I just checked out the Winners Bios of the 2012 Rhodes Scholars, and I’ve noticed something I find disturbing. The scholarship is awarded via geographic districts, and it seems that certain districts are much more qualified than others.

Check out someone from New England:

“Helen E. Jack, Hanover, is a senior at Yale with majors in molecular, cellular and developmental biology, and in international studies. A leader in Amnesty International from high school through college, she is also active in Physicians for Human Rights and the New Haven Syringe Exchange. Helen worked for the Earth Institute’s Millenium Cities Initiative in Ghana and is committed to public health reform and issues of health equity. She is also captain of the Yale club road running team and is a triathlete. She plans to do the M.Sc. in evidence-based social intervention at Oxford.”

(sentence 1) 2 totally different majors at an Ivy League school
(sentence 2) 3 clubs
(sentence 3) worked in Ghana
(sentence 4) triathlete! club captain

vs. someone from the South:

“Joshua D. Carpenter, Florence, is a 2010 graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a B.S. in accounting and economics. Josh is now a teacher with Teach for America in Marion, Alabama. Committed to education reform, he started a program to train students to prepare tax returns for low-income families, and taught writing and economics and math to students in the Birmingham city schools. Josh also served as a White House intern and co-captained UAB’s mock trial team. He plans to do the M.Phil. in comparative social policy at Oxford.”

(sentence 1) mediocre state school, average majors
(sentence 2 & 3) TFA & TFA
(sentence 4) white house intern and co-captain of a club

Sorry, but Josh is just much less impressive..

Correct me if I’m wrong, but quota-ing your admissions based on geographic location where certain locations are more competitive than others = affirmative action. And it seems to me that if you’re going to employ affirmative action, it should be along race/class lines, not geographic location. Racial inequality in America is much more severe of a problem than geographic inequality, and if you want to make steps towards correcting inequality in America, it makes more sense to target an area that has more potential for improvement.

I don’t really get why Rhodes distributes its scholarship the way it does. If it were aiming for a true meritocracy, I think all the winners would be from New England or California. However, they’re obviously looking for diversity by dividing it up by region. Why geographic diversity and not a more useful type of diversity like racial diversity, I don’t know…