To the Editor,
Given the general reaction of the press to the recently disclosed admissions scandals involving so-called “elite” colleges, I find myself in the unfamiliar position of questioning its fairness. The collective emphasis seems less on the alleged bribery and fraud than on purported flaws in the admissions process. “The whole system is broken;” the scandal is really the flawed system “taken to its logical, if illegal, extreme.” These are quotations from Edward Stannard’s Hearst Media piece (“College admissions scandal exposes need for change, experts say” West Hartford News, March 22, 2019).
Allegedly large sums of money were paid by wealthy parents to contract help in deceiving certain “elite” institutions, by bribery and even cheating on SAT exams This practice purportedly provided an understandable alternative to making an outright donation. Furthermore, what invited this criminal activity, we are to believe, were egregious flaws in the admissions process: in particular, the influence of large donors, ‘legacies’, athletic scholarships, the weighting of SAT scores. Obviously donor gifts should not guarantee acceptance for an unqualified applicant; preference for qualified “legacies” need not, however, have a monetary motive. (A child might want to attend the same institution as a parent, and a parent might encourage that wish).
Cultivating this type of loyalty serves to strengthen alumni relations and perpetuate valuable institutional memory. However, the issues raised in connection with the value of SAT and ACT scores need to be seriously considered, and many schools have discontinued requiring them or made them optional; appropriately monitored, the admission of academically qualified athletes can add a dimension of skills that contributes to the diversity and inclusiveness of an entering class.
In any case, generalizing about admissions at thousands of colleges and universities, which admit classes that range in size from several hundred to several thousand applicants, is bound to miss the mark. Furthermore, characterizing the admissions process itself as “byzantine” or, conversely, in some cases too heavily dependent on SAT scores rather than rank in class — and to insinuate that “the least trustful [sic] of the college officials are the admissions officers themselves,” is, to say the least, counter-productive.
The task of admissions’ decisions is complex. First of all, even though secondary school grades and class standing are a good indicator of academic success, they too must be evaluated; all secondary schools are not equal. There is also a mass of other material submitted by the applicant that has to be considered. The typical goal, I venture to say, is to create a class as diverse and as egalitarian as possible — and consonant with the educational mission of the individual institution. It isn’t accomplished through painting by the numbers or well served by resorting to a lottery. (Unfortunately however, the process may of necessity be impacted by financial limitations, especially at smaller schools.)
Yes, the process tends to produce a “meritocracy” ( another objection) but in a limited sense that is surely defensible. Take Yale, for instance [and I have no connection with the institution]: according to the figures given in Stannard’s article, 95 percent of its entering students rank in the top 10 percent of their high school class; 99 percent in the top 25 percent — which should dispel any apprehension about widespread rot in the admissions system there.
Furthermore, information from the the university indicates that in addition to white students, who make up about half of the incoming class, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians make up more than 35 percent, and 10 percent are foreign students. (Smaller minorities account for the rest.) And, as stated in the article, the university “meets the full demonstrated need of every incoming student.” (The figures for Stanford University are similar, and again financial aid is need-based.)
No doubt an admissions system can be compromised from within by favoritism (or outright corruption) or subverted by criminal activity from without. The extent of the recent scandal is perhaps unprecedented, but let’s not lose perspective and insist that the whole admissions process is rigged and inherently corrupt. A lot of kids aren’t accepted by their first choice of college; it stands to reason that not every applicant will be admitted. Rather than cry foul and feel victimized, they accept rejection and sensibly go somewhere elsewhere where they are accepted and where, in fact, they might be a better ‘fit’.
James R. Bradley, Professor of Classics, Emeritus, Trinity College, Hartford,
To the Editor,
“Johnny’s Jog” got a boost off the starting line this year with a $5,000 gift from the Greater Hartford Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.
The Friendly Sons, a 51-year-old fellowship group, holds an annual dinner/fundraiser for a local charity. This year’s recipient of the sharing of the green was “Johnny’s Jog for Charity 5K,” a nonprofit founded in 2011 to raise money for three charities: The Miracle League of Connecticut, the Molly Ann Tango Memorial Foundation and Covenant Preparatory School of Hartford.
It is named for an inspirational youngster, 9-year-old Johnny Moran, who died in 2016 of a rare nervous system ailment. Its main fundraising event, as its name suggests, is a St. Patrick’s Day-themed run, which was held March 24 in West Hartford. The Friendly Sons event was March 10 in Wethersfield.
The Friendly Sons gave Aer Lingus its “Irishman of the Year” award, praising the airline’s Hartford — Dublin service.
To the Editor,
On Saturday, March 9, I attended the statewide Poetry Out Loud competition in Middletown. I have served as a judge in the Granby Memorial High School for Poetry Out Loud for two years running and I had a rehearsal in Middletown that morning but I was able to see a little of the end result of the hard work of students from every town in Connecticut.
I was stunned by the power and the dedication of the students who recited the poems they had memorized. All of them, to my mind, were winners.
Sunday, March 10, I sat and listened as three of the choral ensembles from the Hartt School of Music performed music written by Dufay and William Byrd, Eric Barnum and Christopher Theofanidis, music setting sacred texts of long ago, and poetry by Gabriel Garcia Lorca and Amy Beth Kirsten's "November Prayer (from Messages to Myself.)"
Ed Bolkovac, the director of the Chamber Choir, declaimed the words to the poems the pieces were based on with great energy, and then turned around and drew out the music directly from the hearts of his singers.
I had been wondering about the importance of the Bruce Porter Memorial Music Series in this little town, but as I sat there in tears, I could not wonder about the importance of what was happening in that small church on that afternoon.
Thank you all for combining such a high level of artistry with such powerful messages about what really matters! Thank you to all who support these endeavors and who make it possible for these young artists to deepen their understanding of the music and the poetry they perform.
Two days in a row of watching young people pour themselves into poetry and music have lifted me and encouraged me about my world, and what we each can to do make it better. I could see determination, joy and hope in the faces and demeanor of these high school and college students. It has strengthened me for the journey we are all on together.