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The Fine Line Between Legal and Illegal Bribery


To expand on the points made by Paul yesterday, Libby Nelson sums it up well:

The underlying logic of the scheme was this: Wealthy parents wanted to get their kids into elite colleges, but their kids had so-so grades and test scores that wouldn’t qualify them for admission through the usual process. Happily for them, college admissions isn’t a level playing field.

The children of alumni get a leg up. So do the children of major donors; a recent lawsuit over Harvard’s admissions policies revealed the details of how they are treated as much as revenue generators as they are for their potential as students. And athletes are routinely admitted with lower grades and test scores than other students.

It’s worth remembering that last point the next time someone treats “the college shutting down its water polo team is too unconscionable an outcome for players in high-revenue sports to be paid, although not so unconscionable as to affect the pay of any of the many people who are already being paid” as if it’s a serious argument.

None of these advantages in the admissions process typically attract as much attention and outrage as the most notorious admissions preference: race-based affirmative action. That outrage rarely considers that, legally, affirmative action cannot exist merely to help individual students overcome discrimination. Colleges, according to the Supreme Court, can consider race in admissions only to educationally benefit all students on campus by creating a racially diverse environment, and only if considering race is the only way to create that environment.

There is no similar requirement to justify the admission of legacy students, donors’ children, or athletes. It does not matter if Jared Kushner — who got into college on the back of a $2.5 million gift — added anything to hisclassmates’ time at Harvard. It is enough that it was in Harvard’s interest to admit him.

When the Roberts Court inevitably rules that any consideration of race in the admissions process is unconstitutional, it would be perfect if the opinion was assigned to Justice Bart “Yale! I got into Yale with no connections whatsoever except being a legacy and getting an extremely expensive prep school education” O’Kavanaugh.

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