Sony Hack and Ivy League Admission

Brown and Sony Hack, Brown University Admissions, Admission to Brown

The Sony hack of 2014 led to the publication by WikiLeaks of certain emails that related to Brown University (photo credit: Ad Meskens).

May 23, 2017 Update: We had written a post on April 20, 2015 that relayed reporting that was published by several different news outlets, among them “Gawker.” Our post has been updated because the “Gawker” article is no longer available on the Internet as explained by this piece in “The Hollywood Reporter” and this piece in “BuzzFeed.” We did not wish to have a broken link to a now defunct article remaining on our website. The revised post below thus reflects reporting from one of the multiple news outlets — “The Chronicle of Higher Education” — that has not erased its reporting of emails that were among those published by WikiLeaks in the Sony hack of late 2014. And why is this reporting relevant to our readers? You’ll see.

As reports Andy Thomason for “The Chronicle of Higher Education” in a piece entitled “Brown Gave Special Admissions Treatment to Donor’s Daughter, Hacked Emails Show,” “Amid the ill-gotten bounty of the Sony email hacks is a mesmerizing chain of messages that shows just how cushy the college-admissions process can be if you’re rich. The emails, dug up by Gawker, lift the curtain on how Brown University treated the daughter of a Sony executive who made a $1-million donation in the form of an endowed scholarship. Among other things, the emails suggest, the donation and Michael Lynton’s professional connections bought his daughter special treatment from the college, including the offer of ‘supplemental college counseling’ and a customized tour.”

Thomason goes on to write in his piece, “Cass Cliatt, Brown’s vice president for communications, wrote in an email on Wednesday that Gawker ‘selectively chose emails to paint an inaccurate sequence of events and imply connections to the admission process where none exists.’ She added that the emails excerpted in the post ‘reflect courtesies from professionals in the Advancement office with no connection or involvement in the admission process.’ ‘At no time is there communication between Advancement and the admission office about prospective applicants, and there is a conspicuous absence of any reporting in the Gawker story supporting that any connection exists,’ Ms. Cliatt wrote. ‘The emails about providing campus resources referenced in the Gawker story speak to resources made available to families of thousands of other prospective applicants.’ The email chain represents the second time in three months a high-profile college’s treatment of applicants with influence has been exposed to the light of day. A report was released in February showing that the departing president of the University of Texas at Austin, William C. Powers Jr., had intervened in the admissions process on behalf of the politically connected.”

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