Published in Delaware County’s Daily Newspaper Monday, September 16, 2019
By Joseph Batory
One of the prevalent political talking points circulating across the USA is that the Justice Department needs to investigate and sue universities over affirmative action admissions policies which possibly discriminate in favor of minorities against white applicants.
The theory behind some universities applying racial and geographic diversity to their admissions criteria can be debated from both sides of the issue. However, if the justice department is really going to investigate fairness in college admissions, it needs to evaluate all aspects of the university admittance processes in our nation.
University admissions is far from one single issue. For example, several highly rated universities have recently established quotas to restrict/limit the numbers of Asian heritage student admissions because that population has so many high achievers who scored well on admissions tests.
And many universities have always given precedence to students coming from elite high schools with mostly white, affluent student bodies.
And then there is the “legacy factor,” used by some universities to provide “automatic admittance” if one of the prospective student’s relatives, usually parents or grandparents, also attended the same university. In most cases, “the legacy factor” can often give precedence to wealth white students even if their qualifications are not as good as those of non-legacy applicants.
Recently, the 2019 scandal in the USA has revealed that dozens of individuals, many of them wealthy celebrities, paid thousands of dollars to buy admission for their children into some of the nation’s elite universities. Inflated test scores and high school athletic team participation which never happened were the fabrications used by these parents.
Felicity Huffman (center) leaving federal court in Boston after being sentenced in the nationwide college admissions scandal. Associated Press
And there are other abuses. How the president’s son-in-law and now White House adviser, Jared Kushner, got into his university is a prime example.
Kushner was admitted into Harvard University in 1998, not long after his father, real estate developer Charles Kushner, pledged $2.5 million to the university. This was revealed by Daniel Golden in his 2006 book, The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges — and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates.
What Golden found was that Jared’s father handed Harvard (a school he did not attend) a big pile of money just as Jared was starting to apply to colleges. Jared’s dad also got his US senator Frank Lautenberg) to contact another then US senator (Edward Kennedy) to reach out to a Harvard dean to push for Jared’s admission.
Sources told Golden that New Jersey senator Lautenberg, whose campaign Kushner and his family supported with $100,000 from 1992 to 2002, and Massachusetts senator Kennedy clearly boosted Jared’s Harvard prospects via their influence on admissions dean William Fitzsimmons.
Not surprisingly, Jared Kushner was admitted to Harvard. BUT several officials at Jared’s high school told Golden that they found this admission disturbing, since Jared’s grades and SAT’s really did not merit acceptance into Harvard.
“Among a number of unfair considerations that tilt college admissions toward wealthy applicants,” Golden summarized, “There are also preferences given by universities for children of non-alumni parents who are rich and likely to give a lot of money. And there is also favoritism in admissions given for children of influential politicians and wealthy celebrities.”
In a recent survey, twenty-five percent of university admissions officer survey respondents across the USA said they felt “pressured to accept applicants who did not meet (the) school’s admissions requirements because of who that applicant was connected to.” The fact of the matter is that there has been and continues to be a long history of “double standards” in place to benefit university admission for the elites of the USA.
So let’s be clear about this. The idea of unfairness in the college admissions process might be worth a look. But any attempts to create more justice/fairness in the college admissions process must address all of the complex issues involved!
Joseph Batory has been widely published on politics and education.