As the head of one of Yale’s undergraduate residential colleges, I am surrounded by extraordinary students. They are brilliant and energetic and inspiring, and it is a privilege to work with them. But they are not better people and possess no more moral worth than their counterparts who did not get in. Few, if any, think otherwise. And as intelligent observers of the world, why would they?
Views ranging from cynicism to outrage now pass as conventional wisdom among well-informed observers of the admissions process at elite schools. All too often, elite institutions deserve such cynicism. Yale’s usually thoughtful president, Peter Salovey, responded to the bribery scandal by promising in a campuswide email to uphold the university’s “deeply held values of inclusion and fairness.” But elite higher education is neither inclusive nor fair. Inclusive? Top institutions reject nearly 95 percent of their applicants. Fair? Elite colleges and universities reject candidates with almost no attention at all to how morally deserving they are. They are manifestly ill-suited to make such judgments.