Humiliated? When lotteries go wrong.

We have already seen one major catastrophe in 2011 with a lottery allocation procedure, when the ‘Green Card’ went wrong. There were a reported 22,000 people world-wide who thought that they had won, and were then told that they hadn’t.

How did these lottery-losers feel? ‘Humiliated’ according to a paper by two kleroterians Jon Dolle and Anne Newman.

Badly-run lotteries leave the participants, and even the winners, feeling humiliated. Even a properly-run lottery may leave both winners and losers feeling bad, if there is not complete transparency about the randomisation mechanisms used.

Dolle & Newman’s paper “Luck of the Draw? On the Fairness of Charter School Admissions Policies” from June 2008 (it was presented at conferences, but not published) is available online:

We use humiliation as a term of art, following the important philosophical work of Avishai Margalit. It is worth closer examination as an ethical underpinning of epistemic fairness. Margalit defines humiliation as ―any sort of behavior or condition that constitutes a sound reason for a person to consider his or her self-respect injured.

References: Margalit, Avishai. The Decent Society. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1996

The story about the faulty lottery appeared in PC World, May13, 2011:

In a videotaped statement posted to the Web, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Visa Services David Donahue said the results, announced by his department earlier this month, “did not represent a fair random selection of the entrants, as required by U.S. law.”

The AFP Report can be found at: US visa lottery canceled after computer error.

[I have tried to contact Jonathan Dolle and Anne Newman, but they seem to have moved on. Does anyone know where they are, and if they are still interested in this topic?]

One Response

  1. How odd. I know Jon and Anne–both Stanford alums–but haven’t talked to them in a while. Anne was at Washington University St. Louis, but I couldn’t find her listed among the faculty there. I’ve dropped a friend at Wash U. a line about her. As for Jon Dolle, last I heard he was still at Stanford. Couldn’t find a more recent listing for him either. I’ll drop someone a line about him as well. Do let me know if you reach either of them, and tell them I said hi.


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