The Death and Life of an Admissions Algorithm

Lilah Burke:

In 2013, the University of Texas at Austin’s computer science department began using a machine-learning system called GRADE to help make decisions about who gets into its Ph.D. program — and who doesn’t. This year, the department abandoned it.

Before the announcement, which the department released in the form of a tweet reply, few had even heard of the program. Now, its critics — concerned about diversity, equity and fairness in admissions — say it should never have been used in the first place.

“Humans code these systems. Humans are encoding their own biases into these algorithms,” said Yasmeen Musthafa, a Ph.D. student in plasma physics at the University of California, Irvine, who rang alarm bellsabout the system on Twitter. “What would UT Austin CS department have looked like without GRADE? We’ll never know.”