Fascinating, must-read article on Tony Marx’s campaign to remake Amherst. (Hat tip to an anonymous Eph parent.)

When Marx finally met the [presidential search] committee, he made an impassioned appeal. Elite U.S. colleges such as Amherst, he said, are perpetuating deep inequalities in American society. They equate success with serving the privileged elite and have largely abandoned talented youth from poor families, he charged. This deepens the country’s growing class divisions and exacerbates the long-term decline in economic and social mobility. Feeling he had nothing to lose since he hadn’t sought the job, Marx exhorted the trustees to tackle the problem head-on. “I’m not interested in being a custodian over a privileged place,” he remembers telling the gathering of wealthy alums and academic stars that day.

There are lots of amazing details here. More later. In the meantime:

1) Whenever I get frustrated with Morty, I should just step back and thank my lucky aim-high stars that we are not stuck with Marx. He would drive me nuts.

2) Does this mark the start of the downfall of Amherst? The basic thrust of the article is that Marx is going to start letting in lots of 1350 SAT students from lower income families while rejecting more 1550 SAT students from higher income families. (Actually, the story is more complex than that, but let’s save it for another day.) This may or may not be moral. It may or may not improve the quality of the education at Amherst. But it seems inevitable that it will reduce Amherst’s ranking, at US News and elsewhere. Right now, Williams and Amherst split 50/50 in head-to-head competition over students. I would predict that if Amherst’s academic selectivity goes down far enough, Williams’ winning percentage will increase.

If, in a decade, Williams worries as much about competition from Amherst as it does today about competition from Wesleyan, the reason will certainly be Anthony Marx’s egalitarian notions of merit and higher education.

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