First off, I want to say that I wholly support the idea of making STEM labs and research groups at good universities more inclusive and that race and gender should be used in the admissions process to help schools admit more qualified women and minorities. In fact, it is even allowed by the Supreme Court, here in the United States.
(However, as an aside, setting quotas, e.g. limiting the amount of a certain minority / majority group based on their race, when they are otherwise well-qualified, or more qualified than other applicants who receive admission, is defined as discrimination and illegal. Harvard is one school that is currently being scrutinized for setting quotas, and in due time, the courts will decide whether there is enough evidence…).
So basically I know of a professor who gives preferential treatment to women, and I want to confront him about the inequity of his actions, and the inconsistency with which he chooses to advise students.
So what did he do?
He wrote a rec letter for my female classmate to attend a very prestigious graduate school. She got in and is very happy. I also don’t doubt her abilities either, having worked alongside with her for a bit and can see her talents. However this female student never took a class or did a research project with this professor who wrote her letter. This professor, call him Professor X, is a household name in his field, and his word can pretty much get someone into a program, I believe.
However, I was told, right from the horse’s mouth, from another professor that serves on the admissions committee at our school, that letters should never come from a professor which a student has never worked with or took a class with. Academic advising on coursework selection should not count, basically. I.e., just because he gave her advice on coursework selection and watched her develop into a talented senior, it does not give him the ethical right to write a letter for her and speak about her accomplishments with other professors. In fact, I was told this by my own professor, who said very explicitly, “I am happy to write for you, but note that I am not allowed to speak about anything else other than your performance in my class, despite the fact that you have progressed much further.”
Another inconsistent action by Professor X: he told me that graduate school selection must be done on my own. However, my female classmate told me that Professor X gave her a list of schools to apply to. But I thought that the student must choose his / her schools on their own?
Again, I would like to reiterate that I respect this female student very much; I am however feeling cheated by a professor who says one thing regarding advising, yet does another thing, depending on the gender of the student.
Is it worth pointing all of this out to Professor X directly? If so, how should I go about it? A carefully worded email is something that I had in mind.