Phi Beta Cons

The Iniquity of Admissions String-Pulling

Every year about this time there’s a fleeting story or so on how many of the nation’s most prestigious campuses refuse admittance to meritorious students but accept the less worthy sons and daughters of powerful and wealthy parents and alums.
In The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges, Daniel Golden calls this ritual of string-pulling “affirmative action for rich white people.”
He says that Brown University, for example, shepherded Jane Fonda’s daughter through the admission gauntlet, following which the actress “gave $750,000 anonymously for minority scholarships.” Golden also writes that the sons of Senator Bill Frist and former Vice President Al Gore, “both middling students who preferred partying to homework” were admitted to Princeton and Harvard, respectively, where their fathers had matriculated.
This practice is so common, observes a Notre Dame administrator cited by the author, that “the poor schmuck who has to get in on his own has to walk on water.”
It is passing odd that unfair string-pulling receives such scant attention from proponents of ethnicity/gender “diversity.” On the other hand, their concept of justice does admit of the meting out of rewards on the basis of skin color or gender – for example, they have tended to approve of admissions quotas for minorities on campuses. Their egalitarianism is a departure from the erstwhile view that justice demands impartiality – in this case, that students should be judged on the basis of merit, not connections.
It may plausibly be argued that private institutions should be free to set their own admission standards and, in effect, admit the students who are able to bid the highest price. Legal issues aside, however, the depth of the hypocrisy is difficult to fathom.
In Reason and Law, M.R. Cohen writes that Plato equated justice with “the health of the body politic.” A concern with fairness, in other words, is the mark of a civilized society. From this perspective, the annual string-pulling on campuses is one more loose thread in the fabric of civilizational breakdown.

Most Popular

Books

Three Cheers for the Quiet Ones

People often dismiss shy, quiet characters in literature. Readers prefer to identify with Jo March, Elizabeth Bennett, or Anne Shirley -- those delightful, bold, and charming characters who made a deep impression on us when we first encountered them. While there’s nothing wrong with emulating or admiring these ... Read More
Books

Three Cheers for the Quiet Ones

People often dismiss shy, quiet characters in literature. Readers prefer to identify with Jo March, Elizabeth Bennett, or Anne Shirley -- those delightful, bold, and charming characters who made a deep impression on us when we first encountered them. While there’s nothing wrong with emulating or admiring these ... Read More

The Imaginary Trump

Like Andrew Jackson, Donald Trump is man who represents the age in which he lived. Whatever you may think of the age. Jackson embodied a generation of men who had risen and made their mark in a young country. He represented their desire for greater representation, even if it had costs for slaves and Indians. He ... Read More

The Imaginary Trump

Like Andrew Jackson, Donald Trump is man who represents the age in which he lived. Whatever you may think of the age. Jackson embodied a generation of men who had risen and made their mark in a young country. He represented their desire for greater representation, even if it had costs for slaves and Indians. He ... Read More
Culture

New England Journal of Medicine Pushes Reparations

Reparations would grant African Americans government benefits not paid to other Americans to rectify the awful sin of slavery and the "peculiar institution's" residual harm. It is a favored policy of hard progressives, so of course, the New England Journal of Medicine -- which regularly promotes left-wing causes ... Read More
Culture

New England Journal of Medicine Pushes Reparations

Reparations would grant African Americans government benefits not paid to other Americans to rectify the awful sin of slavery and the "peculiar institution's" residual harm. It is a favored policy of hard progressives, so of course, the New England Journal of Medicine -- which regularly promotes left-wing causes ... Read More
Media

Wajahat Ali, Ctd.

I gather he didn’t like my comment on his New York Times op-ed on the folly of reaching out to Trump supporters. He snipes, “I await The National Review’s piece on reaching out to Biden voters and reading about their ‘elegy’ and understanding their ‘economic anxiety.’” After the 2016 election, ... Read More
Media

Wajahat Ali, Ctd.

I gather he didn’t like my comment on his New York Times op-ed on the folly of reaching out to Trump supporters. He snipes, “I await The National Review’s piece on reaching out to Biden voters and reading about their ‘elegy’ and understanding their ‘economic anxiety.’” After the 2016 election, ... Read More
Film & TV

Bowing Down to Obama

‘How can we miss you when you won’t go away?” political podcaster Yvette Carnell joked two years ago when Barack Obama began his comeback tour by making sideline pronouncements about the state of the nation after his brief retirement. Now the comeback is official, with two new Kool-Aid-drinker Obama ... Read More
Film & TV

Bowing Down to Obama

‘How can we miss you when you won’t go away?” political podcaster Yvette Carnell joked two years ago when Barack Obama began his comeback tour by making sideline pronouncements about the state of the nation after his brief retirement. Now the comeback is official, with two new Kool-Aid-drinker Obama ... Read More