I must admit, the college admission scandal that rocked the airwaves this week didn’t surprise me a whole lot. Any student or parent who has gone through the process knows that college admissions at elite schools has become outrageously competitive in recent years. So, it isn’t a surprise to find out how far some people are willing to go to ensure admission. My hope is that the scandal will reveal the false notion that college admissions are a meritocracy. They are not. While the families and administrators that were involved in the DOJ investigation are accused of committing criminal acts, the system is rife with legal ways that favor the rich and connected. Children of donors and alumni (legacies) receive preferential treatment that is widely known and accepted. Unlike recruited athletes or students with unique or exceptional talents, the special treatment that legacies receive has absolutely nothing to do with merit and yet it is perfectly legal. Harvard revealed in 2017 that even though its overall acceptance rate is only 6%, the acceptance rate for legacies is over 34%. A truly shocking factoid!
To me, this is further evidence that the ongoing assault on affirmative action in college admissions is ridiculous. The best colleges understand that the community experience students receive at a four-year college is every bit as valuable as the academic one, and a focus on diversity is one of the best ways to enhance that experience. I’ll admit that on the surface college admission policies based on race seem unfair. It feels odd to say that a particular college should have fewer Whites and Asians… but, I believe that it IS appropriate for colleges to strive to create a student population that reflects our society and that brings a diversity of experiences and perspectives to their campuses. The thrust behind affirmative action is essentially that everyone does not start at the same place and some additional consideration should be given to people who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Perhaps an imperfect solution but nonetheless a reasonable one in my view.
I am glad the DOJ finally focused some attention on wealthy people who broke the law with impunity by trying to rig the system even further in their favor. Wasn’t it enough that their kids attended the best high schools, have access to private tutors, employ SAT coaches, etc.? Do people from privileged backgrounds really deserve the added advantage of legacy biases? I personally don’t think so, but there is no real challenge to that policy at this time. That said, later this year the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the latest legal effort to completely abolish the practice of giving even a small preference in college admissions to people of color who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. I don’t get it…
This week, in a brief to the judge of a major antitrust lawsuit known as Nosalek, the U.S. Department of Justice called for decoupling buyer and seller agent representation. If the DOJ gets what it wants, it would mean that listing agents would no longer be permitted to share their commissions with agents representing buyers, and buyers would have to pay out of pocket to have an agent represent them.
If you’re not familiar with the Sitzer class action lawsuit against the National Association of Realtors and several of the largest real estate brands, it centers on how real estate agents are compensated. The lawsuit claims that the practice of seller and buyer agent cooperation or sharing of commissions is an anti-trust violation and has resulted in inflated commissions paid by consumers. While a jury in Missouri has already sided with the plaintiffs, the judge has not rendered a final verdict.
If you have been following the news on the recent resignation of the President of Harvard over her unfortunate congressional testimony on antisemitism on college campuses, you might have read Bill Ackman’s post on X (formally known as Twitter) which essentially blamed everything on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) policies on college campuses. Ackman’s post was reposted by none other than Elon Musk, the owner of X, who wrote “DEI is just another word for racism. Shame on anyone who uses it”. Musk’s over-the-top response prompted Mark Cuban to jump into the conversation by defending DEI and calling it smart business. Cuban has since challenged Musk to a debate on the subject.