Faculty Assembly discusses report on GRE use on campus


The Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Advocacy Committee (EIADAC) presented its findings to Faculty Assembly on a survey it conducted to assess how many of Pitt’s graduate programs used the GRE in their admissions process and how they use it.

In the meeting on May 7, faculty discussed how the GRE has faced criticism recently, with some universities opting out of using it altogether. The Pitt School of Medicine has already removed the GRE as a requirement, and other Pitt schools are considering dropping it, too.

Allyn Bove and Cynthia Danford, co-chairs for EIADAC, presented the study’s findings. The GRE, Bove said, may be a poor predictor of student success in the academic programs and the careers students take on afterward.

Scores also correlate to race, gender and socioeconomic status, Bove said, which could lead to institutional bias. The $200 price tag for the test can be a barrier as well, Danford added.

These factors, Bove said, could stand in the way of Pitt’s overall goals for promoting diversity on campus.

Every graduate program at Pitt’s Oakland campus received a survey request, and the committee heard from 41 percent of them.

Based on the survey results, 78 percent of the responding schools said they used the GRE as a requirement for admissions while 10 percent said it was “optional.”

The survey also found that the GRE test scores were rated among the two lowest factors in the admissions process despite a majority of the respondents requiring it. In addition, 90 percent of the respondents said they haven’t updated their GRE policy in the past three years.

“This sort of begs the question of, if this is not a very important factor in considering whether to admit the student, why is it required by approximately 4/5ths of the programs that responded?” Bove said.

Following these results, EIADAC recommended that graduate programs look for alternative admissions strategies; use holistic methods for its admissions process and report more data on the admissions process.

Several assembly members were surprised at the survey’s results and agreed with many of the conclusions.

“It’s really an old school, 20th century criteria for admissions,” said Dr. Abbe De Vallejo, a representative from the School of Medicine. “And nobody really knows what it exactly measures. … To me, it’s just a moneymaking venture for the New Jersey office that administers this.”

Dr. Penelope Morel, co-chair of the Research Committee, said there have been several ongoing discussions in the School of Medicine regarding the GRE. She explained that the schools’ graduate programs stopped requiring the GRE after realizing Pitt’s peer institutions stepped away from the test.

“It’s not a good test, it does discriminate, I think, against some minorities,” Morel said.

Nathan Urban, vice provost for graduate studies and strategic initiatives, has looked over the survey already, and plans to send a letter to University administrators asking them to examine how the GRE is used, Bove said.

Other topics discussed:

Senate President Chris Bonneau announced that the Title IX office will report aggregate data about its cases by the end of May on the Title IX website. This comes following ongoing discussions on campus regarding the office’s transparency.

“As you know this has been a concern for faculty, staff and students alike,” Bonneau said. “The chancellor agreed that we should make aggregate data available. This will allow for better senate oversight of that office, as well as respond to concerns of the number of investigators, number of investigations, length of time for investigations, etc.

Pitt Chief Financial Officer Hari Sastry gave a detailed report about Pitt’s budgeting process. He outlined Pitt’s financial priorities, explained Pitt’s main sources of revenue and broke down how Pitt’s funds are distributed throughout the University community. He also encouraged departments to conduct more fundraising. Many of the topic Sastry discussed were covered in a previous University Times story.

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at dharrell@pitt.edu or 412-383-9905.