New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt linked to EphBlog in his column a few weeks ago about the enfolding admissions bribery scandal. Thanks! Alas, Leonhardt is one of the more clueless education reporters, a not particularly clued-in breed, as we have documented again and again and again. Is a link from him something to be proud of? Either way, his article merits 10 days of discussion. Day 10.

The Times’s editorial board notes that the indictments do not challenge the legal uses of money to influence the admissions process: “What the government actually is defending is private property — the right of the colleges to make their own decisions about admissions, and collect the payments.” And my colleague Frank Bruni weighs in as well.

The Times is correct. There is nothing wrong with writing a check to get your child into Williams, c.f., Hollander Hall. But you must write the check to the correct person.

Matt Levine explains it well:

The deep point here is that the law is pretty good at protecting property interests, but not so good at protecting fairness. If there’s a thing, and someone owns it, and you take it, the law can deal with that: It’s relatively straightforward to figure out what happened and explain why it was wrong and identify the victim and assign blame to the perpetrator and so forth. Fairness is a much harder concept to pin down and enforce; my “unfair advantage” might be your “deserved reward for hard work and innate skill.” What’s odd is not that insider trading law is about theft; what’s odd is that it almost looks like it might be about fairness, and that people think it is.

There can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy, except for the extremely well-known one where you donate a building in exchange for getting your kid in! “Lol just donate a building like a real rich person,” the U.S. Attorney almost said.

It is not about fairness; it is about theft. Selective colleges have admissions spots that they want to award in particular ways. They want to award some based on academic factors; they want to award others based on athletic skill; they want to award others in exchange for cash, but—and this is crucial—really a whole lot of cash.

Read the whole thing. Williams wants you to give it, or rather Megan Morey in the Development Office, $5 million. Williams does not want you to give $500,000 to women’s soccer coach Michelyne Pinard. The former gets your AR 3/4 (even 5?) child into Williams. The latter gets you arrested.

Heed EphBlog’s wisdom!

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