ones in the position to decide between the qualifying applications.  The DOVE fellowship, the one I mentioned, asks for additional essays once a department forwards a potentially qualifying applicant, so you might as well not disqualify yourself from something that you could qualify for.  The committee will make the decision.

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