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加州名校给未入学新生上了重要的一课

更新时间:2017-8-6 9:54:06 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

A College Admits a Big Mistake. Imagine That.
加州名校给未入学新生上了重要的一课

The people who run the University of California, Irvine, found themselves with a problem this spring. More high school students than expected said yes to Irvine’s offer of admission — about 800 more. The campus didn’t have room for so many freshmen, and Irvine needed to do something.

今年春天,加州大学欧文分校(University of California, Irvine)的管理者们发现了一个问题。接受了学校录取通知的高中毕业生比预期中多了800多人。校园无法容纳这么多新生,欧文分校需要采取一些措施。

What followed was a fascinating case study in human behavior and the management of a large organization. The story took a new turn, for the better, on Wednesday, and it still isn’t over.

接下来是一个饶有趣味的人类行为与大型组织管理的案例研究。故事在周三有了新转机,开始向好的方向发展,但问题仍然存在。

The solution that the college’s leaders initially chose was pretty awful. They rescinded the acceptances of almost 500 students, and it’s now too late for them to enroll in any other four-year college this fall. “I couldn’t stop crying,” Ashley Gonzalez, an 18-year-old, told The Los Angeles Times. No one in her family had previously gone to college.

学院领导最初选择的解决方案相当可怕。他们取消了近500名学生的录取通知,目前这些学生要想在今年秋天入读其他四年制大学已经太晚。“我哭个不停,”18岁的阿什利·冈萨雷斯(Ashley Gonzalez)告诉《洛杉矶时报》。这之前她家里还从来没有出过大学生。

I became interested in the story partly because I’ve lavished praise on Irvine in the past. It has ranked No. 1 for the past two years in The Times’s College Access Index, which evaluates about 170 top colleges based on economic diversity and the cost of attendance. Irvine is an impressive place, and I wanted to figure out how its leaders could have bungled the situation so badly.

我对这个故事感兴趣,有部分原因是由于我以前曾经赞扬过欧文分校。在过去两年里,它在时报的“大学入学指数”排行榜上均排名第一,这一指数评估了约170所高校,是根据经济背景多样性和入学成本编制的。欧文分校是一个令人印象深刻的地方,我想弄清楚学校领导到底是怎么把情况弄得这么糟糕的。

So I spent some time talking with them this week. I came away thinking it was a classic case of well-meaning people making a series of small mistakes that added up to a big mistake — and then persuading themselves that they hadn’t messed up. I had already written a draft of a column harshly critical of the university and was planning to publish it this morning. (If you want a flavor of that criticism, read this tough Los Angeles Times editorial from Wednesday morning.)

所以本周我花了一些时间同他们交谈。离开时,我认为这是一个经典案例,表明一群用意良好的人是如何犯了一系列小错误,最终累积起来,铸成了大错——然后还试图说服自己,认为自己没有搞砸。我已经为一篇严厉批评该校的专栏文章写好了草稿,文章计划于今早发表(如果你想大致体会一下这篇批评文章,请阅读《洛杉矶时报》于周三发表的这篇严厉的社评。)

Then something remarkable happened.

然后发生了一些惊人的事情。

After days of defending their actions, Irvine’s leaders admitted on Wednesday that they had made a mistake. They have reinstated most of the rescinded acceptances. Howard Gillman, Irvine’s chancellor, publicly apologized.

为自己的行为做了几天的辩护之后,欧文分校的领导于周三承认,他们犯了一个错误。他们恢复了大部分被撤销的录取通知。校长霍华德·吉尔曼(Howard Gillman)公开道歉。

I still have some questions and concerns about the new policy, and I hope Irvine’s critics keep monitoring the situation. But the change is a big improvement. And it’s an all-too-rare instance of people in power being willing to change their minds — to decide that the embarrassment of changing course is better than doubling down on a mistake.

我对目前的新政策仍有一些疑问和顾虑,并希望欧文分校的批评者们继续对目前的情况进行监督。但是这一改变是很大的进步。而且这是掌握权力者愿意改变主意的罕见例子——他们认为改变自己的路线虽然尴尬,但是要好于继续扩大错误。

The Irvine story starts with a problem that’s entirely understandable: There is no foolproof way to predict how many students will say yes to a college’s admission offer. The percentage of students who respond positively is known as “yield,” and it fluctuates year to year, based on the economy, the admissions practices of other colleges and the whims of teenagers.

欧文分校的故事始于一个完全可以理解的问题:没有任何万无一失的方式可以预测出有多少学生最终会接受大学的录取通知。接受录取的学生百分比被称为“收成”(yield),根据经济状况、其他大学的招生情况和年轻人的兴趣,这个数字每年都在波动。

“Admissions is both an art and a science,” Thomas Parham, Irvine’s vice chancellor for student affairs, told me. “We were surprised by the number of people who said yes.”

“录取人数既是艺术又是科学,”欧文分校负责学生事务的副校长托马斯·帕拉姆(Thomas Parham)告诉我:“接受录取通知的人数让我们措手不及。”

Irvine took some small initial steps to address the situation, like creating a pilot program that persuaded about 100 freshmen not to live on campus. But its big step was to crack down on students who it said made technical mistakes in the enrollment process and to rescind 499 acceptances.

最初,欧文分校采取了一些小措施来解决这个问题,比如创建一个说服大约一百名新生不住校的试点方案。但是后来它采取了一项重大步骤,打击在据该校声称在入学过程中犯了技术性错误的学生,并取消了499个录取通知。

It was able to do so because the acceptance letters that all high school students receive are officially only tentative offers of admission. They are contingent on the students’ graduating from high school in good standing, paying tuition and submitting various forms, among other things.

该校之所以能够这样做,是因为所有高中生接到的录取通知信函只是一份临时的录取通知书。它们是否能够生效,要取决于学生是否能从高中毕业、是否能支付学费,以及是否能够提交各种表格等等。

In order to shrink its class size, Irvine became “more stringent” about applying these criteria, officials said. For example, students who failed to submit their final high school transcript on time — as the college said was the case with Gonzalez — had their acceptance revoked.

学校管理者们说,为了缩小班级规模,欧文分校开始“更加严格地”执行这些标准。例如,学生如果没有及时提交高中毕业的最终成绩单,录取通知就会被撤销——学校在冈萨雷斯的事例中就使用了这条规则。

It was an extremely harsh punishment for a bureaucratic oversight. These students had already turned down other colleges to choose Irvine, and it was too late for them to change their minds.

对一个官僚监管机构来说,这是一个非常严厉的惩罚。这些学生已经拒绝其他大学,选择了欧文,现在要他们改变主意为时已晚。

Simran Chopra, an 18-year-old from Los Angeles, was admitted to both Irvine and Berkeley and chose Irvine because of a dance team, she told The Orange County Register. When she found out Irvine had rescinded its offer — again, citing a late transcript — she locked herself in a bathroom and cried.

18岁的西姆兰·乔普拉(Simran Chopra)来自洛杉矶,她告诉《橘郡纪事报》(The Orange County Regester),自己同时获得了欧文和伯克利分校的录取通知,最后因为欧文分校的舞蹈队而选择了它。当她发现欧文取消了自己的入学申请——也是因为提交成绩单较晚——她把自己锁在浴室里哭了起来。

Irvine officials initially defending their decisions by saying that they were just enforcing an existing policy. The problem, of course, was that whatever the policy officially stated, the university was enforcing it differently this year. A late form submission that wouldn’t have mattered for students last year or a couple of years ago — say, for the older sibling of a student who had her acceptance rescinded — suddenly turned a teenager’s life upside down.

最初,欧文分校的管理者为自己的决定做出辩护,说他们只是执行现行政策。当然,问题在于,不论官方政策是怎么说的,该校今年的执行做法有所不同。在去年或是前几年,晚些提交表格对于学生们来说并不是什么大事——比如说,对于某个录取通知被撤销的学生的哥哥姐姐那批人就没什么影响——如今却把这些年轻人的生活弄得天翻地覆。

The students didn’t create the over-enrollment mess. Irvine did. Yet the students were paying the price for it.

入学人数过多的混乱局面不是由学生造成的,而是由欧文造成的。但学生们却为此付出了代价。

I could tell that Irvine’s officials were never entirely comfortable with their approach. Parham used the word “heartbreaking” on Tuesday. In an email exchange the same day, Gillman wrote to me, “We made mistakes that are putting too many innocent students through a very difficult experience, and we will do all we can to make sure that never happens again.”

我看得出,欧文分校的管理人员绝非对其方案完全满意。周二,帕拉姆用到了“令人心碎”这个字眼。同一天,吉尔曼在与我的电子邮件往来中写道,“我们犯下的错误让太多无辜的学生陷入了极为艰难的境地,我们将竭尽全力确保同类事件绝不会再次发生。”

But they still kept defending their approach — until they didn’t.

但他们依然不断地为自己的方案辩护——直至有一天不再这么做。

On Wednesday afternoon, Gillman announced that Irvine was reinstating the offers to almost 300 students whose acceptances had been rescinded because of a missed deadline (so long as their final high school transcripts don’t show problems, such as an F). Roughly another 200 students, whose senior-year grades fell too steeply or whose transcripts contain inconsistencies, will still have to win an appeal in order to enroll.

周三下午,吉尔曼宣布,欧文分校将重新录取将近300名因为错过截止日期而被取消录取资格的学生(只要他们的高中最终成绩单上没有不及格之类的问题)。另外约200名高中最后一年的成绩下滑得太厉害,或者成绩单中存在不一致之处的学生,只有赢得上诉才能入学。

“We are a university recognized for advancing the American Dream, not impeding it,” Gillman wrote in a public letter. “This situation is rocking us to our core because it is fundamentally misaligned with our values.” He added: “The students and their families have my personal, sincerest apology. We should not have treated you this way over a missed deadline.”

“我们被公认为一所帮助学生实现美国梦的大学,而非致力于妨碍美国梦,”吉尔曼在一封公开信中写道。“这种局面深深震撼了我们,因为它与我们的价值观完全相悖。”他还表示:“我本人向这些学生以及他们的家人致以最诚挚的歉意。我们不该因为截止日期过了就这样对待你们。”

My guess is that 200 may still be an unfairly large number of rescinded acceptances and a larger number than in past years. I hope Irvine also does right by the 200 students and avoids expelling any on technicalities to ease its space crunch. Ria Carlson, an Irvine spokeswoman, told me that the university was still figuring out how it would fit in the additional students.

我猜,多达200名学生被取消录取资格或许仍是不合理的,而且这一数字或许仍高于往年。我希望欧文分校也公正地对待这200名学生,避免为了缓解空间不足而基于技术细节拒收任何人。欧文分校的发言人莉亚·卡尔森(Ria Carlson)告诉我,该校仍在考虑如何妥善安置多出的学生。

I also don’t want to ignore the anxiety that Irvine caused in the lives of several hundred families. That can’t be undone. But whatever damage Irvine has done, it also provided its incoming students with a worthwhile lesson even before they arrive on campus.

我也不想忽略欧文分校在数百个家庭中引发的焦虑。那是不可抹杀的。但欧文分校不论造成了什么样的伤害,都已经在新生尚未入学之际给他们上了极为重要的一课。

Even adults in positions of authority — decent, well-meaning adults — make mistakes. They’re an unavoidable part of life. And it can be pretty miserable to admit you made a big one. But admitting it, and trying to fix it, is still a lot better than the alternative.

即使掌握权威的成年人——正直的、心怀善意的成年人——也会犯错。在日常生活中,犯错是难免的。承认自己铸成大错可能会非常难受。但承认并竭力修正错误,仍然远远好过拒不认错。

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