The University of British Columbia apologizes for the fact that its online application is so old-fashioned it contemplates only two sexes: male and female.
The college application process can be an eye-opening experience. Yesterday I blogged about the fact that the University of Oregon gives applicants two options when it comes to admission essays: (1) identify yourself as a victim or an oppressor or (2) explain how you will add to the school’s endless lust for diversity.
Today, it’s my proud duty to inform you that the University of British Columbia is terribly sorry that its currently constructed online application is so primitive that it contemplates only two sexes. No, I’m not kidding:
Currently only two gender designation options are available within the UBC Student Information System. Access and Diversity works with the University to create an inclusive living and learning environment in which all students can thrive and is currently exploring how to better accommodate students with non-binary gender identities within this database. For more information about available supports and services, please contact Access and Diversity.
My Little Bookworm was baffled that I would care about objective facts — in this case, objective facts being the scientifically irrefutable fact that, barring an infinitesimally small number of anomalies, human sex is binary: male and female. While he (thankfully) doesn’t believe in more than two genders, Little Bookworm doesn’t understand why it’s a problem to allow people to claim that there are more than two sexes. I explained to him that, once objective facts are devalued, one is only left with subjective emotions — and the person with the loudest hollering or the biggest gun always wins that argument. I’m not sure that this world view resonated with my 21st century youngster, though.
Here are two more thoughts about the application process, not just at the University of British Columbia, but at all of these colleges and universities:
1. Several of the schools subscribe to the “Common Application” (or “Common App”), which means that students need to enter their address, grades, and work and volunteer experience only once for all the schools. In addition, though, all of the schools ask that the students submit one to four additional essays ranging from 200-650 words in length.
These essays all have a generic sameness (“what you value,” “how you create diversity,” “obstacles you’ve overcome,” “your home community,”) but each school frames the questions in slightly different ways, necessitating constantly reworking the generic essay to fit a different mold. It’s a real PITA.
Moreover, to the extent that the essay responses are generic, it’s pretty obvious that the whole exercise will do little to winnow wheat from chaff. That leads me to believe that this endless process has more to do with justifying staffing in the Admissions Office and finding minority candidates than it does with pulling together the perfect student population. I’m willing to be that, if the schools just took straight resumes (grades, test scores) and drew names out of a hat, it would end up with just as good a mix of students.
2. All of the websites are horribly designed. They’re poorly written and the underlying coding is primitive (see, e.g., UBC’s inability to accommodate the endless number of genders today’s students insist exist). The University of Oregon, by the way, has figured out a multiple gender identity menu for its applicants.
It’s unnerving to think that all of these schools, the ones with the primitive websites, promise to teach liberal arts students communication skills and to teach computer science and design students the ability to turn out quality technical products. Whatever is going on in the classrooms as universities across North America certainly is not being replicated in the admissions offices.