University President Morton Schapiro opposes test-optional admission, says he worries about ‘resiliency’ of younger generation of students


Daily file photo by David Lee

University president Morton Schapiro. Schapiro discussed Northwestern admissions in an interview with The Daily.

Gabby Birenbaum, Campus Editor

On April 19, three members of The Daily’s editorial board sat down with University president Morton Schapiro. Jeri Ward, vice president for global marketing and communications, also sat in on the meeting. Schapiro talked about Northwestern admissions and defended the current generation of students. His answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

The Daily: How do you feel about the acceptance rate rising for the first time in years?

Schapiro: I wouldn’t make a big deal. I think it was like 8.48 and now it’s rounding error. It didn’t really go up, statistically significantly. I’m a statistician, right, so, it isn’t clear to me that’s like a real meaningful change.

What I’ve been saying for a while is once you hit 40,000 apps, you’re not gonna get a lot more. So, where do I see us in the future? I think the 8-9 (percent) range, something like that. I don’t see it going back into double figures.

The Daily: Are there any discussions among University administrators to move to test-optional admissions?

Schapiro: No. I’ve written a lot about that. If the test score is the thing that gets you in, then that’s a problem. But I don’t see why you don’t look at people’s test scores as long as you evaluate those test scores based on the opportunity of that person to get high test scores. There are certain schools — if you can somehow get a 1200, that’s the highest anybody in your school’s gotten in a decade — and there are certain schools — if you get a 1450, you say what happened? Everybody’s getting 1500. You have to put it in perspective. But I’m not a fan of test-optional.

The Daily: One of the problems exposed in the college admissions scandal was the ability to bribe coaches in order to facilitate students’ admission into selective admissions. Could that ever happen at Northwestern?

Schapiro: No, we have a very different relationship. I mean, all of admissions, all the coaches, it all goes through our senior administrator (deputy director of athletics) Janna (Blais), and she’s the only one who’s ever allowed to talk with Chris Watson, who is in charge of undergraduate admissions. Jim Phillips is not allowed to talk to, as much as we all love him, he’s not allowed to talk to admissions. Fitz, as much as we love him, is not allowed to talk to admissions. It all goes through Janna and then it goes to admissions. If there’s an appeal, it goes to the provost. It’s always been apparently quite different than a lot of other schools, and the scandal indicates even more different than we thought.

The Daily: You’ve been quoted as saying that the current generation of students has not experienced failure enough. Can you elaborate on that, and would you characterize the current generation of students?

Schapiro: I’ve written a lot about that. I’m not so sure I know the answer. I’ve actually been teaching undergraduate courses for 40 consecutive years, so you see the generations change. I love this generation. You know, I’ve written a lot sort of defending this generation — they care more about each other, and the world.

I don’t think they have enough fun. Yeah, it’s true, maybe they don’t have the same failures, cause if they did, they wouldn’t get into our schools like their parents did. Back then it was so much easier to get in, so, I worry about resiliency. But I love this generation. I just think they have a concern and an empathy that other generations didn’t.

I think this is a maligned generation, unfairly. I really do. The snowflake stuff — I did an op-ed, it was syndicated by the LA Times, (that) made fun of the attorney-general saying they’re all snowflakes and not prepared for the world. You ever meet one of you kids? They’re very well-prepared for the world. I don’t believe it. And you’re prepared to actually make the world a better place as well as to succeed in the world. I wouldn’t trade this generation with any generation. I absolutely wouldn’t.

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