Slipping Through My Fingers All the Time
By Anu Varma Panchal
Despite the oven-like temperatures we’ve been treated to these past few weeks, I went for a walk around my neighborhood the other day to get a break from my computer. As my husband and I treaded the familiar sidewalk, we passed an open garage door. Sidewalk chalk was strewn beside exuberant preschool driveway artwork. A double stroller was propped open, and a little bicycle was flung on the ground beside.
That used to be my life. A garage full of strollers and paraphernalia and hot summers spent entertaining kids with playdates and craft projects and long evenings at the neighborhood pool. Now, instead of scooters and sidewalk chalk, there’s a growing pile of dorm shopping beside the piano in my living room. (Side note to fellow girl moms: you might find yourself spending twice as much as our counterparts on dorm décor and “essentials.”)
As I stood outside that stranger’s garage like a creepy stalker, a wave of something that felt like grief washed over me. It’s been like this all year because by the end of this month, the person who made me a mother will wake up each morning in her college dorm rather than in her bedroom in our house. I can’t even wrap my mind around the thought that I won’t see her every day. Most days, I’m thrilled for the future that lies ahead for her, but occasionally, moments like this sneak up on me with their reminder of how much things are going to change.
Watching my oldest go through senior year was both the most fun times and the most gut-wrenching. I reveled in my ringside seat to it all, from painting parking spots and water gun wars and senior pictures to homecoming, prom, senior nights and final concerts. Although the dreaded college application process added many grey hairs to my head, I was proud to see projects come to fruition, and amazed watching kids lead, choreograph and organize fundraising projects and election campaigns and school events all by themselves.
Yet, all this happened to the beat of a tiny metronome in the backdrop of my mind, ticking the minutes past toward the inevitable end to this summer, a departure for her and a readjustment for the three of us she leaves behind. As I and all the other senior parents who have grown up together comment on each other’s Facebook senior posts and graduation photos and congratulate (or commiserate) over text messages, there’s this sense of a wave lifting us all up and moving us further down the shore, whether we want to move or not.
As I stand here at this crux, it’s not all the wonderful adventures that we’ve had together that fill my mind — though there were so many. It’s the things we didn’t do that stress me out. As Meryl Streep sings in “Mamma Mia” to her daughter in the tearjerker “Slipping through my fingers,”: What happened to the wonderful adventures? The places I had planned for us to go. Well, some of that we did but most we didn't… And why? I just don't know. I didn’t actually ever teach her to cook. I didn’t have all the meaningful conversations I had planned to by now. We never forced her to play a sport! I haven’t shown her the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls!
To echo what every mother writes in every angst-ridden Grown and Flown column Facebook sadistically keeps throwing at me — I thought I had more time. And yet, here we are. There’s just so little of this precious commodity, and when it comes to spending time with our children, no amount will ever be enough.
I don’t think it was the tricycle in the garage that got me. I don’t actually want to go back in time to when my kids were toddlers and preschoolers — I love the interesting, complicated teenagers they are now. I’m excited to see all the big and small ways in which their kind, ambitious generation will change the world. I know she has the tools and the skills to thrive and I hope she has the time of her life (safely and with no lasting repercussions!).
I guess … I’m just somewhat selfishly obsessing about my own diminishing role in her life. I guess what I envy is that mom’s place beside that child on the tricycle, and the fact that she’s right there, just inches away, when the kid looks up and says, “watch me!”
THE BRIDGE TO COLLEGE
The Supreme Court Takes ‘Affirmative’ Action
By Robert A.G. LeVine
Affirmative action is dead, at least in terms of university admissions.
Or is it?
In Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. vs. President and Fellows of Harvard College, the Supreme Court of the United States rejected the admissions practices of both Harvard and the University of North Carolina. In so doing, the Court sent strong signals about all affirmative action policies, essentially saying that after 50 years, policies which promote inequality as a way to pursue equality have lost their value (or at least their shield from the Equal Protection Clause).
But as I predicted in my December 2022 article published right here in Khaas Baat, I do not think this decision will change admissions significantly. Colleges may make de jure (official) changes, but don’t expect much to change de facto (in practice).
As you may know, I have been a lawyer since 1986 – most prominently as a litigator with an appellate specialty – so I’ve seen a thing or two from courts and judges. As my primary profession is now educational consulting, I read and scrutinized all of the Fair Admissions opinions, over 200 pages of them.
So why might this be much ado about nothing?
Let’s start at the beginning. In the second paragraph of the Syllabus (a short explanation of the full majority Opinion), Justice Roberts aptly explains the Harvard method of holistic evaluation, noting five factors that lead to an overall numeric grade. He then explains the “lop” process that has been employed by Harvard, where other factors – including race – are reviewed to ensure the kind of diverse, balanced class that Harvard desires. Although the discussion is not fully complete, it is a good explanation that is worthy of your attention.
In the middle of the Syllabus, Roberts makes legal arguments justifying the stance that affirmative action can no longer be sheltered from the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Although these arguments appear appropriate on their face, in my opinion, they are merely ends-based justifications for a goal that the majority of the Court wanted to reach. To be fair, this is also true of the arguments made by Justices Sotomayor and Jackson; they too are ends-based.
In the last paragraph of the Syllabus, we find the exception that swallows the rule. After holding that the Harvard and UNC admissions methodologies “lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives,” the following statement is made:
“At the same time, nothing prohibits universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected the applicant’s life, so long as that discussion is concretely tied to a quality of character or unique ability that the particular applicant can contribute to the university.”
Stated another way, universities may consider race in the context of past performance that predicts future contribution to the college community. “Merit” is not limited to grades and test scores.
That is precisely what the holistic admissions process has always done!
To be sure, there will be some changes. Internally, admissions offices will change their forms and processes to mimic what the Supreme Court has pronounced as being perfectly appropriate. The Common Application, among others, may change its format, perhaps in its Writing section (as it did by adding a Covid question a few years ago). Also, don’t be surprised to see disgruntled admissions workers file whistleblower lawsuits against their former universities in an effort to obtain money.
I hope that the Students for Fair Admissions plaintiffs think that Asian-Americans – who are already overrepresented at top colleges as contrasted with the overall U.S. demographic – won a great victory with the Supreme Court’s decision. At most colleges, Asian-Americans are already “over-represented” in comparison to the overall U.S. demographic. While our 2020 census indicates that Asian-Americans make up roughly 6 percent our U.S. population, the Harvard class of 2027 is 29.9 percent Asian-American. Stanford’s class of 2027 was reported as 26 percent Asian-American. MIT is 40 percent. That’s right: at America’s top universities, Asian-Americans are already admitted at five times their U.S. demographic. And that does not include international students.
Note that for white applicants, although the U.S. population was 64.1 percent in 2020, at Harvard the class of 2027 is only 40.8 percent white. Stanford’s class is only 26 percent white. And MIT is only 38 percent white. That’s right: there are more Asian-Americans than whites at MIT. But that’s a good thing, at least in my opinion. Our colleges should pursue diversity as part of a healthy, holistic education.Again, the Supreme Court’s decision probably won’t make a difference to you or to anyone you know. Basically, it’s still “business as usual.” Our advice? Be awesome and effectively demonstrate your value in your application.
Robert LeVine is the founder and CEO of University Consultants of America, an independent educational consultancy assisting students around the world with applications to colleges, universities and graduate schools. For more information, call University Consultants of America, Inc. at 1-800-465-5890 or visit www.universitycoa.com