As I was perusing the Penn for Parents newsletter yesterday, I was amazed to find an article that had some substance, and wasn’t pushing the usual diversity and multicultural nonsense. Eric Furda, Dean of Admissions at the University of Pennsylvania was reflecting on the current state of college admissions in light of the so-called Varsity Blues scandal that has involved dozens of parents and educators in a college entrance bribery scheme.
There perhaps has never been an admissions climate filled with more acrimony and contempt than at this moment. While the Varsity Blues scandal affects a relatively small elite sub-set of admissions, it underlies how vitriolic the process can be. It seems the only ones to maintain any semblance of normalcy are the student applicants themselves.
Of some 44,960 applicants this year, Penn invited 3,345 to join a freshman class expected to ultimately number 2,400 students. This was the lowest acceptance rate in the school’s history. Mike Rowe needs to do an episode of Dirtiest Jobs with Dean Furda the week after invitations have been handed out. What was and is outright disappointment and dejection when not accepted, has turned ugly and into absolute anger. Furda will tell you after Trump was elected President (a Penn grad by the way), the climate changed. “What happened after the [presidential] election,” he said, “is people began their calls to me with that ugliness.”
If you have high school children or younger and are preparing them for college, Furda offers advice and outlook for the classes to come. You have probably heard of schools like the University of Chicago who no longer require entrance exams like the SAT or ACT. That wouldn’t be fair using an objective benchmark to value students. This doesn’t appear to be of much interest to top tier schools, but regardless of whether they ask you to submit a graded high school paper like Princeton, or have a mandatory alumni interview like Penn, be sure that these additional requirements will be taken seriously.
It’s not just about getting accepted to college, the admissions process has brought other perennial issues back to the surface. In a class action suit filed by Students for Fair Admissions vs. Harvard, the plaintiffs alleged that Harvard discriminated against Asian American applicants, which may eventually rise to the Supreme Court where affirmative action could be shut down.
It doesn’t stop there. College student debt has been labeled a crisis, and has hit a level never seen before, calling on Congress to act to safeguard federal debt. Every democratic candidate during debate time will chime in with their ideas on how to make it go away. Bernie, Elizabeth, AOC and the “Squad,” all astute financiers, have come up with the solution. Just forget about it. Once it is done, no one will remember in a year or two, because college will be free to all, and student loans will be something future scholars will read about in civics class.
Going on departure about Trump and Penn again, he was elected President the year my son was a freshman there. Far from boasting of having the President of the United States being an alumnus, not once have I seen his name in print, at least in a positive light, nor has he ever been asked to speak at the university. Meanwhile, Joe Biden has been made chairman emeritus of the department of fondling women, and every imaginary foreign dignitary has had the red carpet rolled out for them, even if they despise America. Perhaps that is actually a precursor for the invitation.
I like Dean Furda and realize the acute pressure that he and his staff are under. Here’s the thing. For way too long, academia has had their way with reshaping the ivory tower and the student body, which ultimately forms the future discourse and shape of society. It is time for change and Furda and the others, mostly used by the administration and tenured faculty that shouldn’t be there in the first place, to listen to the voices of those that attend such schools.
Fundamentally people do not believe that building a residential college community with different voices, different learned experiences, and different backgrounds are of value. And they’re seeing higher education institutions, especially ones with large endowments and low admit rates as a great target.
President Trump delivered on a promise to punish colleges that don’t show they guarantee free speech on campus, and includes language on outcomes data and risk sharing. How ironic. One wonders if Penn should have let The Donald lecture a time or two, perhaps feeding the ego enough to forget their prejudices against those who aren’t proficient in GroupSpeak.