The Atlantic and Its Coverage of CUNY

January 22, 2015 | The University

Janaury 22, 2015

Anna C. Bross
Senior Director, Communications
The Atlantic

Dear Ms. Bross:

When I opened your email and saw it was from the Senior Director of Communications of The Atlantic, I was expecting to see an apology to CUNY and all of its colleges for defaming this long-admired public university system in an article replete with admitted serious factual errors and conflicts of interest.

Instead you took issue with my description of a false student profile that was central to the piece as fictitious and asserted that your removal of its numerous references and two photographs was done because it lacked relevance. You neglected to acknowledge that all of the students cited by name were admitted to CUNY colleges, half to senior colleges. Your original version falsely claimed that students were being locked out of CUNY– one of numerous and serious errors that you and your colleagues endeavored to correct.

When I read your email to my 15-year old daughter, who is a reporter for her high school newspaper, she said, “An article is good if the quotes are good and it is factual.” By that standard, The Atlantic’s article on CUNY fails the test.

Why does a revised and only partially corrected article still appear on The Atlantic website?  Did it ever occur to you that the quotes were based upon the false profile and errors which you acknowledged in the first version? Fake premises can lead to quotes based upon information that is false.

You wrote on behalf of The Atlantic, a magazine with a storied history of chronicling critical American and world issues for more than a century and a half. How could a huge article have met your ethical standards that obviously was not fact-checked and was funded by an external private advocacy organization that holds strong, publicly known views on the subject matter?

I remain concerned not only about the way that The City University of New York has been maligned, but also that this report and the way it was handled still raises many questions.
Noting your reminder about the long corrective footnotes at the bottom of the current version of the story on your website, I thought of reminding you that Rolling Stone Editor Jann Wenner approached a similar problem by commissioning an investigation from outside the magazine.

One reason I believe that an external review might help is the premise of your letter, which objects to my use of the word “fictitious,” and your assertion that “the student’s anecdote … was not fabricated in any way, whether by the authors or the student himself.”

Your website says you “significantly revised [the article] post-publication for factual errors that led this student to his ultimate decision about where to enroll in college,” including “inaccurately portraying the order of events.” If something isn’t factual, what else can it be but fictitious?

I surmise that the only reason The Atlantic determined that the Kenneth Rosario profile was “insufficiently relevant” was because of the “factual errors,” or fictions, or fabrications – call them what you will. (Merriam-Webster online parses the verb “fabricate” as: “invent, create; to make up for the purpose of deception.”) By definition, if something is riddled with “factual errors” and an “inaccurate” portrayal of key elements, it is an invention; far be it from me to suggest that this was done for the purpose of deception, but that is a question that an independent arbiter might ask.

I’d like to suggest some other questions for an inquiry:

  • Were the authors biased from the start? I noted that you deleted quotes from the Board Chairman of The Nation Institute, which funded the reporting, as well as from the President and CEO of the Community Service Society, which some years ago had issued an advocacy report on the admission of Black and Hispanic students at CUNY along the same lines as your article.
  • How did The Atlantic come to print the false Kenneth Rosario story without verification? Where were the breakdowns in the fact-checking process?
  • How were the original headline and secondary headline approved when they weren’t true, since all four students cited in the article were admitted to a CUNY college and were not “locked out”? (Rosario was accepted by his top four CUNY schools, including City College, which was his first choice and offers the degree in electrical engineering which he listed as his preference (not business), while Hunter College and Baruch College do not.)
  • Why did the authors paint an inaccurate picture of declining minority enrollment? In October 2014, CUNY gave them enrollment data indicating that Black student enrollment increased by 1 percent and Hispanic enrollment by 5 percent between 2008-2009 and 2013-2014. At CUNY’s highly selective senior colleges, Black enrollment has risen by 15 percent and Hispanic enrollment by 23 percent since Fall 2013, as has representation of both groups as a percentage of all new students.
  • Why did the authors give the false impression that CUNY’s highly selective colleges rely solely on SAT scores for admission decisions, when the admission process takes multiple factors into account?
  • When The Atlantic revised the article the first time, how did that inaccurate SAT assertion and an equally wrong claim about the admission of immigrants get included? (The new subhead read: “An increasing emphasis on SAT scores is making it harder for students from immigrant and minority families to get into New York City’s best public colleges.”) In fact, CUNY’s highly selective colleges have 40 percent immigrant enrollment; community colleges have 39 percent immigrant enrollment.
  • How did it happen that in the first revision The Atlantic still failed to mention that Kenneth Rosario was accepted at four CUNY colleges and focused only on his rejection by two, even though CUNY had provided the facts?
  • How did it occur that your first correction note inaccurately stated the sequence of Rosario’s college decisions?
  • How did it happen that the first revision continued to assert that Rosario listed business as his desired major, when, in fact, he had applied to Baruch College for “computer information systems” and to City College’s Grove School of Engineering (to which he was accepted)?
  • Why did the first revision fail to note that the other three students had been accepted to CUNY colleges, one of them to a four-year institution?
  • Why did it state that “overcrowded two-year community colleges have filled up with more black and Latino students”? Over the past decade Black enrollment at community colleges had declined by 4 percentage points while Asian enrollment (unmentioned in the article) had risen by 2 points, with enrollments by Asian freshmen rising by 69 percent.
  • Why did the article assert that “only about half those transfer students come in from CUNY’s second-tier colleges or community colleges. The rest come from outside the system, including private schools from around the country and the world”? I’m glad to see the current version has a January 15 “update” stating that 84 percent of transfer students attended a CUNY college or were New York City residents.
  • In the final revisions dealing with CUNY’s ethnic profile, why did The Atlantic not use the material that CUNY provided to compare enrollment at CUNY’s senior colleges with those of local and national private and public colleges? We believe that the facts would have spoken for themselves – and most favorably for CUNY’s admissions profile, particularly at times of record enrollments.
  • Why were the inaccuracies in the final revision that I pointed out in my letter of January 16 – particularly misstating enrollment trends, acknowledging the increase in the number of new minority students at CUNY’s highly selective schools, and the trend among Asians – not remedied?It seems to me that the choice is yours.  Apology.  Independent investigation.  Or both.  As Nicholas Sparks wrote in The Last Song, “In the end you should do the right thing even if it’s hard.”

Sincerely,

Jay Hershenson
Senior Vice Chancellor for University Relations and
Secretary of the Board of Trustees
The City University of New York
 

 

 

 

January 20, 2015

Washington Monthly
College Guide Blog

Fact-Checking and the CUNY-Atlantic Debacle
By Daniel Luzer
On Tuesday last week the Atlantic published an article highlighting changes at the City University of New York, a college system that, in the view of the authors, was increasingly bifurcated. Wealthier white and Asian students tended to go to the top CUNY colleges, and poorer black and Hispanics tended to be relegated to the less selective community colleges run by the system. As a result, according to the original headline, “…High Achievers Have No Place To Go.”

And then it got complicated. This came to my attention later in the week. I had written a piece here about the article. Jay Hershenson, vice chancellor for university relations for CUNY, called me up and demanded a retraction. The Atlantic article contained significant factual errors and this needed to be addressed immediately, he said. I was surprised, but Hershenson was right.

At various points between Tuesday and the end of the week the Atlantic made numerous edits to the piece, changing some of the focus, removing the anecdotal lede, and altering the headline, which now reads “What It Takes to Get Into New York City’s Best Public Colleges.”

The magazine has apologized, sort of, and explained that:

This article has been significantly revised post-publication to correct for factual errors in the original version.

That’s not all:

An earlier version of this article led with a personal college-admissions story that we have since determined to be insufficiently relevant to the remainder of the article. An earlier correction also inaccurately portrayed the order of events that led the student to his ultimate decision about where to enroll in college. As well, our original display copy suggested that top-performing students are having trouble gaining acceptance to all CUNY schools; in fact, this story is about their difficulty in gaining entry to the top five CUNY colleges: Baruch, Queens, Brooklyn, City, and Hunter. We regret these errors. Additionally, this article originally included quotations in its introduction and conclusion, since removed in the reframing of those sections, from David Jones, the president and CEO of the nonprofit organization the Community Service Society, who is also the chairman of the board of the Nation Institute. The Nation Institute helped support research for this article, a relationship that was fully disclosed.

And furthermore:

Students who enter CUNY community colleges have a 8 percent chance of graduating after six years, rather than over an indefinite time period.

It was, as Hershenson put it to me, like the Rolling Stone rape story all over again.

CUNY

That’s debatable, but it’s pretty serious.

What seems surprising about this is that the authors were not exactly inexperienced. LynNell Hancock is a professor at Columbia Journalism School. Meredith Kolodner is a staff writer at the Hechinger Report. Both are longtime education journalists.

How did this happen? Well the Nation Institute thing is pretty hard to explain, but most of this just seems to come down to errors in fact-checking.

Every journalist fears this. When you’ve worked so hard on a story and went through such work on a piece to get all of the details right, but then you got something really, really wrong. But if that comes about after your story has already been published the piece basically turns into garbage.

I’ve been responsible for something like this once. It’s humiliating and it often ruins the relationship between a journalist and a publication, but it comes down to time and money, which are in pretty sort supply in journalism today.

Magazines of ideas publish articles about complicated topics, often involving statistical research, numerous difficult interviews, and extensive rewriting. This is part of the reason these pieces are unique and original, but it’s also how errors are introduced into copy, and how reputations are ruined and magazines get sued. Because of this publications often perform a line-by-line fact-check of a piece before it goes to publication.

At certain magazines, particularly Mother Jones and the New Yorker, that means every single line in a piece is verified with a primary source document and every person interviewed for the article gets a call from the fact-checker for quote verification. That means a reader knows if the article says lobbyist spent $325.00 taking a politician to dinner the lobbyist did not actually spend $297.50. It also means if it says the lobbyist was wearing a pink shirt he was not wearing a yellow one.

But publications don’t always do this anymore. Indeed, with smaller editorial budgets and the 24-hour news cycle, it’s increasingly rare. This is particularly the case with web-only pieces, where the turnaround time and relative ease of damage control is such that many publications barely bother with fact-checking anymore.

If the story looks good and you want to get it out quickly before someone else reports it often a publication will just speed up the whole process. Certainly re-interviewing a subject and chasing down primary source documents to verify the accuracy of “the order of events that led the student to his ultimate decision about where to enroll in college” is rare. It’s common just to do a quick check of proper names and then put the thing up.

The real harm with sloppy fact-checking is that an error—and fact-checkers catch lots of them, in drafts of really good pieces by really wonderful journalists—can effectively kill a piece and, if the article is part of a trend or theme, eliminate any chance of anyone addressing the real substance of the story.

Even after the Atlantic issued its correction it still seems the central point of the CUNY story was correct. A system designed to provide New York’s striving working class students with an affordable college education has become a two-tiered system that operates very differently. That might be something worth exploring.

But now nothing’s going to happen with that, nothing at all. For all the impact it’s going to have, the authors might not have bothered to write the piece at all.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

January 16, 2015

Dear Mr. Bradley, Mr. Bennet, and Mr. Gould:

As you know, I have been in touch with you since Tuesday, January 13, regarding The Atlantic article on CUNY, which was replete with errors and a fundamentally fictitious student profile. You in turn have been in touch with me as you reviewed the published article with diligence.

I read the multiple corrections you made, including the complete elimination of the ubiquitous student applicant profile and all of the erroneous references to it, and the elimination of inaccurate headlines and sub-headlines and photographs and the corrections in enrollment data. You previously revealed to your readers that the funding source for one of the reporters was from a private advocacy organization. Following my contact with you, you eliminated the quotes from the head of that organization from the article, recognizing the inherent conflict of interest involved. The private advocacy organization had previously issued a one-sided advocacy publication on the same subject which was also challenged by CUNY for its lack of fairness and accuracy — on precisely the same subject matter of your article. Again, a conflict of interest.

You revised the erroneous headline twice and it now reads, “What It takes to get into New York City’s Best Public Colleges.” Your readers do not yet know that the senior author of your article about CUNY is a professor at a private college which enrolls 7% African American students and 13.6% students of Hispanic descent. You have charts I previously sent you comparing the ethnic profile of CUNY’s senior colleges and more highly selective senior colleges to private and public colleges locally and nationally. The article contains no such comparisons between CUNY and other institutions of higher education, public or private. As you know, CUNY senior colleges serve 22.1% African American students and 27.1% students of Hispanic descent; the five highly selective senior colleges serve 13.3% African American students and 23.4% students of Hispanic descent. CUNY is experiencing record enrollments, serving more Black and Hispanic transfer students than at any time in its history, as more and more students of all backgrounds—including Asians and White students– appreciate the CUNY value. Between 2008-2009 and 2012-2013, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded by the highly selective colleges to African American students increased by 9% and to Hispanic students by 21%. These are facts that your readers deserved to know.

Ironically, at the same time I was in touch with you to bring the egregious flaws in The Atlantic article to your attention, The New York Times editorial board was in touch with me about CUNY, its community colleges, the President’s free tuition plan and the highly successful ASAP program—which now has a 57% three-year graduation rate. It has been hailed by the President of the United States as a new model of community college education. The Times fact checked every sentence prior to publication, literally every word relating to CUNY, carefully checking for source and accuracy. This happened simultaneously just as I was in touch with you about error after error and a lack of fact checking on The Atlantic article prior to its original placement on your website. In my entire career at CUNY, and in my own personal experience as a journalist before I joined the University, I never experienced such a contrast in journalistic ethics.

The revised article continues to have glaring inaccuracies and omissions. Quotes from the article are italicized, followed by corrections.

1. Misstating new student enrollments trends and not acknowledging the increase in the number of new minority students who have been entering the highly selective schools.

But the numbers of black and Latino high school graduates enrolled in CUNY’s highly selective colleges as first-time freshmen have declined markedly, from 3,190 in 2008 to 2,064 in 2013. At the same time, the overall numbers of black and Latino students have increased, from 4,763 to 6,127—showing that when it comes to CUNY’s most selective colleges, transferring is increasingly the most viable option for blacks and Latinos, rather than entering as a first-time freshmen.

The Atlantic should have said, “At the same time, the number of black and Latino transfer students have increased, from 4,763 to 6,137…”
•  The larger numbers are just Black and Latino transfer students, not all new students (let alone all enrolled students).
• And the transfer numbers are slightly misstated, should be an increase from 4,743 to 6,137.
•  So, the influx of Black and Hispanic transfer students (+1,364) has offset the decline in Black and Hispanic freshmen (-1,126), for a net gain of 238 new Black and Hispanic students. (Total new Black and Hispanic students actually increased from 7,933 to 8,201.)

2. Inaccurate reporting by The Atlantic of community college enrollment trends, especially regarding Asian students.
These changes have particularly affected black and Latino students. From 2004 to 2013, black community-college enrollment at CUNY increased by slightly less than 3,000 students, while Latino enrollment increased by more than 10,000 students. During the same period, Asian and white community-college enrollment also grew, though to a far lesser extent: Asian enrollment increased by about 1800 students, and white enrollment by about 600. Overall, the size of CUNY’s community colleges grew, largely driven by increased enrollment among Latino students.
•  In fact, the increase in Asian enrollment was more than twice the size of black enrollment increases.
•  The Table “Trends in Associate Degree Program Enrollment at Open Access Colleges, by Race Ethnicity: Fall 2004 to Fall 2013” shows
• Asian enrollment +5,507
• Black students +2,739
• Hispanic + 14,054
• White + 767

As indicated in the two categories of errors listed above, your efforts to make corrections were incomplete. All of this could have been avoided if The Atlantic and their partners, like the Hechinger Report and its private college partner, had in place practices with the highest premium on accuracy and fairness.

The City University of New York has many challenges, including working to provide access to opportunity and excellence within budgetary limitations that are far from ideal. Its faculty, staff, alumni and students contribute mightily to the economy of the City, State and Nation, repaying many times over the investment made in the education of those who seek to realize their dreams.  CUNY is a vertical higher education system, where the true measurement of access is the assurance that academic achievement will lead to higher levels of advancement—within one system, in one City, and in one State. Its faculty, staff, alumni and students deserved far better treatment than it received in this matter, as do higher education communities at urban and public colleges and universities across America. They too work under arduous circumstances to deliver the highest quality education possible. I earnestly hope that important lessons were learned by all concerned from this episode and we can get on with the business of helping our students gain access to success.

Sincerely,

Jay Hershenson
Senior Vice Chancellor for University Relations and
Secretary of the Board of Trustees
The City University of New York

 

January 14, 2015

Dear Editor In Chief Bennet:

Following a sleepless night, I read this morning the on-line revisions you made. You eliminated the erroneous headline, “When High Achievers Have No Place to Go” and replaced it with another untrue headline “When Being A Valedictorian Isn’t Enough”. Especially when the valedictorian is admitted to his first, second, third and fourth choice colleges.

You eliminated the untrue sub- headline about students “locked out of The City University of New York” and substituted a misleading sub headline about increased emphasis on SAT scores. You now say, “An increasing emphasis on SAT scores is making it harder for students from immigrant and minority families to get into New York City’s best public colleges.” The SAT is one of several factors considered in determining a student’s admission, as I indicated in my letter to you last night (see below). I also sent you last night the data showing increased enrollment of minority students at CUNY’s highly selective colleges.

On immigrants and immigrant families, the percentage of immigrant students at the highly selective CUNY colleges is 40%, slightly higher than the percentage of immigrants at CUNY community colleges , which is 39%. It is nothing short of astonishing, much less inaccurate, that The Atlantic would substitute a sub headline slandering the most immigrant friendly public university in the nation. CUNY’s Citizenship Now program is the largest service provider to students and the community of its kind in the country.

False headlines and false sub headlines have no place in The Atlantic. And the overall article is still riddled with errors.

Your story continues to lead with ten paragraphs and two photographs about Mr. Kenneth Rosario, stressing early on his interest in “the top math and business college” at CUNY. In fact, the authors refer to Mr. Rosario by name no less than 21 times in your article. This is without counting personal pronouns like “he” or “his” or “him”. So the story is based upon the alleged plight of an individual with a panoply of fallacious assumptions. Here is the indisputable proof:

The prior version you put on line yesterday only cited his rejection from Hunter College and Baruch College. You neglected to mention that his first choice was the venerable City College of New York and the fact that he was accepted into the prestigious CCNY Andrew Grove School of Engineering.

Today, you still did not mention that CCNY was his first choice—he was accepted and declined. Please explain.

You mentioned that he was accepted at New York City College of Technology—but you did not mention that it was his second choice.

You mention that he was accepted to Brooklyn College ( he declined) but you omit the fact that this was his third choice.

You mention he was accepted to Lehman College (he declined) but you omit the fact that this was his fourth choice.

And inexplicably, you omit the fact that Mr. Rosario listed Hunter College and Baruch College as his fifth and sixth choices.

The authors claim ,“After being rejected from CUNY’s top business college, Rosario decided to give up on business and pursue electrical engineering.” Your “correction” at the end of the article is also not correct. Here is why:

First, he applied to CUNY, including CCNY and the Andrew Grove School of Engineering, in November, 2012, before he received any communication from Baruch College. He chose electrical engineering on his original application and was accepted to CCNY. In fact, he completed a supplemental application specifically required by applicants to the Grove School of Engineering at CCNY.

Second, in his application to Baruch College, he specifically listed his preferred major as “Computer Information Systems”—not business, as the authors and the correction claim. So he did not list business as his intended major. He also did not list business as his preferred major on his application for Brooklyn College and Lehman College where there are substantial business programs.

He did not list business on any application to any CUNY college he applied to. Please explain. So the article is still riddled with falsehoods, including the correction.

Each falsehood leads to another. For example, the article quotes the vice principal of Rosario’s high school without that individual knowing the aforementioned facts about the choices Rosario made and the acceptances he received. The authors created a profile of a student applicant that is untrue and obtained quotes from others about this fiction.

There is no acknowledgement that the other three students profiled in the article were admitted to CUNY colleges, including one of those three students to a four year college.

We are puzzled that the corrections you made did not include the following facts , which were sent to you last night:

The article paints an inaccurate picture of declining minority enrollments at CUNY highly selective colleges. The authors of the piece received enrollment data from CUNY in October, 2014 indicating that new Black student enrollment increased by 1 percent over the period from 2008-2009 to 2013-14. Hispanic new student enrollment increased by 5% over the same period.

In addition, since the fall of 2013, the upward trend has continued. The number of Black students admitted to CUNY’s highly selective senior colleges has increased by 15% and the number of Hispanic students has increased by 23%. The representation of both groups has also risen as a percentage of all new students:

The article states that “overcrowded two-year community colleges have filled up with more black and Latino students”. Over the last decade the percentage of Black students at the CUNY community colleges has decreased by 4 percentage points while Asian students has increased by 2 percentage points. In fact, there are no references in the article to Asian students existing at CUNY community colleges, even though during the last decade, Asian freshman enrollments increased there by 69%.

The article gives the false impression that the highly selective colleges of CUNY rely solely on the SAT for admission decisions. In fact, the admission process takes into account multiple factors, including the amount of college preparatory coursework a student has completed; the student grades in those courses, and the student’s scores on the New York State Regents exams, if available. There are other facts that would have provided a more complete picture, but the errors cited above stand out for their gravity.

Here is yet another error: The authors assert that” only about half those transfer students come in from CUNY’s second-tier colleges or community colleges. The rest come from outside the system, including private schools from around the country and the world.” It is true that CUNY is attracting more transfer students than ever, although the authors do not make this explicit point about the system’s attractiveness. Nevertheless, 84% of all transfers, external and internal, were previously enrolled at a CUNY college or lived in New York City. So the vast majority of transfer students into CUNY are local.

Finally, let me make the point that over the last several decades, the State and City of New York have invested mightily in new and modern campuses within the CUNY system, from its community colleges and senior colleges to graduate and professional schools of great stature and standing. From La Guardia Community College winning a “First in the Nation” award to Hostos Community College tying last year for third place in the Aspen Foundation competition, and again competing this year as one of ten finalists nationwide; to Brooklyn College, Queens College, and Baruch College ranking first, second, and third in the Washington Monthly rankings of Best Value. If you visited Lehman College in the Bronx, whose campus is the site of the first United Nation Security Council, you would meet award winning faculty like former U.S. Poet Billy Collins and Academy Award Winner John Corigliano.

You could visit the new science facilities throughout the system or residence halls at the College of Staten Island, CCNY, Hunter College, Queens College or stop by the new CUNY Public School of Health in East Harlem. You could read the National Jurist, which ranked the CUNY Law School second in the nation for diversity. There are numerous such examples of opportunity and achievement at every CUNY college.

The President of the United States singled out CUNY’s ASAP in his free tuition plan last week, which is producing more and more associate degree graduates at record rates, many of whom are going on to study at CUNY senior colleges. The CUNY system is a vertical university, where students gain access through multiple doors, and, through their academic achievement, can advance from an associate degree to new careers or all the way to the doctorate.

Instead, you published an article replete with errors, wrapped around a student profile that was and is chock full of falsehoods. Our students and your readers deserve better. We appeal to your fairness.

I reiterate my request that the article be withdrawn and corrected.

Jay Hershenson
Senior Vice Chancellor for University Relations and
Secretary of the Board of Trustees
The City University of New York

 

January 13, 2015

Dear Editor in Chief Bennet:

This is a request for the withdrawal and review for corrections of “When High Achievers Have No Place to Go”, which was published today on The Atlantic website, replete with major factual errors and mischaracterizations.

First and foremost, the headline and secondary headline are untrue. The CUNY system guarantees admission to all high school graduates in one of 20 undergraduate colleges. None of the students profiled in the piece were “locked out of the City University of New York.” All four were admitted to a CUNY college. Two of the four were admitted to multiple four year colleges. So both the headline and the secondary headline are factually wrong.

Particularly inaccurate is the fact that the piece leads with the story of an individual, Mr. Kenneth Rosario, with two photographs of him, and with ten lead paragraphs in a row describing in great detail his alleged plight, with quotes like,”I killed myself, for what? If I couldn’t even get into the top CUNY schools, what was it for?”

This is inaccurate for the following reasons: Mr. Rosario was admitted to his first choice CUNY College, The City College of New York, to the prestigious Andrew Grove School of Engineering at City College. CUNY records indicate that his acceptance email was viewed. He declined the offer. He was also admitted to his second choice, the New York City College of Technology, and to his third choice, Brooklyn College, and to his fourth choice, Lehman College. He declined those offers as well.

He was not accepted, as the piece indicates by his fifth choice, Hunter College, and Baruch College, his last choice. However, the article never mentions that Hunter and Baruch were his two last choices and instead pretends that “he was locked out of The City University of New York”. In addition, within the ten paragraphs, Mr. Rosario’s interest in electrical engineering is referenced. Neither Hunter nor Baruch offer engineering programs; City College does and that four year college was his first choice—never mentioned in the article.

Mr. Bennet, permit me to suggest that when the first ten paragraphs of an article in a respected publication like The Atlantic are in error, that alone should serve as sufficient grounds for the withdrawal and correction of the piece.

Nevertheless, please read on.

The article paints an inaccurate picture of declining minority enrollments at CUNY highly selective colleges. The authors of the piece received enrollment data from CUNY in October, 2014 indicating that new Black student enrollment increased by 1 percent over the period from 2008-2009 to 2013-14. Hispanic new student enrollment increased by 5% over the same period.

In addition, since the fall of 2013, the upward trend has continued. The number of Black students admitted to CUNY’s highly selective senior colleges has increased by 15% and the number of Hispanic students has increased by 23%. The representation of both groups has also risen as a percentage of all new students:

The article states that “overcrowded two-year community colleges have filled up with more black and Latino students”. Over the last decade the percentage of Black students at the CUNY community colleges has decreased by 4 percentage points while Asian students has increased by 2 percentage points. In fact, there are no references in the article to Asian students existing at CUNY community colleges, even though during the last decade, Asian freshman enrollments increased there by 69%.

The article gives the false impression that the highly selective colleges of CUNY rely solely on the SAT for admission decisions. In fact, the admission process takes into account multiple factors, including the amount of college preparatory coursework a student has completed; the student grades in those courses, and the student’s scores on the New York State Regents exams, if available. There are other facts that would have provided a more complete picture, but the errors cited above stand out for their gravity.

CUNY is a unified and integrated system of senior and community colleges and graduate and professional schools. It is a travesty to falsely describe the system as locking out immigrant and minority students when CUNY is experiencing record student enrollments: 274,000 degree credit students now attend CUNY, hailing from over 200 countries. And CUNY serves another 240,000 adult and continuing education students annually. There is no system in the country more diverse and more accessible.

In the interests of fairness, please consider our request.

Jay Hershenson
Senior Vice Chancellor for University Relations and
Secretary of the Board of Trustees
The City University of New York