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MCAT Printing Error Provokes Student Concerns

From University Wire

You have pulled more all- nighters than the moon. Your social life has shriveled up. But you're ready to take the MCAT.

You read your first passage and then move on to the questions. But something is wrong. The passage discussed fast food restaurants, and the questions are about astronomy.

Actually, if you were one of the unlucky 1,000 prospective medical students who took an incorrectly formatted test last Saturday, the stars really were on your paper and not in your head.

Due to a printing error, eight of the 10 questions that followed a nutrition passage dealt with black holes.

The Association of American Medical Colleges told the Chronicle of Higher Education that 20 of the 600 centers that administered the test received a faulty version. Tests administered to Stanford students were apparently error-free, but senior premedical student Alfred Lin said he heard from friends in the Bay Area who had mismatched tests.

"We had one printing problem once where the items were not readable," MCAT administration manager Jack Hackett told the Chronicle. "But one where the pages were beautifully printed and the questions were completely mismatched? Never."

To correct its mistake, the association is sending letters to the 2,200 students involved - including those who took the test and those who were in the same room and whose test-taking was disrupted - presenting three options.

First, students can void the test. Their tests will be discarded without being scored, registration money returned in full and no record of them ever taking the exam will exist.

Students' second alternative is to change their score option to "no release," an action usually only allowed before the test begins. Then the test will be scored, but no information will be sent on to the medical schools.

A final option is having the test scored as usual, disregarding mismatched questions. Students must write to the association and request it to send a letter to the medical schools explaining that scores may be inaccurately low due to an error on the exam.

The test is not offered again until August, too late for those wishing to apply to medical school this year. Medical schools will not usually consider applicants for the interviewing phase until their applications, including MCAT scores, are complete. By the time the August test scores are returned, most medical school have already started the interview process.

Judy Colwell, assistant director of Stanford Medical School admissions, said she had never heard of such a mishap.

"Every once in a while test sites have problems," she said. "But I never heard of tests having problems."

[The Stanford Daily, April 23]

Affirmative Action debated

Universities nationwide should look beyond affirmative action to foster diversity on campus, panelists told university audiences during a national video conference broadcast Monday from the University of Texas.

"We need to avoid preaching to our students and provide opportunities for them to challenge the present value system," said Caryl Stern-LaRosa, a panelist and vice president for development of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation in New York.

The live broadcast, titled "Beyond Affirmative Action: Maintaining Campus Diversity in a Divisive World," was a nationwide program designed to encourage universities to participate in diversity discussions on their campuses.

Though the majority of Americans agree on a similar ideal of campus diversity, the way universities should go about achieving that goal is debatable, said Ruben Arminana, president of Sonoma State University in California and one of the panelists.

"There are differences between affirmative action and diversity," he said. "We have this gap between the ideal we want and the strategy that we are following."

Arminana added that even with affirmative action policies, university officials should consider other factors in admissions decisions. "Affirmative action's intent was not to be an admission policy," he said, adding that retention and graduation rates of minority students should also be studied.

"We need to look at the beginning of education, so corrections can be much less at just a college level," he said. "So the idea of affirmative action becomes obsolete, which is clearly not a reality, but that is the goal."

[Daily Texan, April 23]

Conn. bar laws may be tightened

This fall, a West Hartford youth and two 12-year-old Columbia, Conn. boys died from drinking-related incidents. Two measures under consideration in the Connecticut State Legislature this week seek to remedy over-consumption of alcohol.

The current proposal stipulates that bar customers may only order two drinks for one person at a time. Patrons may still order a bottle of wine or a pitcher of beer.

The legislation does not affect private functions, but it would effectively end all-you-can-drink promotions, such as open bar nights for a set cover fee, Representative Lawrence Cafero Jr. said.

"It was to put an end to drink promotions that encouraged over-drinking," said Cafero, who initially opposed the measure.

The original legislative proposal also banned jello shots. Testimony from public hearings addressed "grave concern" that gelatin deceptively masks the alcohol content of this drink.

Cafero, who said he was familiar with the drink from his college and law school days as a bartender, said it was unfair to single out the jello shot because other drinks also disguise the taste of alcohol.

"I thought the jello shot [portion of the bill] stuck out like a sore thumb because it dealt with ingredients and everything else was about price and quantity," Cafero said. "Once we get into prohibiting ingredients, we open up a whole Pandora's Box, and there I moved to amend the bill."

The current proposal, which Cafero said was passed almost unanimously by the judiciary committee in its modified form, will now proceed to the floor of the House this week for further consideration.

If it passes the House and Senate, it will go before Governor John Rowland to be signed into law.

Senator Edith Prague is sponsoring another piece of legislation dealing with alcohol consumption. The proposed bill would lower the Blood Alcohol Content that is legally permissible for driving from 1.0 to 0.8.

"In Connecticut the number of drinking-related fatal accidents is increasing and we need to do something about it," Prague said.

Prague said that this legislation is on the House calendar and should be up for consideration in the next few days.

[Yale Daily News, April 23]