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> What is fair?
發表於: Feb 19 2016, 18:45  評價+2
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These debate topics focus on two examples from education and work but I guess these could be psychology/philosophy topics as well.  Oh well I'll just put them here. grin2.gif

I've joined debates on other forums on these topics; I think it's pretty interesting as they both pertain to the claims of 'racial balancing', as one is in the education admission system, and the other one is the workforce representation in a specific industry.

Is Harvard Unfair to Asian Americans?

Highlights, Facts & other Considerations
- The average SAT (assessment exam for college admission) score for Asian American students accepted into Harvard is 140 points higher than Caucasian students, 270 points higher than Hispanic students, and 450 points higher than African-American students.
- Although scores are important, college admissions don't just look for the 'smartest kids' but the most well-rounded kids. Extracurricular activities are also considered as admission criteria
- Quote from a famous economist/statistician Charles Wheelan: "At elite, selective institutions, lots of different kinds of applicants get preferential treatment. Some of that is affirmative action to promote racial, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity. I'm also referring to star athletes, children of alumni, students with buildings named after their family (or rich enough to endow such buildings in the future) – and anyone else who gets favorable treatment in the admissions process for some attribute beyond the usual academic credentials." (A Case for Preferential Treatment?)

Asian American Tech Workers Absent from Silicon Valley's Executive Suites

Highlights & Facts @ Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, LinkedIn, and Yahoo (139,370 employees)
Caucasians were 62.2% of the professional workforce, 72.7% of managers, and 80.3% of executives
- Asians were 27.2% of professionals, 18.8% of managers, and 13.9% of executives
- Blacks, Hispanics, and individuals of other races were 10.7% of professionals, 7.3% of managers, and 5.8% of executives
Distribution of Silicon Valley workforce by race in Professionals/Managers/Executive levels

- The difference is due to the fact that job responsibilities and requirements are different in the professional vs executive levels

- Responses from companies that provided the workforce statistics:
  • Google: Referred to a blog post from yesterday addressing some steps it was taking to increase diversity. A company spokesperson also told Fortune“that we’re committing $150 Million to diversity in 2015” but that “money alone won’t make the difference – it’s the strategy and plan that makes all the difference.”
  • Hewlett-Packard: Did not respond.
  • Intel: Sent a statement that said, in part, “Intel is committed to diversity and inclusion throughout our entire workforce” and that the company created a “$300 million diversity in technology fund” to help increase the number of under-represented minorities and women by the year 2020.
  • LinkedIn: A company statement called “[w]orkforce diversity and inclusion … a critically important issue for LinkedIn.” The company said it was making progress and that, while not having released its most recent diversity numbers yet, has “seen improvement specifically in the Asian leadership category.”
  • Yahoo: The company referred to its Workforce Diversity at Yahoo webpage.
For debate
1- Is the Harvard admission fair? 

2- Is the distribution in professional, managers and executive levels in Silicon Valley companies fair? 

For both topic: If the answer is no, then what would be considered a fair practice?
For me, I think some details would be worth questioning/exploring in determining the fairness.  But I'd like to hear what everyone thinks.  

Edit: grammar/spelling

本篇文章已被 Pearltea 於 Feb 20 2016, 07:46 編輯過
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發表於: Feb 20 2016, 07:21  評價+2
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[Disclaimer: brick for jade]

This is a pretty interesting topic to discuss. Despite the fact that we are discussing the issue with the Harvard case, I find the situation in Hong Kong quite worthwhile to be mentioned.

Currently, local students can be admitted into local universities via JUPAS with their HKDSE results, while others (including students from other regions and countries) can apply for admission via non-JUPAS with other public examination qualification (e.g. SAT, GCE, IB). Perhaps we can have some insights if we look at the ratio of JUPAS applicants and non-JUPAS applicants. After searching for various inputs of the ratio, it seems that no fixed quota has been officially pre-determined for non-JUPAS applicants.

Quoted from CityU:

Direct (Non-JUPAS) Admissions Scheme is for local and non-local applicants who are applying for admission on the basis of qualifications other than Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) or National Joint College Entrance Examination (JEE) results of the current year. There is NO fixed quota for direct (Non-JUPAS) applicants, and the University adopts a holistic approach in selecting applicants for interview/ test on a case-by-case basis. 

Quoted from hkgov:

Overall speaking, the UGC-funded institutions do not have a pre-determined ratio for the JUPAS and non-JUPAS intakes.  In fact, admission of the students is mainly done by individual faculties/departments.  Students are selected based on individual merits in a number of aspects, including their academic attainment (e.g. results in public examinations and secondary schools), performance in interviews and auditions, non-academic achievements, interest and preferences in various academic programmes.

Some statistics: (although only 2 sets of data are provided here, there are not many fluctuations within ends)

                         2005/06        2010/11

Total intake            15 041         16 054 

Local students           14 012         14 195

  JUPAS                  11 458          11 660
  Non-JUPAS (Sub-degree   1 517           1 502 
  or equivalent)         

  Non-JUPAS (other        1 037          1 033

Non-local students          1 029         1 859

It is interesting to observe that:

.The percentage of number of admitted local students over total admission is pretty stable (93.2% VS 88.4%), so does that of non-local students (6.8% VS 11.6%).

So, does it match the claim of the absence of pre-determined ratio? Or, is it in turn doubtful that there is an "invisibly controlled" system to keep the ratio stable? IMHO, there is not sufficient information to answer those questions under this scenario, mostly because the two groups of students are assessed by different standardized tests and a direct conversion is still vague. Perhaps it is the difference between the original case of discussion by Pearltea and the case of HK in which SAT scores could serve as an indicator for comparison. 

Some questions:

Apart from the academic performance of entrants, making a "diverse student profile" is one of the aims in the case of Harvard University. What would happen if a much larger proportion of entrants are non-local students, say with a cut-off score of SAT? Would a "diverse student profile" still function in the opposite direction so as to "make it balanced"? And, what is that "balance point"? Perhaps the current 20%?

Here are my two cents...

Edit: some typos and format

本篇文章已被 XxEDxX 於 Feb 20 2016, 08:14 編輯過
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QUOTE (XxEDxX @ Feb 20 2016, 15:21)
Some questions:

Apart from the academic performance of entrants, making a "diverse student profile" is one of the aims in the case of Harvard University. What would happen if a much larger proportion of entrants are non-local students, say with a cut-off score of SAT? Would a "diverse student profile" still function in the opposite direction so as to "make it balanced"? And, what is that "balance point"? Perhaps the current 20%?

Good question. However, we can only speculate so much on the true 'holistic' admission criteria.  There are claims that although Asian applicants show great intellectual abilities (high SAT scores/GPA) and general participation in interest groups (piano/violin/tennis), they lack activities and participation in groups that can demonstrate leadership abilities, or the so-called "well-rounded" package. 

The discrimination claim is supported by:
- The statistics shows that the accepted Asian applicants have a much higher average SAT score than that of other non-Asian students, hence there is a 'higher score requirement' for Asian. 
- Anti discrimination law bans discrimination against a protected group, and race is one of the groups
- A claim that if an applicant has a high score and plays the violin/tennis, he/she has a higher chance of being accepted with a non-Asian name. 

Since there are no defined admission criteria and the weigh for each of them, I would speculate that there are some bias (not necessarily discrimination) in the selection criteria as one (score/activity) becomes overabundant. I genuinely believe that "One in a million makes you unique, but one of a million makes you part of a statistics" (I made that up).  If an applicant is the one and only who has perfect SAT score AND masters piano/violin/tennis, the qualification would quickly grab the attention of the admission staffs. However, when there are thousands of applicants with similar traits, it becomes more difficult to distinguish the 'uniqueness' from them.  Even though these accomplishments are monumental, the large number of availability resets the definition of greatness. 

Now a young, bright Asian student might say, forget about learning violin for the next ten years, I'll just take Gaelic for two years and play in a school rock band to boost my chance!  twisted.gif

本篇文章已被 Pearltea 於 Feb 20 2016, 08:51 編輯過
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發表於: Feb 20 2016, 13:36  評價+1
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I think the fairness questions raised here cannot be definitively answered without first elaborating on what kind of "fairness" that the questioner is looking for.

A student/job applicant may be more concerned about procedural fairness when they feel that they were being subjected to harsher selection criteria because of their ethnicity (or any other factor not related to their capability). When they themselves are the subject, most people want to be judged favorably, and if not that, at least fairly. Procedural fairness means they are being judged by the same set of procedures or rules as anybody else who are competing with them. Unfortunately this is not true in most higher education systems around the world, not to mention in the job market or the overall economy.

A social observer who is not directly involved may still be concerned about procedural fairness out of empathy, but they could also be looking at these fairness questions from a perspective of "social justice". Some people may make a case that procedural fairness should be deliberately broken under certain circumstances in order to counterbalance a greater injustice that exist in our society. In other words, they are arguing for distributive fairness (everyone should get what they deserves) over procedural fairness. The implementations of affirmative action in education around the world (e.g. in the US and in mainland China) have been a prime example, and these are constantly under debate because their conflict with procedural fairness. 

Of course, there are also a ton of procedurally unfair situations that were created with less benevolent (though not necessarily evil) intentions. The person responsible for managing a school/school system/business may look at these fairness questions from a "resource management" or "effective resource distribution" point of view. There are many possible incentives for them to actively maintain a certain level of diversity (or lack thereof) in their institution, it could be for financial reasons, it could be for office politics or real politics, or it could be due to various forms of discrimination.

Fairness is a very complicated social concept but it is also a very fundamental one. The sense of fairness is so innate it existed long before we became human, as the famous video below demonstrates. I recommend going over the wiki lesson here ( to better understand the topic.

本篇文章已被 徐元直 於 Feb 20 2016, 13:36 編輯過

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發表於: Feb 22 2016, 07:17  評價+1
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Thanks for the sharing.

The original debate topic was “Is the Harvard admission practice fair?” It was framed as a closed ended question as a starting point, to account for the large number of respondents, to find a general sentiment on the issue, and having a clear topic to start from.  But topics like this would eventually find a consensus somewhere and it is then turned into a more open-ended question to accommodate more details and analyses.  I think given the writing and response style on this board, the question would quickly, if not automatically, become an open ended one as many users here like to do some diggings and readings for a meaningful argument instead of providing a one-sided, quick response.  

I like the topic on distributive fairness (justice) vs procedural fairness here.  I think that the procedural fairness in admission procedure was never meant for having predefined rules and guidelines of the definitions of great academic accomplishment. The admission offices of universities are known for giving preferential considerations to the sons and daughters of alumni, “early-decision” applicants, and elite athletes etc., for a variety of reasons that would deem more favorable to the schools and create a more diverse learning environment for the students. One could speculate that a group is subject to higher requirements due to discrimination; I think that would be a tough case to argue over - as discrimination might not be determined just by looking at the numbers, and skewed numbers do not necessarily mean discrimination.  

This case resonates well with the relative performance rating system (stacked ranking, relative performance ranking etc) at work, where employees with similar job functions and seniority (job grade) were evaluated together and assigned with a rating so that the pool of employees would meet a normal or ‘defined’ distribution. There could only be x% of top performers, exceeded or met-expectation performers, to developmental or unsatisfactory performers. It was a very controversial process, as everyone reported to different managers/leaders and had goals set in the beginning of the year to achieve.  As managers believed that a direct report who outperformed the goals would be considered an exceeded expectation employee, it was hardly the case during the evaluation process. When the number of exceeded expectation employees was greater than the allocated number from a defined distribution, employees were downgraded or upgraded to a different rating group originally evaluated by the managers.  In many cases, both the managers and employees felt injustice that employees went ‘above-and-beyond’ throughout the year to outperform the individual goals, only to be told that they were merely doing an ‘okay’ job – just like what everyone else was doing. The competition has reset the original definitions of greatness and accomplishments and requires everyone to rethink the playing field (and as many say – this is just a political game).  This type of evaluation process was good for a short term performance management (or to ‘weed out’ the underperformers) and achieving a company’s desired budget/headcount goals, but it is hardly a long term solution given the politics driven by the process that could hurt the morality.

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