That’s the title of an article by Michael Barone as he reflects on the confessions article by Ruth Starkman, who lifted the veil a bit on the campus admissions process. (I recommend you read Starkman’s entire original piece in addition to the synopsis by Barone.)
The article might well have featured College Park as the poster child for these practices, where a couple dozen factors are ambiguously blended into any given applicant’s admissions decision, but where most are ignored in favor of what best serves the interests of the admissions office. No objective guidance is written for those who read folders – largely, in looking for what the campus “needs” they’ll know it when they see it. Unsurprisingly, what they determine that the campus needs turns out to serve the cultural and reporting interests of Admissions, not the campus academic community in any articulable way nor, to be sure, the interests of unprepared students who are admitted for the color of their skin. The latter may serve the needs of Admissions, but they move on to measurably poorer outcomes while displacing prepared students who might have otherwise gotten a shot at ‘Top Gun’, the flagship campus.
This campus spends far more money that it needs to in order to implement unjust practices which lead to far poorer outcomes for everyone. We’ve been complaining of that for many years, largely to campus ears which are deaf. (Listening would get leaders out of their snug comfort zone, challenging us to practice what we preach about justice and equity – and Good Lord, those remedies would require Real Work. Far easier to turn up noise canceling earphones, bury the careers of idealists trying to fix problems and get back to business as usual. More wine, anyone?)
The emergence of articles like Starkman’s in a forum like the NYT, however, is clear evidence that the education bubble of which we’ve warned really is in the process of bursting. And there University of Maryland will be once again … on the wrong side of history, fighting to preserve an expensive, unjust status quo and unable to clearly articulate the value of a College Park degree to skeptical consumers who are becoming more savvy about higher education investments.