College Admissions Scandal Reflects a Larger Loss of Purpose in Academia
March 15, 2019, 12:13 PM
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There has been great consternation in the land to learn of the deep corruption in the college admissions process, that wealthy elites bought their kids’ entrance into top schools.

Higher education has certainly changed in recent decades, in part because it is more desired and valuable than before, making the competition increasingly intense. Plus, there are many thousands of foreigners who pursue US educations as a useful doorway to residence, and they are appealing to college administrators because they pay full tuition.

Alan Dershowitz, a long-time professor at Harvard, recently discussed how things have changed on campus in light of the scandal:

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Look, at bottom, you know the fault for this lies in the fact that we’ve abolished grades at universities in many parts of the country. Nobody fails anymore. If we went back to the situation that occurred when I started teaching at Harvard, almost 60 years ago, this couldn’t work because these students would fail out. It didn’t pay for them to get into college because they wouldn’t make it through if they didn’t have the academic resources to make it.

But today, nobody fails. Today nobody gets bad grades. Nobody even gets Cs. In many universities they have abolished grades, so there is no way of testing whether they are qualified or competent. Once they get into college, they just sail through because of the way universities have decided to treat their students. I think we will see this as the tip of a very, very deep iceberg. I don’t believe there should be special slots for athletes. Colleges are not supposed to be about athletes. Athletics are supposed to be collateral. Today, kids who aren’t qualified or are minimally qualified get in because they are a good quarterback or a good soccer player. That’s the beginning of the problem. This involves overt cheating on the SATs. Bribery crosses the line. Once the investigation unfolds, we will see that there is more to this besides the really bad guys at one end of the spectrum. It’s a continuum.

Watch his remarks in the video below, with the quote starting at 2:50 in:

Professor Dershowitz is certainly correct in his observations, but there’s more to the picture — another aspect of university devolution is the institutional glorification of diversity as a top value. For example, I reported in 2012 about the Division of Equity & Inclusion at UC Berkeley which then had a budget of $17 million and a staff of 150.

Below, the University of Southern California is a featured player in the admissions scandal, where members of the coaching staff have been indicted for receiving bribes. USC does exhibit a liberal profligacy, such as spending $100 million on diversity in 2016.

The value given to individual academic excellence that many of us recall from education in the previous century is missing from today’s student experience, and has been replaced by values that foster a social design in accord with leftist models of idealized diversity and regimentation. Colleges apparently see their purpose as remolding young people into cogs in an obedient liberal society.