Midnights Review

by Therese Askarbek


On October 21, 2022, Taylor Swift released her highly anticipated Midnights album at — you guessed it — midnight. Unsurprisingly, many of her fans stayed up late that night, patiently awaiting more content from the prolific artist, who has released an impressive total of 229 songs throughout her career.1 As I scrolled through my Instagram feed that day, I saw countless reposts of her album announcement, which was a picture of her album cover captioned with a cryptic, intriguing, and all too enticing message: “Midnights, the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life, will be out October 21. Meet me at midnight.” Swift, known for her penchant of exploring a variety of genres, has clearly left a lot unsaid here. And so, with very little idea of what is to come, I will be diving into this album and seeing if it will beat out folklore and evermore in my fall listening queues. 

  1. “Lavender Haze” – The production of the song and the background vocals give it a very dreamlike quality. Nothing too out of the ordinary compared to what Swift has done before. Really interesting significance behind the phrase “Lavender Haze.” Reminiscent of “the lakes,” a bonus track from folklore, mainly because of the context (it is about being in love with her fiance). 7/10
  2. “Maroon” – The song has a much darker mood than “Lavender Haze,” which causes a quick shift in tone. Possibly the best imagery in the album, and has some good lyricism. 6/10
  3. “Anti-Hero” – I would say this song has better lyricism and more reliability than Maroon. It is the first song that looks inwards with a tone of self deprecation. The “sexy baby” lyric has been received controversially, but even if I hadn’t known it was a 30 Rock reference, I still kind of love that Swift isn’t afraid to be unconventional, especially with such a large fanbase. The song is, as many of hers are, for lack of a better word, “cringe.” But, with her music, you have to kind of lean into it, and once you do, it can be a very fun time. The song is catchy, but I’m still waiting for a genuinely and solidly good song. 7.5/10 
  4. “Snow on the Beach” – I had very high expectations for this song because of the Lana Del Rey feature. Cue: the song. Cue: Me, growing increasingly confused as to when Del Rey is featured. I can still definitely hear her influence in the lyrics though, but where her singing could’ve made the song work, Swift’s couldn’t. Del Rey’s voice has a certain depth that Swift’s lacks, as hard as she might try. The production is less noticeable in this song, which is problematic because the track really needs that support. 6.5/10
  5. “You’re On Your Own, Kid” – It reminds me of one of her previous albums, Red. This song invokes feelings of nostalgia and childlike innocence. Overall a solid “middle of the album” type song. 7/10 
  6. “Midnight Rain” – I can start to see a lot more experimentation in the production of the song. Although, in terms of melody, it is almost exactly the same as “my tears ricochet” from folklore. My only qualm with this song is that I cannot take the muted part seriously; it really sounds like the bear voice filter on Snapchat. 6/10
  7. “Question…?” – I really liked that she had a bit more fun with this song, and you can detect a certain cheekiness and coyness. I do wish it was less mellow because, at this point in the album, I was hoping for something intense and catchy that fits this definitively pop album. The clapping sound effect at the end, although it made me laugh, knocked it down a point. 6/10
  8. “Vigilante Sh*t” – This is my least favorite song. Can it even be considered a song? I think my main issue, besides it not being very catchy, is that it’s not edgy in the fun way that songs from Reputation were. 4/10
  9. “Bejeweled” – I love the way she says “shimmer.” I’m noticing her experimenting more here and she’s really fulfilling the overall vibe of the album; I actually think this song best encapsulates the atmosphere she was going for. It has a much more unique, discernable quality than the previous songs. 9/10
  10. “Labyrinth” – This song also fits the vibe in a similar way that “Bejeweled” does. It feels like a prelude preparing the audience for “Karma” (kind of the “Cruel Summer” of Midnights). So, while this song might not be the best, it serves a very important purpose in the arc of the album and in creating buildup for the listener. 7/10
  11. “Karma” – This song is so fun. The lyrics are quite simple, which works really well here. Swift can often get caught up in long sentences or complex words in this album, which creates a disconnect and confusion. 10/10 
  12. “Sweet Nothing” – Joe Alwyn’s influence on this song is very apparent. It is piano driven and has charming, endearing lyrics about the subtle parts of romance and love. It is much more emotionally effective after a song like “Karma.” 8/10
  13. “Mastermind” – It’s catchy, with a lot of emotion and variance in tone while moving at a good pace. I have very few thoughts on this song aside from the fact that I think it was a good end to the album. 7/10

Favorite lyrics: 

“The mark you saw on my collarbone, the rust that grew between telephones / The lips I used to call home, so scarlet, it was maroon” (“Maroon”)

“No one wanted to play with me as a little kid / So I’ve been scheming like a criminal ever since / To make them love me and make it seem effortless” (“Mastermind”)

“I picked the petals, he loves me not.” (“You’re On Your Own, Kid”)

“On the way home / I wrote a poem / You say, “What a mind”

This happens all the time” (“Sweet Nothings”)

Favorite tracks:  “Karma,” “Bejeweled,” “Sweet Nothing,” and “Lavender Haze”

Overall, this album had some really good songs, but the overt similarity to Lover, along with her other more recent albums, made my listening experience generally passive. With a few exceptions like “Bejeweled” and “Labyrinth,” I don’t feel like she really explored past what she has already done before. I was really optimistic about the concept,but I think she failed to create a cohesive set of songs that really worked together. Her cryptic, vague lyricism contradicts her simple pop song melody and I wish she would lean more into simplicity sometimes. There wasn’t much of a variance in song quality, and I think that they were all slightly above average. I did enjoy the production, which was mostly done by Jack Antonoff, and I noticed a lot of 80’s influence. Some of the production felt very unserious, which made the album feel unserious, and honestly, that was one of my favorite qualities. Shoutout to “cat eye sharp enough to kill a man.” I liked Reputation, but I do not think Taylor Swift has an edgy bone in her body. Maybe she does, but the way she tries to show it never fails to make me laugh just looking at her. Although this album didn’t come off as personal or genuine like I expected, I still enjoyed listening, and will be listening many more times in the coming weeks.

1 Sheffield, Rob. 2022. “All 129 of Taylor Swift’s Songs, Ranked by Rob Sheffield.” Rolling Stone. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-lists/taylor-swift-songs-ranked-rob-sheffield-201800/.

Don’t Worry Darling Review

by Allie Vasserman


December 8, 2022

Don’t Worry Darling is a psychological thriller film directed by Olivia Wilde. The movie stars Florence Pugh and Harry Styles as the married Alice and Jack Chambers, Chris Pine as Jack’s boss Frank (who is also the head of the Victory Project), Olivia Wilde as Alice’s best friend Bunny, Kiki Layne as Alice’s old friend Margaret, and Gemma Chan as Frank’s wife, Shelly.

The movie opens up with Alice and Jack Chambers hosting a dinner party with their friends. The next day, when Alice says goodbye to Frank while he drives to work at the headquarters of the Victory Project, it becomes very clear that Alice and Jack live in a utopic 1950s-style town in the middle of the desert. As Alice goes about her day as a housewife, cooking and cleaning in a very 1950s way, we learn that the town is supported by the mysterious Victory Project. When Alice attends a dinner party hosted by Shelly and Frank, with the latter giving an incredibly convincing speech on the importance of the work that the men in this community are doing without revealing the details of their work, Alice’s friend Margaret says that The Victory Project is a lie. Shortly after, Alice begins to lose faith in the Victory Project, questioning her sanity and the reality she is living in.

With all of the drama from behind the scenes of Don’t Worry Darling, one of the biggest questions that I had was: is the actual movie any good? I went in with almost no knowledge about any of the drama except that Florence Pugh did not show up to most of the movie promotion events. 

I personally really liked this movie. It is a suspenseful film that gradually hints that something is off about the town and the people in it before Alice realizes. The characters themselves have some sort of dimension to them. The movie has some fairly dark twists and themes, but I won’t mention anything so as not to spoil it. The movie’s soundtrack, in my opinion, is well executed. The diegetic music (the music that the characters hear) is what you would expect for a 1950s utopia-like town and the nondiegetic music (the music that the audience hears) definitely fills you with anticipation and does an excellent job tipping you off that something is off about the town before the characters realize it. Florence Pugh’s acting is great, as usual, and I think that Harry Styles definitely has skills and potential as an actor, although he is not as talented as his costar. In my opinion, both actors definitely sell their roles as a married couple. There are several scenes in the movie that don’t make sense at all and feel as if they don’t exactly fit, but the reveals at the end of the movie really tie those scenes back in. This is definitely one of the movies where it’s best to pay attention to all the details. Without revealing any spoilers, I’d recommend keeping an eye on the clothes that Florence Pugh wears as Alice throughout the film.

After I watched the movie, I read up on the behind-the-scenes drama. I am certain there will not be a sequel, seeing as it’s rumored that Florence Pugh and Olivia Wilde got into a screaming match on set, possibly because of the romance that Wilde and Harry Styles began during the filming of this movie. This romance took a lot of attention from the movie itself, which is unfortunate because, in my opinion, the film is suspenseful, entertaining, and definitely worth watching.

The Fight for Democracy During a Rise of Authoritarian Rule

by Jack Conway


December 8, 2022

Over 8 months ago, on February 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” to “demilitarize and denazify Ukraine.”1 The invasion came after years of Moscow alleging that there has been genocide of Russians in Ukrainian territory without presenting any sound evidence to back their claims. Putin has also claimed that most Ukrainians want to be part of Russia, pointing to the referendums taken in recent weeks in occupied regions of Ukraine, which his critics have claimed are fraudulent.2 Many outside of Russia believe the Russian government invaded because of concerns about Ukraine’s growing ties with the west. This view is shared by Maria Snegovaya, a visiting scholar at George Washington University’s Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, who said, “It looks like Putin is committed to preventing the deepening cooperation between Ukraine and the US/the West, which he views as Russia losing Ukraine.”3

Russia found success early on in the war, surrounding several major Ukrainian cities and catching unsuspecting Ukrainians completely off guard. By March 2, Russia had taken over Kherson and surrounded Mariupol, reaching the outskirts of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, just nine days later.4 Regardless, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy refused a US offer to flee, saying, “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”5 Valiant comments such as this one are part of the reason why Americans give President Zelenskyy the highest approval rating among international leaders.6 After the early Russian blitz and the initial phase of the invasion slowed, Russia turned to long-range missile strikes which caused substantial damage to Ukrainian military assets, urban residential areas, and communication and transportation infrastructure.7 

In late March, Russia announced they would “reduce military activity” near Kyiv and Chernihiv following a thwarted attempt to seize the Ukrainian capital. Many believe Russia planned to take Kyiv within weeks, but one of the world’s strongest militaries was embarrassingly stopped by the extremely resolute Ukrainian army. With morale very low, Russia began a new phase of the war, beginning to seize and secure control of eastern Ukraine, also called the Donbas region. By May, Russia had finally gained control of Mariupol, a strategic port city that had been under siege for months. Drone footage revealed the brutality of the Russian attack on the city. Most of the infrastructure was reduced to rubble, and a massive humanitarian crisis ensued.8 

Throughout the summer of 2022, Russia used cruise missiles, bombs, cluster munitions, and thermobaric weapons (bombs that use oxygen to create an explosion) in an attempt to take over the eastern regions of Ukraine. In early September, Ukraine tried to seize momentum as it started a major counteroffensive. It was largely triumphant, this time catching the Russian military off guard. Ukraine was able to reclaim a great deal of land in the northeast. Russia still controls much of Ukraine’s southeastern territory, but to the surprise of Russian forces, Ukraine claims to have recovered significant territory in the Kharkiv region.9 

Following these Ukrainian counteroffensives that liberated towns previously under Russian control, several accusations have surfaced regarding heinous acts committed by the Russian soldiers against Ukrainian troops and civilians. These war crime allegations led the United Nations Human Rights Council to set up the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine. Erik Møse, head of the commission, said, “Based on the evidence gathered so far during the Commission’s existence … we found that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine.”10 In addition, United Nations investigators found evidence of bombings in civilian areas, numerous executions, torture, and sexual violence committed by Russian soldiers, stating, “We were struck by a large number of executions and other violations by Russian forces, and the Commission received consistent accounts of torture and ill-treatment.”11

Another concern held by experts around the world regards the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is one of the ten biggest atomic power plants in the world. Russian troops took control of the power station on March 4, Russian engineers were unable to operate Zaporizhzhia due to recent equipment upgrades. In response, Russians held Ukrainian personnel captive in order to operate the plant. Despite the risks of a nuclear disaster, shelling continued around the plant, with both sides blaming each other. Due to major safety concerns, the plant was switched to a “cold shutdown mode” on September 11.12 However, this does not eliminate the risk of a nuclear accident. Like any other nuclear power plant, ​​Zaporizhzhia requires electricity to cool its reactors. If electricity were to be cut, the plant would have to turn to emergency diesel generators; Zaporizhzhia only has enough fuel to sustain the cooling system for ten days.13 To this day, shelling continues around the plant, even as independent agencies have called for nearby fighting to stop.

Recently, following several defeats during the Ukrainian counteroffensive, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu revealed plans to enlist 300,000 men with prior military experience to bolster Russia’s invasion.14 The surprise announcement sparked rare anti-war demonstrations across Russia, with arrests taking place across the country due to draft and war-related protests. In addition, more than 200,000 Russians have left their country for Georgia, Kazakhstan, and the European Union in just the first week of the drafting.15 Some believe the draft was another miscalculation by President Putin in a desperate and frenzied attempt to turn the tide of the war.

On October 8, Ukraine made the unpredictable move to blow up the Crimean Bridge, the only bridge connecting Russia and Crimea, which was formerly part of Ukraine but annexed by Russia in 2014. Ukraine did not initially claim responsibility, but the explosion was later revealed to have been a Ukrainian intelligence operation.16 While Ukraine may have harmed Russia strategically, this decision did not come without a cost. Beginning on October 10th, Russia retaliated by launching its most vicious attacks on Ukraine in months, striking military and energy facilities as well as several purely civilian areas during rush hour.17

Over 8 million Ukrainians have been displaced from their country during the war, a number that will only grow as the fighting continues. While the war’s wrath has clearly impacted both armies, it has also affected civilians in countries throughout the world. For example, blockades of Ukrainian grain exports have worsened food shortages in East Africa, adding to an already dire situation and causing mass starvation for over 3 million.18 Before the conflict, Ukraine had been the largest supplier of commodities to the World Food Program, which provides food to vulnerable populations. Since the war started, however, the country has been unable to contribute as much.19 In addition, the war has caused tremendous economic pain by fueling already high inflation in America (over 5,000 miles from the conflict), causing Americans to pay more for anything and everything. Russia also exports crude oil and electricity to places all around the world, but above all, to Europe. In response to the invasion, many countries have stopped using these Russian imports to show support for Ukraine, which has also driven up prices, despite being the morally right thing to do.During a time in history in which authoritarian governments are replacing democracies at growing rates, this war represents more than just the fight for Ukraine: it is a microcosm of the dynamics of the wider world. A dictator-led military superpower previously could not conquer a smaller country without major cause. After 16 straight years of decline in global freedom, these tensions were bound to reach their breaking point.20 And this might be it. We are currently experiencing a crucial time period in human history, and that should be recognized and kept in the back of our minds. So while this war may be half a world away, there are still a multitude of reasons for people at BUA to care, even if they don’t think they are directly affected.

1 https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/conflict-ukraine

2 https://www.cnbc.com/2022/09/28/fake-referendums-in-ukraine-pave-the-way-for-annexation-and-escalation.html

3 https://theconversation.com/why-did-russia-invade-ukraine-178512

4 https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2022/6/3/timeline-the-first-100-days-of-russias-war-in-ukraine

5 https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/8/24/timeline-six-months-of-russias-war-in-ukraine

6 https://www.axios.com/2022/03/30/zelensky-approval-rating-internaitonal-leaders-pew

7 See 1.

8 See 1.

9 See 1.

10 https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/09/1127691

11 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/23/russia-has-committed-war-crimes-in-ukraine-say-un-investigators

12 https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/why-zaporizhzhia-nuclear-power-plant-mattersfor-whole-world

13 https://www.npr.org/2022/09/11/1122245406/ukraine-zaporizhzhia-nuclear-plant-reactor-stopped

14 https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/russia-says-over-200000-drafted-into-army-since-putins-decree-2022-10-04/

15 https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/19/europe/russia-mobilization-ending-ukraine-intl

16 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimean_Bridge_explosion

17 See 1.


19 See 1.

20 https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2022/global-expansion-authoritarian-rule

Rising Inflation in America: What Does it Mean?

by Nathan Robbins


December 8, 2022

The holiday season is upon us, bringing colder weather, awkward family gatherings, and… rising prices. As this year’s inflation ticks up towards the double digits, Americans have found themselves struggling to afford essentials like food and energy. But why have prices risen so steeply, and can we expect things to change in the new year?

Most prices are driven by the interaction of supply and demand. Accordingly, the causes of inflation are generally broken down into two main categories: cost-push and demand-pull. Cost-push inflation occurs when costs to manufacturers and suppliers increase, reducing the amount of goods and services they supply. When consumer-driven demand for goods and services increases, demand-pull inflation results.1

Over the past two years, a cascade of global crises have been the catalysts for both cost-push and demand-pull inflation. The coronavirus pandemic in particular has caused a flurry of compounding inflationary pressures, and the war in Ukraine has thrown a fragile world economy even further into chaos. 

First in the tangled web of Covid disruptions were widespread lockdowns and stay-at-home advisories. As health mandates and shifts in demand put new pressures on manufacturers, the production of many goods was severely impeded. Semiconductor chip manufacturers in Taiwan and South Korea, for example, faced facility shutdowns and demand surges, which kickstarted the global microchip shortages we’re still experiencing today. Food prices rose as labor turnover and additional safety investments drove up production costs.

As consumer demand shifted suddenly from services (like restaurants and travel) to goods (like computers and medical equipment) during Covid lockdowns, global shipping lines into the U.S. were overwhelmed by the influx of imports. Outdated software, a lack of crucial infrastructure and equipment, and chronic understaffing exacerbated the problem. Freight companies are still struggling to correct for compounding bottlenecks, hampered by their long standing shortcomings. The result? Crucial goods—some already facing production shortages—are getting stuck in warehouses, far away from manufacturers, retailers, and consumers.2

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has thrown another massive wrench into the already unsteady global economy. Both Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of wheat and other grains, together representing 30% of global wheat exports.3 According to Ukraine’s government, its grain exports have fallen by more than 50% since the start of the war. Sanctions on Russia have restricted its ability to export oil and gas, contributing to catastrophic shortages in Europe, which relied heavily on Russian exports, and increasing global energy costs.4

Scarcity isn’t the only thing that has driven prices up. Since the start of the pandemic, the U.S. government has spent roughly $5 trillion on Covid relief funding to individuals, businesses, and state and local governments—more than double the global average as a percentage of GDP.5 It stands to reason that, on top of an already recovering economy, the money placed in consumers’ pockets (including $1400 checks direct to families) would drive up demand, and therefore prices.

The American Rescue Plan (ARP), a $1.9 trillion stimulus package signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, 2021, has faced especially intense scrutiny for its effects on inflation. Republicans blame “Biden’s massive deficit spending” for the current inflationary crisis. Biden has rebutted that it is due to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, not “because of spending,” that prices are rising. Though experts disagree on exactly how much the ARP has contributed to inflation, the general consensus is that it has added a few percentage points over the past year. In a report from March 2022, the San Francisco Federal Reserve produced an estimate of 3%, but cautioned that the economic effects of no stimulus—like economic slowdown and deflation—may have been harder to deal with.6

If one thing is clear, it’s that clarity is hard to find in analyzing inflation. From factory closures to fickle consumers, inflation’s causes are myriad and densely intertwined. The sheer complexity of the global economy makes it difficult to pick out any one thread in the enormous patchwork—and the reality is that it isn’t any single thread, but the multitude that coalesce to create the huge price movements we’re seeing today.

While the causes of inflation are dizzyingly complex, the solutions are surprisingly straightforward. Two bodies are responsible for managing inflation in the U.S.: the Federal Reserve and the federal government.

The U.S. federal government uses fiscal policy to affect economic activity in the United States. Fiscal policy includes changes to taxes, transfer payments (like Social Security and Medicare), and direct government purchases. When the government decreases taxes, or increases transfer payments or purchases, it’s called expansionary fiscal policy, and when the government increases taxes or decreases spending, it’s called contractionary fiscal policy. Expansionary fiscal policy (like the Covid stimulus bills) tends to spur economic activity, which is useful in a recession (like that caused by the Covid pandemic), but increases inflation; in a period of already-strong economic growth, contractionary fiscal policy can help to slow down the economy, tamping down inflation.7

While the federal government has fiscal policy tools at its disposal, most of the short-term action to control inflation is undertaken by The Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States. The Federal Reserve enacts monetary policy by controlling the supply of money in the U.S. It regulates inflation by adjusting the Federal Funds Rate, a baseline interest rate that sets the standard for the rest of the market. The Fed can’t just wave a magic wand to change the Federal Funds Rate; instead, it does so mainly through open market operations (OMOs). To conduct an OMO, the Fed buys or sells U.S. treasury bonds. When the Fed buys treasury bonds on the open market, it injects money into the economy, increasing the money supply. Conversely, when the Fed sells treasury bonds, the money used to buy them is taken out of the economy, reducing the money supply. As the money supply increases, interest rates fall; as the money supply decreases, interest rates rise. This makes sense, since interest rates are essentially the price of borrowed money; when money becomes more scarce, lenders charge more for the limited supply.8

From 2020 to early 2022, the Federal Reserve adopted a policy of aggressive bond purchasing in the hopes of easing pandemic fallout by encouraging lending and investment. By May 2022, it had more than doubled its holdings of treasury bonds, from $2.15 trillion in March 2020 to $4.98 trillion.9, 10 The steady influx of money into the economy kept interest rates very low; from May 2020 to February 2022, the Federal Funds Rate hovered between .05 and .1% (Figure 1). However, as inflation has crept steadily up to unsustainable levels, the Fed has reversed course to counteract it. In March 2022, the Fed approved the first sale of treasury bonds since December 2018. Since then, it has continued to raise interest rates in the hopes of tamping down inflation.

Figure 1: Chart showing the Federal Funds Rate11

After nine consecutive months of rate hikes, the current Federal Funds Rate target sits at 3.75-4%. The effects are higher interest rates across the economy, slowing economic growth, and, hopefully, lowering inflation. Indeed, the Fed’s strategy does seem to be working; inflation (as measured by the Consumer Price Index) is down from a high of 9.1% in June to 7.7% in October, thanks in part to reduced demand from rising interest rates.12 However, many are worried that the Fed’s aggressive policy is shortsighted, and will result in worse economic problems than inflation should it continue—some even warning of a looming recession. While Fed Chair Jerome Powell acknowledges that a soft landing free of recession grows less likely with more rate hikes, he told reporters on November 2 that “[the Fed has] some ground to cover with interest rates before we get to that level that we think is sufficiently restrictive.”

As with everything in economics, interest rate hikes represent a tradeoff; to counteract inflation, we must make economic sacrifices. Both recession and high inflation are unsustainable in the long run, so the best thing we can do right now is find a healthy in-between. While the future remains uncertain, it is far from hopeless.

1 https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/111314/what-causes-inflation-and-does-anyone-gain-it.asp

2 https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/interactive/2021/supply-chain-issues/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=acq-intl&utm_campaign=eng-cpcpayrem-biz&utm_content=supplychain

3 https://www.forbes.com/advisor/personal-finance/why-are-food-prices-still-rising/#:~:text=Energy%20prices%20rose%2023.8%25%20from,contribute%20to%20food%20price%20increases.

4 https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/interactive/2021/supply-chain-issues/?itid=lk_inline_manual_3&itid=lk_inline_manual_7

5 https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/03/11/us/how-covid-stimulus-money-was-spent.html

6 https://www.factcheck.org/2022/06/stimulus-spending-a-factor-but-far-from-whole-story-on-inflation/

7 https://sgp.fas.org/crs/misc/R45723.pdf

8 https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/111314/what-methods-can-government-use-control-inflation.asp#:~:text=Contractionary%20monetary%20policy%20is%20now,reduces%20consumer%20and%20business%20spending.

9 https://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/h41/20220526/

10 https://www.pgpf.org/blog/2022/06/the-federal-reserve-will-begin-reducing-its-holdings-of-treasury-notes-and-bonds#:~:text=Longer%2Dterm%20Treasury%20notes%20and,trillion%20on%20June%208%2C%202022.

11 https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/FEDFUNDS

12 https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/inflation-cpi

Colleges Should Permanently Adopt Test-Optional Policies

by Sally Jamrog


May 28, 2022

Since the spring of 2020, the number of colleges and universities in the United States that have adopted test-optional policies has rapidly increased, “nearly doubl[ing] (from 713-1350) as of February 2022.”1 While many of these policies, which allow applicants to choose whether to submit SAT or ACT scores, were designed to be temporary and were initially implemented to mitigate student exposure to COVID-19 at standardized testing sites, record admission booms and more diverse applicant pools resulting from these policies have caused many colleges to reconsider their longstanding standardized testing traditions.

As of today, more than 1,400 higher education institutions have already extended test-optional policies for rising seniors applying for 2023 college admission.2 Boston University (BU), for example, after experiencing a 24% increase in applications in 2021, has extended its newly-adopted test-optional policy for the third consecutive year, stating that this shift has made BU’s admissions system more comprehensive.3 “While the admissions process at Boston University has always been holistic and decisions have never been based solely on one single factor, such as an SAT or ACT score,” an article in BU Today reports, “the move to test-optional over the past two years has improved our process by adding considerable weight to the important qualities and characteristics that focus more on you and your academic and personal accomplishments.”4 In addition to BU, many of the nation’s more selective colleges have announced test-optional policies moving forward, such as Harvard University, which has extended this choice through to the incoming class of 2026 in order to research the effect of the shift on the Harvard student body. The University of California is a more extreme example, having recently announced a permanent test-optional policy for all ten schools in its system.5

Despite this test-optional trend, certain institutions hesitate to break away from the near hundred-year tradition of using standardized testing in the college admissions process. Some colleges value the inclusion of SAT or ACT scores in an application as a means to create a more streamlined and standard metric with which to evaluate the academic aptitude of an ever- increasing number of applicants. For instance, in an interview with CNN, Dean of Admissions for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Stu Schmill argued that standardized test scores are particularly useful to MIT in determining student fluency with mathematics. “There is no path through MIT that does not rest on a rigorous foundation in mathematics,” Schmill says, “and we need to be sure students are ready for that as soon as they arrive.”6

Regardless of the possible merits of these tests, the problems with requiring SAT and ACT scores lie in that they are not necessarily effective at predicting academic performance and can be too easily gamed by members of higher socioeconomic strata. It appears that the SAT and ACT do not actually contribute unique information. According to a presentation by Bates College at the 2004 National Association of College Admissions Counselors, “graduation rates between [standardized test score] submitters and non-submitters [at Bates College] varied by only 0.1%, and average Bates GPAs varied by only 0.05%. In addition, non-submitters had slightly higher graduation rates.”7 Besides lacking predictive power, these tests also fail to control for external factors. Tanay Nambiar ‘22 comments, “Standardized testing like the SAT or ACT will never portray an objective truth about a student’s ability. With so many variables affecting students differently, it would not be fair to compare test scores.” Moreover, for many colleges, grasping who a student is as an individual is equally as important as understanding their academic prowess in determining whether an applicant is a good fit for their institutions. Requiring standardized test scores during the college admissions process runs the risk of excluding or deterring lower-scoring applicants who could thrive in a certain college community.

Furthermore, more financially-privileged test-takers can also have an unfair advantage in being  able to afford professional tutoring through private test-prep companies like Princeton Review and Kaplan Test Prep, which can cost thousands of dollars.8 Popular one-on-one, personalized sessions with a practiced tutor can cost even more, with prices ranging from $40 to $800 per hour or more. These kinds of opportunities create starkly unfair advantages for wealthier test-takers compared to those who cannot afford a preparation plan or even spend time preparing for the SAT or ACT. Oftentimes, more affluent students can afford to take these tests multiple times (registration for the SAT and ACT costs around $60 without a fee waiver, which only covers two attempts), which has been proven to increase scores on average. Because financial status and race are often closely tied, the SAT and ACT have also been found to discriminate against minorities, putting Black and Hispanic Americans at a disadvantage. According to data collected by the College Board from the test results of the class of 2020, “Over half (59%) of white and four-fifths of Asian test-takers met the college readiness math benchmark, compared to less than a quarter of Black students and under a third of Hispanic or Latino students.”9

As colleges place more value on viewing applicants holistically, they should implement permanent test-optional or test-flexible policies to even the playing fields for low-income applicants and more effectively evaluate students’ academic abilities, giving more weight to personal essays, GPA, recommendations, and other components of the application. Additionally, colleges could supplement the application process by adding opportunities for students to prove themselves in a variety of more applicant-customized ways. For instance, Vassar College allocates space in their application for students to submit anything of additional academic or creative value that might contribute to their profile: a blank page for them to utilize as they see fit. Tanay also mentions that Brown University has recently implemented a video portfolio submission opportunity for its application in place of an optional interview. Like the Vassar application’s blank page component, creating this two-minute video portfolio is another way for applicants to present themselves in their own unique light, a short introduction including the applicant’s name and high school being one of the only content requirements for the video.10

These additional methods to more comprehensively evaluate applicants should, however, be coupled with a mindfulness of the time and work applicants will need to put into these applications, as more application components could add more stress to the college process for applicants. However, while removing the straightforward rubric of a standardized test score may lengthen the evaluation process, expanding applications to allow for more student self-expression would be a more equitable and ultimately more effective solution to determine a student’s readiness for a particular college. As Katie Kara’a ‘22 says, “Lots of colleges talk about their ‘holistic review process,’ and I think that removing the standardized testing portion of it makes it more holistic and allows [colleges] to focus more on the applicant as a person than as a test score.” Though certain colleges may have data-driven reasons for requiring standardized test scores, as in the case of MIT, extending test-optional application policies for years to come is a significant step forward in making the college admission process as equally centered on applicant authenticity as it is on numeric evaluations.

1 Darrel Lovell and Daniel Madison, “How Test-Optional College Admissions Expanded During the Covid-19 Pandemic: An Essay For the Learning Curve,” Urban Institute, February 2022, https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/2022-02/how-test-optional-college-admissions-expanded-during-the-covid-19-pandemic_0.pdf.

2 “1,835+ Accredited, 4-Year Colleges & Universities with ACT/SAT Optional Testing Policies for Fall 2022 Admissions,” Fair Test, April 20, 2022, https://www.fairtest.org/university/optional.

3 Rich Barlow, “BU Is Making Standardized Tests Optional for Undergrad Applicants for Third Consecutive Year,” BU Today, January 20, 2022, https://www.bu.edu/articles/2022/standardized-tests-optional-for-third-consecutive-year/.

4 See 3.

5 Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, “University of California Will No Longer Consider SAT and ACT Scores,” The New York Times, May 15, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/15/us/SAT-scores-uc-university-of-california.html.

6 Eric Levenson, “MIT will once again require applicants to take the SAT or ACT, bucking the anti-test movement,” CNN, March 29, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/29/us/mit-sat-act-standardized-tests/index.html.

7 “A Brief History of the Test-Optional Movement in Higher Education,” DePaul University, March 18, 2011,

8 Ann Carns, “Another College Expense: Preparing for the SAT and ACT,” The New York Times, October 28, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/your-money/another-college-expense-preparing-for-the-sat-and-act-.html.

9 Ember Smith and Richard V. Reeves, “SAT math scores mirror and maintain racial inequity,” Brookings, December 1, 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2020/12/01/sat-math-scores-mirror-and-maintain-racial-inequity/.

10 “Video Introduction/Alumni Interview,” Brown University, https://admission.brown.edu/first-year/video-introduction-alumni-interview.