City Journal Summer 2014

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John-Clark Levin and Charles C. Johnson
Lessons from Claremont « Back to Story

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The real question is NOT whether one person had sole reporting duties but rather when the top brass pressured him into doing this. In other words, did the "institutional culture" tolerate this. Some one has to take responsibility for the work of an office, e.g. the admissions office. This is true in any organization.
Not to go too far afield , but the two 'industries' which are the weakest performers are characterized by a lack of accountability , personal or institutional . Eduacation ,of course , is the first , the second is health care . In neither are there rack 'em and stack 'em measures of performance. The successful administrators in both thrive by avoiding decision making and the concommitant personal responsibility . So decisions are made by committees and if they mess up , well no one is to blame if all are too blame . Of course , it helps to play with other peoples money , be it insurance or student loans . Not to make too fine a point on it , none of the ed administrators I have worked with would make it past their second performance review in the real world .
Daniel O'Toole, CMC '09 February 19, 2012 at 2:23 PM
I agree that admissions deans have way too much freedom for subjective (that is, corrupt) decisions. But national oversight is hardly going to fix that problem. If anything, national oversight will add more pressure for affirmative action. I also think calling for more regulation on matters like this is an unnecessary use of federal power. Conservatives don't tend to make arguments like this, so the fact that you guys do seems to be more opportunistic--sticking it to President Gann--rather than principled. One could point out that there are market incentives for colleges not to cheat. Being alarmed about rampant cheating relies on some conspiracy theories I'm not inclined to buy. Besides, the issue as a whole is rather trivial.

What isn't trivial is the state of college education in this country. That's why I think you guys are wrong to casually dismiss the importance of the problem that colleges like CMC are obsessed with U.S. News rankings. True, the SAT scores and admissions statistics are useful, and they are the most solid measures of academic quality in the rankings. But that doesn't mean that the rankings as whole are good. They tell us very little about what (or whether) students actually learn. They discourage college administrators from thinking about what genuine education entails and prioritizing teaching. Instead, they reward superficial measures, such as how much money a college has (but not how that money is spent), how small class sizes are (which encourages places like CMC to limit the number of students that can take classes with the most popular professors), and most importantly reputation--which means colleges have an incentive to tailor their academic departments to please the prejudices that prevail in the modern academy. That college education today is often very shallow, that it often undermines healthy citizenship, and that these problems are supported by a ranking system with meaningless standards that prize prestige over substance--these are issues worth writing about.

Likewise, if one wants to criticize President Gann at CMC, one should make the case that her policies have harmed the quality of education there. One shouldn't just try to nail her for a bureaucratic slip-up.
Does it imply lack of the academic professionalism and an alarming victory of predominantly utilitarian admission concerns? External procedures promoting transparency will be important but not sufficient without a re-evaluation of the college intelellectual climate and social priorities, I am afraid.
While SAT scores seem to be of interest in evaluating universities, it is a poor measure of the university. A university which takes incoming students with lower SAT scores and transforms these young people into thinking, ethical citizens is much more useful to our society than one which just picks the cream of the crop and lets them vegitate for four years.

A better measure would be to track alumni after they leave the university and measure how they are doing in life after having the benefit of a university education.
I guess all schools COULD have done this, but Claremont DID do this. I have some familiarity with the school, its alums and its current students and I am afraid they believe the hype. Too many are happy to mention how exclusive the college is. Maybe we should stop stacking American universities by how many students they DON'T educate, by how many they turn away.
Francis Stocker, M.D. February 17, 2012 at 6:58 AM
Wisdom from the mouths of young folk.
U.S. News is just one of many rankings, and it, like all the others, has limitations. A site like Better School Rankings at least shows you how schools stack up in several different rankings, in addition to U.S. News.
There have been generations upon generations of “foreign” students who have obtained their PhDs, let alone their BAs and MAs, with less than academically acceptable standards from US universities.

This has been an open secret up and down the academic ladder for decades, going back to the ‘50s. The idea being that it’s ok to grant advanced degrees to otherwise unqualified students (usually due to poor English skills) since these students would be going back to their home countries once the degree has been obtained, so it doesn’t matter……they won’t be seeking jobs in the US.


Foreign students, of course, bring in truckloads of money, so ways have been found around the embarrassing fact that admission standards have to be “adjusted” for them.


And of course, this isn’t always true. Especially in the sciences, a very high level of English skills is not an absolute requirement for success in the field. After all, the atomic scientists of Iran seem to be doing ok with their scientific skills, and they didn’t learn these skills in the holy city of Qum or Shiraz. Ditto with the atomic scientists in India and Pakistan, all educated in the West, if not just the USA.

The legendary Islamic university of Al-Azhar in Cairo may have an illustrious history, but it does not produce doctors or atomic physicists.


And I personally have no objection to this type of practice. Fostering amicable relations between nations has been a cornerstone of US foreign policy and if admissions (and graduation) standards have to be bent somewhat to achieve that goal, so be it.


Questionable admissions policies are a fact of life, as are questionable scores and grades. Once it became practically an Amendment to the Constitution that “everyone” had to get a college degree to “succeed”, the writing was on the wall and, as everyone knows, a college degree means little nowadays. And there’s no going back.
Et satan conduit le bal.
Colleges cannot afford to be transparent about admissions. They are required by law to conform to contradictory requirements, both admitting without regard to race, creed, etc., and yet, somehow, to paper over differences in preparation when those are correlated with race, creed, etc. and make their numbers.

Genuine oversight would complicate the task of giving the appearance of having met both conditions.
While I applaud the posture taken by Mr. Levin and Mr. Johnson, I would like to suggest these practices by institutions of higher education do not surprise me.

To be candid, I'm surprised it took so long for the intellectual elites at universities to catch on to what has been happening in our nation's capitol for decades . . . The twisting of data to suit personal, selfish objectives.