looks like The Atlantic needs to print a retraction

The Atlantic recently printed a sensationalistic story about the perceived difficulty for even the highest-achieving poor minority students to get into the City University of New York system. The article reflected on a claimed general trend but focused significantly on an individual student. CUNY objected to some of the article’s claims, and a minor correction was appended to the story and a subhead changed. But CUNY has posted a long list of other problems, and these look like major flaws that seriously undermine the entire intent of the article. On the student who is the centerpiece of the story (forgive the lengthy excerpt):

Your story continues to lead with ten paragraphs and two photographs about Mr. Kenneth Rosario….

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.

And on the broader question of minority enrollment in CUNY, the post goes on at length about what appear to be simple factual errors. For example:

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.

There could always be more to the story, but unless The Atlantic can offer up some serious contrary evidence, I don’t see how they can let the piece stay up.


  1. I haven’t read the initial article, but this does look pretty damning for The Atlantic. These days I can’t bring myself to read anything they put out except for James Fallows, Conor Friedersdorf, and Ta-Nehisi Coates. A couple of years from now it will be indistinguishable from Buzzfeed.

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