The bigger scandal in college admissions is what is legal
Alleged fraud marks the explosive indictments relating to college admissions practices revealed yesterday, but a much bigger scandal consists of all the legal ways ruling class privilege replicates itself through the vehicle of higher education.
I am grateful to the U.S. attorneys who pressed ahead with their investigation of the alleged criminal acts underlying the college admissions scandal rocking higher education today. And I await further indictments that apparently will be forthcoming. But I know that the people who got caught, including those whose indictments may come later, are the tip of the iceberg (in Alan Dershowitz's phrase) and were foolish in committing actual crimes, when completely legal ways of accomplishing the same ends are so widely available.
YouTube screen grab.
Both U.S. attorney Andrew Lelling and Alan Dershowitz, the emeritus professor of law who spent half a century at Harvard Law School, acknowledged yesterday that those with enough money to donate a building can perfectly legally gain preferential entrance to elite higher education for their kids.
Appearing on Fox News yesterday, Dershowitz explained:
(The full seven-and-a-half-minute interview, well worth watching, is embedded at the bottom of this page)
While very few colleges and universities, even the richest of them, would turn down a building, there is evidence that it doesn't necessarily require eight figures to buy admission. Consider the case of Jared Kushner (and his brother), who, because of his close connection to Donald Trump, is the object of much media scrutiny and who gained admission to Harvard despite less than stellar grades and SAT scores. Investigative journalist Daniel Golden, author of the book The Price of Admission, investigated the Kushner boys' admission. The UK Daily Mail summarizes:
Daniel Golden, the author of The Price of Admission, revealed that Kushner was accepted despite the fact that administrators at his high school said he was a less-than-stellar student.
'There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard,' a former administrator at The Frisch School in Paramus, New Jersey said.
'His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it.
'We thought for sure, there was no way this was going to happen.
'Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted.' ...
Golden's research revealed that Charles Kushner and his wife were members of Harvard's Committee on University Resources, a body made up of some of the university's most generous donors.
Charles Kushner was a member even though he had never attended Harvard as a student. The real estate mogul is a graduate of New York University.
The Kushner family denies that the donations had anything to do with admission to Harvard, and it may be so. For all I know, there were other elements of the admissions package each boy presented to Harvard that suggested exceptional merit, such as entrepreneurial or charitable activities. This raises the question of "holistic" admissions criteria used by practically all elite colleges and universities. At the University of California, where because California in a voter referendum banned the use of racial preferences by state-owned institutions, "affirmative action" preferences are illegal, students are asked to write essays explaining how they overcame obstacles in their paths toward applying. I regard this as an open invitation to cite racism, homophobia, transphobia, and other such progressive shibboleths to claim victim status and then be rewarded with an acceptance to highly competitive campuses.
In some countries — Japan, for instance — test scores on examinations (in Japan, administered by universities themselves) are the sole criterion. To be sure, this leads to plenty of problems, including incredible amounts of time spent by high school students cramming useless facts into their brains based on the expectation that they will help them score better on their exams. An entire industry of "Yobiko" cram schools exists, training high-schoolers for years on the ins and outs of the entrance exams.
The reason why parents and students in the United States and many, many other countries (the U.K., France, India, South Korea, and Japan all spring to mind) place such emphasis on attending the "right" schools is twofold. The more important reason is that elite schools are seen as the pathway into jobs that promise wealth, power, and influence, including lifelong relationships with others similarly on course to join the elite. Only secondarily is the quality of the education available a concern. And given the rapid deterioration in the quality of higher education in this country, what with political correctness dominating the humanities and social sciences, this consideration may be entirely absent.
The single most important reform that could change this awful situation would be the legalization of intelligence testing for employers to use in making their hiring decisions. Currently, such tests are regarded as racist, leaving employers who want highly intelligent recruits with the alternative of using graduation from an elite college as the substitute metric.
Here is the full interview of Alan Dershowitz: