What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to get into college?

The New York Post and the New York Times have recently regaled us with delightful anecdotes about what Ivy League rejects and non-rejects did to gain admission into the school(s) of their dreams. College consultants are nothing new but the industry has reached such a level of absurdity that it seems like satire.

See Jill Tipograph, who runs “Everything Summer,” a combination travel agency/college consulting firm that helps parents figure out which Third World Country should host their offspring for a few weeks a personalized summer itinerary for pre-college teens who need application essay material–for $300/hour. We wonder what Tipograph would have to say about the Yale applicant mentioned in the Times article, who forewent exotic travels in favor of a more… domestic experience:

“[Her essay] mentioned a French teacher she greatly admired. She described their one-on-one conversation at the end of a school day. And then, this detail: During their talk, when an urge to go to the bathroom could no longer be denied, she decided not to interrupt the teacher or exit the room. She simply urinated on herself.”

Would Everything Summer encourage this sort of behavior? What if you urinate on yourself and, AT THE SAME TIME, you’re climbing the Great Wall of China? God, we miss the days when you could just donate a blank check and be done with it (but, you know, the One Percent just isn’t what it used to be).

Essay ideas after the jump

PRINCETON: Check your definition of privilege

In an email to IvyGate, Tal Fortgang, P ’17 and author of a viral article in the Princeton Tory, charged us to “[m]ake me look bad!” Well Mr. Fortgang, with your blessing…

Tired of being oppressed for being a white male in America, Fortgang (who hails from Westchester) wrote the infamous Tory article detailing why he has earned the immense privilege he gets from being both male and white. The article has been covered everywhere from The Blaze to Slate, and republished in Time. Comments on the original post have ranged from praise to disbelief.

Consider the idea that a person who loses an argument is the only one who gains something from the exercise. That will turn you into a person with the ability to grow and not just someone others perceive to be an entitled asshole.”

Great article! Well written and with great eloquence. I commend you on taking an unpopular stance in a politically correct/liberal leaning society.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Harvard Hacked Its Resident Deans, But Apologized

Over the weekend it was revealed that Harvard University had secretly accessed the email accounts of 16 Resident Deans in connection with a leaked confidential message regarding the university’s recent cheating scandal. Across a number of websites, Harvard faculty members and alumni called the search “creepy,” “dishonorable,” and “one of the lowest points in Harvard’s recent history — maybe Harvard’s history, period.”

This morning, Harvard’s Deans office released a statement about the email search, describing it as limited to a search of the subject line of the email that had been inappropriately forwarded.” The statement also revealed that the covert operation had the approval of Harvard’s Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and General Counsel, and the support of the Dean of Harvard College.

One of the key issues in question here is not only whether Harvard had the right to access the Deans’ emails, but if they also had an obligation to inform them of the search. From Harvard’s statement:

“Some have asked why, at the conclusion of that review, the entire group of Resident Deans was not briefed on the review that was conducted, and the outcome. The question is a fair one. Operating without any clear precedent for the conflicting privacy concerns and knowing that no human had looked at any emails during or after the investigation, we made a decision that protected the privacy of the Resident Dean who had made an inadvertent error and allowed the student cases being handled by this Resident Dean to move forward expeditiously.”

According to a Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences electronic policy document, “The faculty member is entitled to prior written notice that his or her records will be reviewed, unless circumstances make prior notification impossible, in which case the faculty member will be notified at the earliest possible opportunity.” While The Crimson notes that Resident Deans are not technically faculty, they do have some faculty privileges, so this would seem like “clear precedent.” However, the statement does offer an apology to the Deans (real story: Harvard apologizes!), so that’s something.

Also, for what it’s worth, the search worked. Harvard’s statement acknowledges that the university found the person they were looking for by searching the email subject lines and collecting “metadata” — the name of the sender and the time the emails were sent. While it may make for an uncomfortable precedent in the view of some faculty, it was also effective.

Click through for the full (long) statement from the Harvard Dean’s office: Read the rest of this entry »

Two Weeks Later, Conservative Bloggers Salivate Over NYT Correction

Remember this? Today—for unknown reasons—the resulting correction lit the belly of the conservative blogosphere.


LAYERS AND LAYERS OF FACT CHECKERS: The editor’s note at the bottom is priceless. Always remember, these people are trustworthy, unlike those bloggers working in their pajamas. (And that’s in something where their politics don’t matter.)

Roger Kimball (“Why I Don’t Read The New York Times”):

Relax. I am not going to tell you all the reasons I don’t read our former paper of record. I am not even going to mention its appalling subservience to political correctness or the dumbed-down sewer that is its cultural coverage. (Can a sewer be “dumbed-down”? Read the Times before answering.) Nor will I go on about what’s happened to the book review under its current editor. Let’s move on, as Hillary Clinton used to say when she wanted to put something unpleasant behind her. Let’s talk about facts.


The article in question is the usual emetic Times piece, instinct with a scolding, know-it-all tone and oozing social concern. What’s noteworthy, however, is not the piece but the correction that follows….


If their names aren’t right, why are we supposed to presumptively believe that the students weren’t making other stuff up? How did Ms. Rubin, who apparently did not attempt to go to any of her subjects’ Facebook pages (which she of course would not have been able to find), even know that the misidentified “students” are really students before submitting her draft?

Read the rest of this entry »

The New York Times on College Rankings: Verrrrrrrrrrrry Wrong

The New York Times is going to make us defend the U.S. News rankings, so prepare yourself. The paper of record recently hosted a roundtable discussion about the validity of college rankings without soliciting the opinion of a single student. That was silly (and kind of embarrassing). But this morning’s column by long-time op-ed columnist Joe Nocera (title: “The College Rankings Racket”) is even sillier:

The U.S. News & World Report’s annual college rankings came out earlier this month and — knock me over with a feather! — Harvard and Princeton were tied for first.

Followed by Yale.

Followed by Columbia.

It’s not that these aren’t great universities. But c’mon. Can you really say with any precision that Princeton is “better” than Columbia? That the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (No. 6) is better than the California Institute of Technology (No. 10)? That Tufts (No. 28) is better than Brandeis (No. 33)?

Of course not. U.S. News likes to claim that it uses rigorous methodology, but, honestly, it’s just a list put together by magazine editors. The whole exercise is a little silly. Or rather, it would be if it weren’t so pernicious.

Regardless of what you or we think about the rankings, Nocera is making a fairly huge error by taking imprecision as evidence of invalidity—a logical fallacy based on a very, very, very old paradox. The fact that rankings are imprecise does not mean, by itself, that they are invalid indicators of a school’s relative worth. His rhetorical comparison of Princeton vs. Columbia (and MIT vs. Caltech, and Tufts vs. Brandeis) proves this nicely: if, as Nocera claims, any school in a ranked list cannot be meaningfully distinguished from its near neighbors, then you arrive at the conclusion that Harvard is no “better” than any other school. Which is derisible.

Read the rest of this entry »

The New York Times Quoted Non-Existent Cornell Students for Trend Piece [UPDATED]

UPDATE (9/28, 6 PM): NYT editor Stuart Emmrich provides a statement to the Washington Post:

Courtney Rubin, who has written several pieces for Styles in the past year, has proven herself to be a thorough and reliable reporter, and nothing about the unfortunate incident at Cornell changes that fact. Moreover, as the editor, I probably should have realized that, in a state where the drinking age is 21, there was a likelihood that some people hanging out in a college bar might be underage and prone to lying about it. We pressed Courtney to make sure she only quoted people who were legally there — and, in fact, several people in the bar admitted as much to her, and thus were not included in the article. It never occurred to me that some patrons would not only let their fake names be published, but would also do so while having their pictures taken. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened.

UPDATE (9/27, 1:45 PM): The Times article now carries an Editors’ Note:

After the article was published, questions were raised by the blog IvyGate about the identities of six Cornell students quoted in the article or shown in an accompanying photo.

None of the names provided by those students to a reporter and photographer for The Times — Michelle Guida, Vanessa Gilen, Tracy O’Hara, John Montana, David Lieberman and Ben Johnson — match listings in the Cornell student directory, and The Times has not subsequently been able to contact anyone by those names.

The Times says it “should have worked to verify the students’ identities independently before quoting or picturing them for the article.”

UPDATE (5 AM): To summarize everything below: a bunch of Cornell students trolled the New York Times, providing a contributor and a photographer with fake names on two separate occasions. They seem to have done this because they were not old enough to drink. (The Cornell Daily Sun has a few more details.) Our post and headline should have been clearer about who made what up: that it was the six students, not the Times contributor or photographer, who provided fake names.

UPDATE (12:15 AM): We just got off the phone with Courtney Rubin, the article’s reporter, who took issue—rightly—with this post’s characterization of her article. We did not intend to suggest that Rubin invented or otherwise fabricated the names in question. It seems clear that the individuals described provided the reporter with fake names because they were underage. We regret any confusion this caused, and any unwarranted criticism against Rubin it occasions.

UPDATE (12:05 AM): The article’s author has emailed IvyGate:

Wow. Of all the reaction I expected, this wasn’t it — I’m truly shocked and upset. I spoke to all four of the women mentioned in the lede and one of them even told me she didn’t want her name used, so I didn’t quote her.

I’ve just now gotten off the phone with The Cornell Daily Sun, whose research suggests these women were underage and so gave me fake names. Obviously I can’t explain why they wouldn’t just decline to give me names in the first place — or decline to be interviewed full stop — but I certainly didn’t make them up.

As for the photograph, it was taken on a different evening from the day I did my reporting (Sept 12), and I was not there when it was taken.

A few hours ago The New York Times published a Trend Piece™ about Cornell’s bar scene. Among reporter Courtney Rubin’s discoveries:

Cool is irrelevant when you have arrived at a bar at the insanely early hour of just after 9 p.m. on a Wednesday, in the company of a fraternity “most of us wouldn’t go to a mixer with,” said Michelle Guida, 21, fiddling with her orange Hermès bracelet and gathering three straws to drink from simultaneously. “But it’s their bar tab,” said Vanessa Gilen, also 21, who did not look up from her iPhone as she sipped and texted furiously.

One problem: Neither Guida nor Gilen, identified by the Times as Cornell seniors, actually exist. Nor does Tracy O’Hara, another “Cornell senior.” None of their names appear in Cornell’s online student directory. (Link, link, link.)

Even worse: The caption for the picture below—referencing “Cornell seniors” John Montana, David Lieberman, and Ben Johnson—contains zero real names.

We cannot wait to read the correction on this one.

With reporting by Peter Jacobs

Here Are The Three Paragraphs A Columbia Spectator Editor Plagiarized From The New York Times

UPDATE: Jade Bonacolta has been fired from The Spectator for plagiarism.

Earlier today, we reported on a Columbia Spectator article that had a suspiciously similar lede to a certain other paper’s coverage of the same topic: the university’s acquisition of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s archives. Since then, The Spectator has removed the article in question and replaced it with an Editor’s note confirming that at least three paragraphs in the story “were largely identical” to ones in The New York Times aka the Grey Lady aka the national newspaper of record. (The full text of the now removed Spectator article can be found at the end of this post.)

To make matters worse, the Columbia student — Jade Bonacolta, a Spectator associate arts and entertainment editor — stole the material from New York Times writer Robin Pogrebin: a Yalie. This is just like Jonah Lehrer ripping off Fareed Zakaria, amiright?

Presented below are the three plagiarized Spectator paragraphs alongside their original New York Times source material:


“Frank Lloyd Wright was notorious for saving everything, from his personal correspondence to scribbles on Plaza Hotel napkins. Since Wright’s death in 1959, these relics have been locked in storage.”

New York Times:

“The Modernist architect Frank Lloyd Wright wasn’t a hoarder. But he did save just about everything — whether a doodle on a Plaza Hotel cocktail napkin of an imagined city on Ellis Island, his earliest pencil sketch of the spiraling Guggenheim Museum or a model of Broadacre City, his utopian metropolis. Since Wright’s death in 1959 those relics have been locked in storage at his former headquarters —Taliesin, in Spring Green, Wis., and Taliesin West, in Scottsdale, Ariz.”


“Among the University’s future collection are the famous original drawings for Wright’s Fallingwater, a home designed amid a rushing stream in Pennsylvania, and the Robie House, a Prairie-style building on the campus of the University of Chicago.”

New York Times:

Among the gems in that material are drawings for Wright’s Fallingwater, a home cantilevered over a stream in Mill Run, Pa.; the Robie House, a Prairie-style building on the University of Chicago campus; Unity Temple, a Unitarian Universalist church in Oak Park, Ill.; and Taliesin West.”


“‘While Wright is typically thought of as a lonely genius, you move him into the Museum of Modern Art, and he’s dialoguing with Le Corbusier in the company of Mies van der Rohe, Alvar Aalto, and Louis Kahn,’ said Barry Bergdoll, chief curator of architecture and design at the MoMA.”

New York Times:

“While Wright is typically thought of as ‘a lonely genius,’ Mr. Bergdoll said, ‘you move him into the Museum of Modern Art, and he’s dialoguing with Le Corbusier in the company of Mies van der Rohe, Alvar Aalto and Louis Kahn.’”

There you have it. And not only did Bonacolta lift basically full sentences from The New York Times, she went a step further and took a full direct quote from someone she most likely never even spoke to and changed it. Fact: if it’s not in quotation marks, they probably didn’t say those words.

Click through for the full text of the original Spectator story. Read the rest of this entry »

New York Times Reveals ‘Ivy League or Bust’ Attitude at Top NYC School, As Told By Future Brown Student

Stuyvesant High School in New York City is known for being one of the top public schools in the county, but lately has been receiving some not so hot press for a cheating scandal that was uncovered last month. As the New York Times reports, the school found that a Stuyvesant student was taking cell phone pictures of tests and sending them, along with answers, to other students as the test was going on. So why did these high schoolers break the rules? To join the Ivy League.

Recent Stuyvesant grad Benjamin Koatz tells the Times that “when a couple of points can make the difference in getting into an Ivy League school, ‘then there is an incentive there.’”

Many students, Koatz says, come from families that tell their kids: ‘Ivy League school or bust.” In his words, at Stuyvesant, “you either go to an Ivy League school or you haven’t lived up to your potential.”

Just don’t tell that to the “more than 80 students” who applied to M.I.T., the damn underachievers.

Not Koatz though. He lived up to his potential. He’s going to Brown.

Cool, So Now We’re Stringing for the New York Times

Speaking of originality! The New York Times, on Friday:

Wall Street’s allure may have dimmed for some of America’s sharpest young minds in recent years, but a quick look at the top of Dartmouth College’s class of 2012 shows that the appeal seems to remain strong. At its commencement on Sunday, Dartmouth recognized four valedictorians who graduated with perfect 4.0 grade-point averages. Three are headed to work on Wall Street at major investment banks, and one will go to the giant business consulting firm that advises them.

A mere five days earlier, on a random blog:

Dartmouth Has Four Valedictorians, and All of Them Will Be Working for Wall Street (and McKinsey)

HMM. Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Labor Day! (You Will Be Poor, and Jobless, Forever)

As we enjoy what remains of this fine national holiday, we consider our futures, which don’t seem likely to involve “banking” or “publishing” or “being employed,” in the same way they used to. Just not realistic in this market, you know? Case in point: Rather than advance their careers, recent Ivy alumni are settling into a new role in society — that of waifish young rabble.

From The New York Times:

“You don’t expect someone who just spent four years in Ivy League schools to be on food stamps,” said [Stephanie] Morales [Dartmouth ’09], who estimates that a half-dozen of her friends are on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. A few are even helping younger graduates figure out how to apply. “We are passing on these traditions on how to work in the adult world as working poor,” Ms. Morales said. [Emphasis added, because really.]

BUT! There’s still hope! Read the rest of this entry »