Thursday, March 14, 2019

Few Surprises in the Current College Admissions Scandal

No one who has studied College Admissions over the last 30 years should be surprised that wealthy, well connected people are willing to spend huge amounts of money to get their children into schools where their grades and SAT scores place them far below the school average. In most instances, this is done relatively openly by negotiating a large donation into the school, a process, pioneered by Duke University, that journalist Daniel Golden calls “Developmental Admissions.” Reserving a few Admissions slots for children of donors and prospective donors has become normal university behavior There are few top universities that would refuse the opportunity to admit a student with a mediocre record like Jared Kushner, whose father was willing to gave a 2.5 million donation. Harvard was the school that admitted him, but most other Ivy League schools would have done the same.
It is an also an open secret that even larger numbers of slots at top universities are reserved for students who are expected to donate to the school themselves because they are likely to go into careers in finance. This is why every Ivy League school reserves at least 20 percent of their freshmen classes for recruited athletes. It is not because any one will pay to attend the games they play, but because Ivy League athletes are prime recruits for hedge funds and Wall Street banks. One year, according to one of my student researchers, 9 graduating Princeton lacrosse players went straight to Merrill Lynch. Those athletes are much more likely to be big donors than the math or physics students with perfect SAT scores who go on to be research scientists
It would be tempting to see the parents and coaches who participated in the current Admissions scandal as outliers in an otherwise meritocratic system. But there is nothing meritocratic about college admissions in the USA. Being wealthy gives you a huge advantage.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Bronx: A Prose Poem

The Bronx. Where, for more than a hundred years, the world's immigrants and migrants come to make their mark

The Bronx. Different yet the same after a hundred years of ethnic succession. Whether  Irish, Jewish, Italian, African American, Puerto Rican, West Indian, Mexican, Dominican, West African, Albanian, or Bengladeshi- it's still the place where people bearing memories of suffering in a score of different places live crowded together and create music that inspires the world.

The Bronx. Like the Mississippi Delta, it provides continuous  proof of the proposition that those with the least often have the most to say, and that the arrogance of the rulers will be mocked by the lasting contributions  of those over whom they ruled

The Bronx. Proving that democracy, even when mocked in politics and economics, is validated in culture. And that the cultural capital of those who share is greater than the wealth of those who hoard

Monday, March 4, 2019

Donald Trump's Three R's: Ruthlessness, Racism and Riches

    When I learned from Michael Cohen’s testimony that Donald Trump threatened to sue Fordham to prevent them from releasing his grades and SAT scores, it not only reaffirmed my perception of Donald Trump’s character, it also gave me telling evidence of his chosen  path to success.

    Here is a person who constantly boasts of his intelligence and athletic ability who goes crazy at the thought of anyone researching whether his college record matches his rhetoric 

      As someone who is the same age as Donald Trump, attended similar colleges, and likes to think of himself as a scholar athlete, I find Mr Trump’s indignation both amusing and revealing. Anyone who knows how to use Google can find evidence of my athletic career at Columbia, the fellowships I received or the academic awards I earned. You don’t have to ask Columbia for that information, it’s all there on the internet.  By contrast, a Google  search of Mr Trump’s  college years will find no evidence of academic or athletic success. What’s going on? 

         That someone  whose record displays a modest level of athletic and academic success  ends up as a professor and the one whose record is shrouded in myth, if not outright fabrication, ends up being President is a telling commentary on where our country is at at this historical moment. 

       Although I have an extremely happy life and have  no  desire to trade places with Mr Trump, the comparison does lead me to examine what traits he possesses that helped elevate him to his current exalted position- traits that I seem to lack

        And I’ve come up with three—Ruthlessness, Racism and Riches.  First ruthlessness. In ways that I could never imagine, Mr. Trump was able to betray friends, stiff creditors, and destroy rivals without a moments grief. No conscience, no consequences, no limits. Then there was racism, institutionalized in the way his family companies did business during his formative years,  in his private discourse, and his ability to mobilize xenophobia and white supremacy to advance his ambitions. And finally there were riches, the hundreds of millions of dollars his father used to bail him out when his businesses failed

     Because of the three R’s, Donald Trump could have a mediocre college record, hide it behind lies, deception and threats, and still rise to the highest office in the land, 

      There is a lesson here for the nation’s young people, but not one many of us would want them to learn