Federal judge doesn't know how college admissions work

U.S. district judge Nathaniel Gorton recently sentenced Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, to prison for two months and five months, respectively, in the college admissions scandal.  That case is now over.  What is not over is the misimpression the judge has publicly advanced on how college admissions work in reality.  He made the following public observation about college admissions, heightened by the stature of his office:

"Higher education in this country aspires to be a meritocracy."  No; in countless ways, that is not true.

About the Toby MacFarlane sentence Judge Gorton said: "Although I perceive no calculable loss to USC and ACT, there was certainly a loss to the overall educational system in this country," a loss that "most assuredly was significant." 

Not accurate.  He called MacFarlane "a thief."  Thousands of thieves, then, are in universities throughout the country. 

The judge chastised one Varsity Blues participant, declaring that the participant had lied and cheated to get "around the rules that apply to everyone else."  No, the rules already did not apply equally to thousands of college applicants. 

Let us count the unequal ways to get into college:

One, be an athlete.  There are presently 490,000 athletes competing in NCAA athletics.  By Judge Gorton's logic, all of them were academically superior to competing applicants.

Two, be a legacy applicant — that is, the relative of an alumnus likely to be wealthy.  The institutions will be hoping for future financial contributions.  Ten to 25 percent of college student populations were legacy applicants given special preference.  The percentage is not exact because university administrators are not eager to state the number: they know that their admissions policies are discriminatory, favoring the rich.  Meritocracy is not the focus; money is.

Three, be a minority applicant.  In today's zeitgeist, applicants within the universe of identity politics, cancel culture, woke preferences, diversity, political correctness, and affirmative action will be helped mightily in gaining admission to college.  Asian students, though, are sometimes discriminated against, say, at Yale University because there are too many on campus.  The bean-counters discriminate.  Meritocracy is not the focus; social justice is.

Four, be from out of state or out of country.  Colleges aggressively seek out-of-staters because they pay higher tuition.  An in-stater pays, say, $12,000, while an out-of-stater pays $30,000 or $40,000 more.  And out-of-country students pay even more than out-of-staters.  Again, meritocracy is not the focus, and money is.

Five, be a male.  You might think being a male is a negative qualification in this age of sex identity, but ratios suggest otherwise: in public colleges, the ratio of males to females is 43.6 to 56.4.  In private schools, it's 42.2 to 57.5.  College admissions officers will want more male applicants in order to reach closer parity to women. 

Applicants in these five categories do not cheat the system; they get admitted legally through double standards.  Even if Lori Loughlin's daughters were legitimate rowing athletes, why should they get admitted to college owing to a double standard?

We will never know how much Judge Gorton's incomplete knowledge about college admissions influenced his sentencing.  All the Varsity Blues cases are yet to be adjudicated in his court.  Judge Gorton's apparent lack of knowledge about unequal processes of admissions could conceivably have affected his sentencing judgment.  But as a famous lawyer once said, "don't tell me what the law is; tell me who the judge is."  Judges have biases.  I was chief of staff for Chief Justice Warren Burger, working intimately for or with him for over nine years.  I know what his biases were.  And we all know that the present Supreme Court has four liberals and five conservatives.

Ronald L. Trowbridge, Ph.D. is a policy fellow at the Independent Institute.  He was appointed by President Reagan to the United States Information Agency and later became chief of staff for Chief Justice Warren Burger.

Image credit: Public Domain Vectors.

U.S. district judge Nathaniel Gorton recently sentenced Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, to prison for two months and five months, respectively, in the college admissions scandal.  That case is now over.  What is not over is the misimpression the judge has publicly advanced on how college admissions work in reality.  He made the following public observation about college admissions, heightened by the stature of his office:

"Higher education in this country aspires to be a meritocracy."  No; in countless ways, that is not true.

About the Toby MacFarlane sentence Judge Gorton said: "Although I perceive no calculable loss to USC and ACT, there was certainly a loss to the overall educational system in this country," a loss that "most assuredly was significant." 

Not accurate.  He called MacFarlane "a thief."  Thousands of thieves, then, are in universities throughout the country. 

The judge chastised one Varsity Blues participant, declaring that the participant had lied and cheated to get "around the rules that apply to everyone else."  No, the rules already did not apply equally to thousands of college applicants. 

Let us count the unequal ways to get into college:

One, be an athlete.  There are presently 490,000 athletes competing in NCAA athletics.  By Judge Gorton's logic, all of them were academically superior to competing applicants.

Two, be a legacy applicant — that is, the relative of an alumnus likely to be wealthy.  The institutions will be hoping for future financial contributions.  Ten to 25 percent of college student populations were legacy applicants given special preference.  The percentage is not exact because university administrators are not eager to state the number: they know that their admissions policies are discriminatory, favoring the rich.  Meritocracy is not the focus; money is.

Three, be a minority applicant.  In today's zeitgeist, applicants within the universe of identity politics, cancel culture, woke preferences, diversity, political correctness, and affirmative action will be helped mightily in gaining admission to college.  Asian students, though, are sometimes discriminated against, say, at Yale University because there are too many on campus.  The bean-counters discriminate.  Meritocracy is not the focus; social justice is.

Four, be from out of state or out of country.  Colleges aggressively seek out-of-staters because they pay higher tuition.  An in-stater pays, say, $12,000, while an out-of-stater pays $30,000 or $40,000 more.  And out-of-country students pay even more than out-of-staters.  Again, meritocracy is not the focus, and money is.

Five, be a male.  You might think being a male is a negative qualification in this age of sex identity, but ratios suggest otherwise: in public colleges, the ratio of males to females is 43.6 to 56.4.  In private schools, it's 42.2 to 57.5.  College admissions officers will want more male applicants in order to reach closer parity to women. 

Applicants in these five categories do not cheat the system; they get admitted legally through double standards.  Even if Lori Loughlin's daughters were legitimate rowing athletes, why should they get admitted to college owing to a double standard?

We will never know how much Judge Gorton's incomplete knowledge about college admissions influenced his sentencing.  All the Varsity Blues cases are yet to be adjudicated in his court.  Judge Gorton's apparent lack of knowledge about unequal processes of admissions could conceivably have affected his sentencing judgment.  But as a famous lawyer once said, "don't tell me what the law is; tell me who the judge is."  Judges have biases.  I was chief of staff for Chief Justice Warren Burger, working intimately for or with him for over nine years.  I know what his biases were.  And we all know that the present Supreme Court has four liberals and five conservatives.

Ronald L. Trowbridge, Ph.D. is a policy fellow at the Independent Institute.  He was appointed by President Reagan to the United States Information Agency and later became chief of staff for Chief Justice Warren Burger.

Image credit: Public Domain Vectors.