On October 31, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in cases against two elite universities, Harvard and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, that are likely to end any consideration of race in college admissions decisions. The arguments from both sides are as binary as it gets. Those in favor of using race as one factor in the admissions process say it is necessary to correct historical racial discrimination and allow underrepresented minorities the opportunity to enter the gates of elite institutions and to thereby gain access to the upper reaches of business, society and influence. The opponents say that any consideration of race is de facto discriminatory against those outside the defined group.
While this conservative-heavy Court is almost certain to eliminate, or at least severely restrict, the use of race-based factors in admissions, any action it takes will almost certainly not address the inherent historical bias in admissions that has favored the elite among those seeking to scale the ivy-covered walls of academia. No, I am not talking about the advantages the upper crust has always had in gaining their spots, from test preparation, alumni legacies, ability to pay full price and offering the prospects of significant contributions to the schools. I am talking about fencing, which, along with other “country club sports,” increases the odds of admission to Ivy and Ivy-equivalent schools exponentially.
As the recent “Varsity Blues” scandal has blatantly exposed the hypocrisy that permeates colleges admissions, especially at the elite level, the consideration of race is probably the least of the factors that should be attacked. At least there is an arguable societal benefit to seeking a more diverse class. While the fact that Hollywood stars and hedge fund managers can buy their kids’ ways through phony athletic credentials is offensive enough, but looking at the sports involved, tennis, rowing, sailing, squash, etc., products of elite summer camps and wealthy enclaves, has to make you question the schools’ real priorities.
This is not in any way about the Big Money sports, football and basketball, which have turned our university system into an ignoble quest for TV riches and fame that have nothing to do with academic excellence. That is a bigger story of hypocrisy. But at least that has some understandable reason, as crass as it is. But fencing? Maybe Yale or Stanford are hoping to produce the next Errol Flynn. What they are not producing are better students. Just more and more wealthier ones. As always.