I guess one would not fully understand the difficulty of awarding grants unless you become part of a committee evaluating the applicants. Today, I came from a meeting of graduate students giving out USD5000 awards. The decision is almost split when the assembly discussed whether to include GPA/transcript as part of the criteria.

In general, we know awards/grants are issues of equity too. So in extension test scores and grades can also be an issue of race, gender, social class, etc. I ended up thinking whether we are even fit to evaluate who gets what. Consider a scenario wherein a committee picks two applicants out of a hundred. Even with carefully formulated guidelines, there is still subjectivity to it. Imagine you’re evaluating the final batch applicants, and you can only give the money or recognition to one person. How will you now decide? Are you basing it on the essays? We know the command of the English language is a social class issue. If you came from a wealthy family, they could certainly afford a topnotch education. And there’s an app now that you need to pay, to help you detect errors in writing. One can even resort to editorial and proofreading services. The same goes for standardized tests. The list goes on.

 

IISC_EqualityVsEquityCartoon
Equality vs. Equity (source)

Fundamentally, this reminds me not to take any rejections seriously knowing that the evaluators are working with plenty of uncertainties in a system that is ultimately flawed. This idea applies to everything from a job application, to an academic setting — everything where a group of people assesses a person based on merit. In a society where the system is ultimately inaccurate, we should not put too much weight on rejections. A critical caution though, this is not to be complacent, eventually just blaming the process for every unfortunate outcome. It is vital to be contemplative and self-correcting to rise above whatever disadvantage we have.

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