Academic corruption

I have literally been in this position: consoling a young black man who didn’t get into medical school despite getting straight As and demonstrating a deep commitment to working in community health, and an hour later meeting a young white woman who sailed into medical school despite having marginal MCAT scores and nothing but straight Cs, and who also never showed much concern about her career, just assuming she’d get in. The difference? He was a first generation college graduate. Both of her parents were doctors who had attended the medical school she got into. She was a “legacy”. Jebus, but I despise that casual acceptance of what is actually a corrupt practice.

Here’s another kind of corruption: Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is going to have a high position in his administration despite being a bit of a boob, just like Trump. But he is rich, just like Trump.

…a grubby secret of American higher education: that the rich buy their underachieving children’s way into elite universities with massive, tax-deductible donations. It reported that New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner had pledged $2.5m to Harvard University not long before his son Jared was admitted to the prestigious Ivy League school, which at the time accepted about one of every nine applicants. (Nowadays, it only takes one out of 20.)

I also quoted administrators at Jared’s high school, who described him as a less-than-stellar student and expressed dismay at Harvard’s decision.

“There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard,’’ a former official at the Frisch school in Paramus, New Jersey, told me. “His GPA [grade point average] 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. It was a little bit disappointing because there were at the time other kids we thought should really get in on the merits, and they did not.’’

Basically, this is a story of bribery and nepotism. But no one is going to do anything about it.

Furthermore, it can’t change because of a self-serving cycle. The Republicans have spent decades starving our universities so they’re desperate for funding, and then it’s the Republicans who benefit by providing back-door graft to the schools.

Don’t worry, it’ll change when we get university administrators with honor and integrity who will refuse special favors in return for the donations of billionaires and millionaires. (That’s a joke, son. Laugh. Laugh through the pain. It’s a talent that will serve you well for the next several years.)

Mano is commenting on the same thing. All academics know about this sleazy practice.


  1. A Masked Avenger says

    Your final comment was a bit of a reach. Charles Kushner was a Democrat. I attended an ivy, where 60% paid full tuition and richies were wooed, and there were very few Republicans. I knew one of them, and he was regarded as a curiosity. The campus republicans (and not coincidentally, the campus crusade for Christ) were small organizations indeed.

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    [going all Drumph: speaking my mind, abandoning politeness]
    “Legacy admissions” is a scam in both directions.
    To convince alumni to contribute donations as thanks for taking their child into their ranks, and (in reverse) thanks from the school for all the donations alumni have made to the school.
    When I was undergrad it was often pointed out that tuition covers barely one-third of the uni’s expenses. The balance was covered by alumni donations and commercial investments (and very little by government funding).
    I guess as the economy has cramped, donations have fallen so tuition is skyrocketing, further crampling* the economy.

    * portmanteau of: ‘cramp’ + ‘trampling’.

  3. marcoli says

    The first case you describe seems odd to me, since I have never heard of an applicant with C’s getting into med school. At least ’round here they gotta be far better than that, academically.
    As for the other student who did not get in, that absolutely does suck and seems very wrong as described. I do not know the details, but I do personally know stellar students who applied to just a couple top tier med schools, and were shocked they did not get in. My advice: EVERY med school hopeful should apply to a range of med schools to improve the chances of getting into one. And try try again next year.

  4. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re 4:
    only thing that makes sense.
    People know he is racist, BUT like ones legendary “racist uncle”, who one has to invite and listen to for “family get-togethers” Drumph was installed to clear way all the rubbish that has been ruining everyone’s life. Even if he farks it up totally, they know we (everyone ELSE) can clean up after him and provide a better world for everyone.
    Drumph just blustered endlessly about everything that was wrong, while Clinton talked about the many little things she worked on to make things better. Most people only see what’s wrong, so it’ easier to accept someone who speaks about all the wrongs everyone sees and trivialize the other candidate as just doing piecemeal good. “we want EVERYthing fixed, everyWHERE; not just bits and pieces here and there!” they shout. So even without describing any plans to fix anything, just listing all the things that are broken, makes people latch onto him as a friend.
    *ugh*, I think. [] Sorry to strawman so heavily.

  5. says

    6: It was the worst case I’d ever seen. But the student was a DOUBLE-legacy, with parents who’d made huge donations to the school, and she made their quota.

    It was also awkward, because what do you say to such a student? “NO WAY IN HELL YOU GOT IN!” or a weak “congratulations”?

  6. numerobis says

    Admissions officers hate hate hate the legacy system, but it’s codified and they’d get fired if they went against it. Similarly, kids of celebrities and kids whose parents are rich (whether or not they’ve given money — it’s a safe bet that the kid will inherit and give).

    UIUC had a scandal a few years back about politicians’ kids jumping the queue as well. Small potatoes compared to the nepotism in private schools.

  7. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says


    or a weak “congratulations”?

    like “congratulations on blocking that more qualified applicant. good for you” Followed by [pat her head].
    sorry, imagination only, not to be attempted. *jazz hands*

  8. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    or one could go all paternalistic with, “Congratulations on being accepted, even though a more qualified applicant got rejected. Not your fault. We [generic] can help you cope with getting blamed for shutting him out. tsk tsk”

  9. says

    Wait, are you saying George Bush didn’t get into Yale and Harvard because of his merits?!?!

    Conservatives want to believe in a meritocracy, a nation of self-made, deserving, individuals. Like, you know, Mitt Romney and Donald Trump who showed amazing business acumen in taking advantage of the tilted playing field of tax structures for the rich, and a healthy “allowance” from their parents.

  10. cedrus says

    Doesn’t surprise me. I went to the sort of high school where such people are common. My favorite was the guy who barely scraped B’s, despite being aggressively tutored in all subjects (read: they couldn’t take his tests, but they did everything else), who was openly disrespectful to teachers, and openly called the black student in our class (told you it was that kind of school) names that I won’t repeat here. Kid got rejected literally everywhere else, even our decent local state school…but Princeton took him. Take a wild guess as to where his parents went to school.

  11. says

    Let’s not forget all the students who gets accepted because they can sports well. If you are poor, and not athletic, you may have a sliver of a chance of going to a top school on academic achievement alone, but there are far too many bright kids left out of that equation who are relegated to community colleges or state uni’s.

    While this isn’t the end of the world ( I don’t mean to disparage small schools of course), it creates a situation where we have millions of graduates with relatively worthless* degrees and a mountain of student loan debt to pay when they graduate, upon which time they will join the other masses of likewise credentialed candidates competing for the same under paying jobs.

    Where I work, there are about 80 people in my dept. About 90% of them have a 4 year degree, and they all make less than $21 an hour, most less than $18. I live and work in an area that voted blue, but people here struggle just as hard as those “rural” voters that voted to “clean the swamp”, as if that has any meaning or will make their future any better.

    *by “worthless” I mean to say that they are fairly common and don’t provide as much of a bump in income level as they once did. Of course, it all depends on the field of study, and you get out what you put in to it. It is of course possible to get a fine education at a community college, but on paper, it’s not going to help as much as a degree from Yale or Harvard.

  12. says

    Germany has a central system for medicine, pharmacy, veterinary medicine and dentists. You apply after you finish highschool, they will figure out your “adjusted numerus clausus*” and if you make the cut they assign you a university (though you’re allowed to write down priorities, but no guarantee). It has a decentral system that works pretty much the same for around 700 other subjects.

    Some time ago there were discussions to give universities more freedom in that respect and allow them to assign some 10% of their places themselves. This got rejected for exactly the reasons mentioned here: kids not actually as good as others would get those places because mum and dad say hello to their old professor/colleague/golf club friend.

    Seriously, if you’re born with the always full spoon of an academics household with all the boons that brings, and I’m not just talking about tutoring and not having to work to help with the rent but the million other opportunities you can give your kids, and you still lag behind, you’re probably not the person who should block that college place.

    *waiting time, etc.

  13. fernando says

    So, some universities in the USA accept students with low grades, if their parents donate money for that institutions?
    What an wonderful example of the corruptive power of money.

  14. daulnay says

    If your last name is Bush, Roosevelt, or Taft you have a big leg up for admission into the university that your family has traditionally attended. The Ivies have been very solicitious of their legacy admissions for a very long time. Any complaints against affirmative action are ridiculous as long as most universities and colleges have legacy admissions – the unfair advantage given to the elites should be removed before any advantages meant to balance out past institutional prejudice.

    I’m not holding my breath.

  15. firstapproximation says

    A lot is said about getting rid of Affirmative Action, yet there’s almost complete silence about “legacy” admissions. It’s almost as if people’s problem with Affirmative Action had nothing to do with “merit” or “fairness”….

  16. anchor says

    I distinctly remember mentioning about that kind of academic elitism once a long time ago. Got roundly shot down for it.

  17. wzrd1 says

    Frankly, nothing will change until there are not only enough pitchforks and torches around the gates, but the realization that 2/3 of those holding the largest torches and pitchforks are the military that they’d otherwise rely upon to retain the corrupt status quo.*

    *There are a great many decreed, largely via private, for-profit colleges in the military, most enlisted. Quite a few of those, who are now career military are such because they know that the best that they could manage to achieve upon ETS (End Term of Service (aka the end of their enlistment contract) is a job in fast food, regardless of their degree.
    Many have also noticed that, democrat or republican in office, not a damned thing changes and that their families are doing worse and worse, each and every year.
    If that isn’t a sure fire recipe for an Acme dynamite kit, I don’t know what is.