There’s a piece in “The Chronicle of Higher Education” that ‘chronicled’ a review of almost 2,000 emails gathered from public universities across the United States, emails that related to trustees influencing admissions decisions. Gasp. While at private institutions, this is absolutely fair game, it’s not supposed to happen at public universities. And yet we all live in the real world. So it happens. Accept it. Or don’t?
As the analysis of these emails finds, trustees quite often contact admissions officers when the children of well-connected and privileged students are applying. Indeed they often — sometimes subtly and sometimes not so subtly (more often subtly) — pledge to make donations if these students gain admission. Trustees are often quite wealthy as many of them run major businesses (that’s generally the typical profile of a Board of Trustee member at any American university, with exception of course). So a pledge of this nature can be rather significant. It can mean a new library. Or a new athletic facility. Colleges love such donations. Obviously.
As reported by “The Chronicle of Philanthropy” in discussing the piece in “The Chronicle of Education,” “The review turned up numerous cases of campus leaders inquiring about the fate of individual applicants, and two instances in which a Florida State University trustee injected potential gifts into the discussion. ‘Trustees grouse when their friends’ children are not admitted,’ the Chronicle writes, but also ‘worry aloud about crossing a line with their advocacy.'” That’s about right. And it’s certainly not surprising.