There is a widespread narrative in higher education that goes something like this: Colleges and universities have always accepted the best and brightest students; then, due to pressure from outside forces (some of them named “John F. Kennedy”), diversity was thrust upon the academy. In turn, schools meted out race-based scholarships, relaxed standards for certain students in order to fulfill quotas and — poof! — diversity. A constant and often unsubtle subtext of this narrative is that good old objective academic rigor has sometimes suffered in the name of manufactured, if well-meaning, multiculturalism.
A graduate science program in Nashville is helping write a powerful counternarrative — and it has some pretty impressive numbers to back it up — even if there isn’t wide consensus yet on the reasons why they’ve done so well.