Harvard not worried about accepting a student who scored 1270 on the SAT

Harvard starts the fall semester today.

From “Racist Comments Cost Conservative Parkland Student a Place at Harvard” (NYT, back in June):

Two other prominent Parkland student activists, Jaclyn Corin and David Hogg, both of them vocal proponents of tighter gun restrictions, are headed to Harvard this fall. Mr. Hogg, who is completing a gap year, garnered attention when he announced his acceptance last year after being rejected from other schools, including from California State University at Long Beach. On Monday, Mr. Kashuv’s defenders noted that Mr. Hogg had a 4.2 grade point average and scored 1270 on the SAT test, while Mr. Kashuv said in the interview that he had a 5.4 G.P.A., and a 1550 SAT score.

Leaving aside the rest of the story, it is interesting that Harvard isn’t concerned that someone with a mediocre SAT score of 1270 will have trouble with the academics.

[Separately, I wonder if the NYT can legitimately say that this teenager’s hyperbolic throwing around of some words for shock value is “racist”. It is the NYT itself that is constantly running stories on academic underachievement by Americans of one particular race.]

Related:

  • my review of Academically Adrift: colleges are, for the most part, indifferent to whether or not professors are effective teachers. To the extent that colleges work teaching quality into decisions about promotion and pay they do so by considering student evaluations. Which professors do students evaluate highest? Those who assign the least reading and give the highest grades (researched by Valen Johnson is cited). So every professor has a big incentive to make his or her class easy and to give every student an A.
  • my review of Higher Education?: Harvard undergrads give their professors C- on “classroom performance” and D on “outside-of-class availability”. Upset by the evidence that it was delivering a poor quality product, Harvard appointed a committee: “All but one of its members held endowed chairs … No junior faculty, no teaching assistants, and notably no students were invited to serve.”
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Artificial Intelligence and commercial sex purportedly intersect

For anyone who knew Marvin, “AI pioneer accused of having sex with trafficking victim on Jeffrey Epstein’s island” is a surprise.

Apparently Jeffrey Epstein was using some of the money that he stole to run Templeton Foundation-style scientific gatherings in the Caribbean (funded with money that John Templeton earned and then skipped paying taxes on by renouncing his U.S. citizenship and relocating to the Bahamas). A woman now says that, as a 17-year-old, she was paid to have sex with the then-73-year-old Marvin Minsky at one of these gatherings. (There does not seem to be any evidence the Marvin ever left the mainland U.S. to hang out with Epstein, though.)

In the 40+ years that I saw Marvin, at his office, at his home, and at conferences, he never once took notice of a young woman or commented on the appearance of a woman. He was simply not very interested in matters of the flesh.

On a more practical level, if Marvin had wanted to have sex with 17-year-olds, he could have done so legally in Massachusetts, in which the age of consent is 16. (Prostitution per se is illegal in Massachusetts, but it wouldn’t be illegal for an older person to supply a young sex partner with gifts of jewelry, housing, transportation, vacation trips, etc. (though the real money would be in a pregnancy followed by harvesting the unlimited child support cash available under Massachusetts law)) There were also quite a few graduate students who had sexual relationships with successful academics and, lo and behold, found that the path to a tenure-track professorship was wide open. There was never any hint or rumor around Marvin of a sex-for-career-advancement exchange (or any other kind of affair).

Ever since Stormy Daniels dominated the mainstream media, I guess it isn’t surprising that people whose job is having sex in exchange for money are newsworthy. But if they’re claiming that they were paid to have sex with those who are deceased, and there is no evidence to support these claims, should reporters be broadcasting these tales? This is the first one about someone that I know personally and it rings false.

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Harvard Economics professor beats the sexual harassment rap

“Star Economist at Harvard Faces Sexual Harassment Complaints” (NYT, Dec 14, 2018):

Before he turned 40, Roland G. Fryer Jr. had earned tenure at Harvard, received a MacArthur “genius” grant and won the most prestigious award for young American economists. He stoked a national debate by concluding that police officers show no bias in the shootings of black men.

But his rapid ascent has taken a troubling turn as Harvard officials review a university investigator’s conclusion that Dr. Fryer fostered a work environment hostile to women, one filled with sexual talk and bullying.

The findings, reviewed by The New York Times, found that Dr. Fryer had engaged in “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” toward four women who worked in the Harvard-affiliated research lab he created. In one case, his “persistent and pervasive” conduct contributed to stress that resulted in the accuser’s taking disability leave, the investigator found.

I.e., things were so bad that someone had to be paid for not working.

Cash and sex go together in economics research…

Now 41, he is one of Harvard’s best-paid faculty members, earning more than $600,000, the university’s 2016 tax filing shows. He has brought at least $33.6 million in grants to the university, according to a résumé on his Harvard web page.

Dr. Fryer told a Harvard investigator that any sexual banter in his office was related to his research and “in the spirit of academic freedom.”

Seven months have gone by. Has the guy disappeared? The Harvard web site suggests he is still on the payroll. How is that possible? Nobel Prize winners have been disappeared for far less (e.g., Tim Hunt).

“Complainant Withdrew Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination Complaint Against Harvard Prof. Roland Fryer” (Harvard Crimson, April 23, 2019):

A Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination investigation into whether Economics Professor Roland G. Fryer, Jr. sexually harassed and retaliated against a former female employee concluded in February by agreement of the parties, according to documents obtained by The Crimson. … The MCAD closed its investigation after the complainant’s lawyer, Monica R. Shah, signed the withdrawal form on Feb. 4. On the form, Shah indicated that the complainant had reached a “satisfactory settlement” with Harvard, Fryer, and Allan.

I.e., cash was the magic solution for the professor in a discipline that says most problems can be fixed with cash…

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Should state taxpayers subsidize state-run universities?

Federal taxpayers provide massive subsidies to all universities via the guaranteed student loan scam.

In addition to this river of cash, state taxpayers have traditionally paid to subsidize state-run universities via free land, tax exemptions, and direct cash from the general budget.

Alaska is trying to cut off the second stream of subsidy: “University Of Alaska Readies For Budget Slash: ‘We May Likely Never Recover'” (NPR).

A Facebook friend who gets a guaranteed (tenured) paycheck from a private university posted the following:

This is mind-boggling, almost inconceivable: the Alaska state government is essentially trying to shutter the state’s premier university by defunding it. Please sign the petition! It seems to be putting the pressure on! If this goes forward, 2,500 faculty and staff will be laid off, over 20,000 students will have their educational paths derailed, public libraries will be closed, ESL teachers let go, etc. etc. etc. And all this carnage to help a rightwing ideologue fulfill his campaign pledge to his base to raise the annual dividend by $1200.

She was seeking people to visit change.org and sign a petition (always safe for someone who lives in Manhattan or Boston to demand that folks in Alaska pay higher taxes!):

Shouldn’t folks who are against income inequality also be against taxpayer-subsidized university education (and therefore support this governor’s initiative)? A university graduate will earn more than the median taxpayer. From the perspective of someone passionate about equality, why does it make sense to tax median earners to subsidize people who are primarily above-median earners (either because they work for the university or will be getting a degree and getting the higher wages that college graduates earn)?

She responded with the kind of winning argument that keeps American academics at the forefront of worldwide intellectual debate:

You’re a troll Philip. It’s never worth engaging with you.

But now I am curious. If people are against inequality, how can they be in favor of this traditional welfare program for high earners? Since college students tend to be disproportionately children of college graduates, isn’t a university a means of perpetuating privilege?

Of course they could simply say “We have PhDs and want market-clearing salaries for PhD employees to be higher. We’d like to see above-median earners trimmed back, but not above-median earners who have PhDs.” But that is not typically the argument.

[Separately, folks who work for universities often say that they are “underpaid”. If so, why the hysteria over being potentially laid off? Why would it be bad to get a new job at a market-clearing wage if the university has been paying below market considering all of the pluses and minuses of the job?]

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11-year-olds in college

Every now and then someone is impressed that I graduated college on the younger side. I would respond by pointing out that Sho Yano got his Ph.D. at age 18 and an M.D. at 21.

Cal State Los Angeles, it seems, has set up a factory for producing kids like Sho Yano: “A sixth-grader was sick of coloring. So she skipped six grades to attend Cal State L.A.” (LA Times):

With that, Mia left Crescent Elementary in Anaheim. She studied at home for the rest of the year — and then, at age 12, jumped six grade levels to enter Cal State Los Angeles as a freshman last fall.

While the admissions scandal has transfixed the nation’s attention on elite universities such as UCLA and USC, the school of choice for many whiz kids like Mia is Cal State L.A.

For nearly four decades, the campus has provided a haven where children who are academically gifted and socially mature can bypass years of boring classwork and surge ahead. Cal State L.A. is the only university in California — and one of only a handful across the country — with a program to admit students as young as 11.

The article notes that California has limited options for gifted and talented programs within its K-12 public schools. But Massachusetts doesn’t have anything at all!

Maybe you don’t want to be a father:

The family lives in Camarillo, but Shanti and Sathya stay with their father, Ramesh Raminani, at a hotel near campus during the week. He drops them off at school, drives two hours to his pharmacy business and two hours back to pick them up. … All told, Raminani drives 200 miles a day and spends $20,000 a year on hotels on top of the roughly $12,000 in annual tuition for both children.

Why is this guy being hit with tuition bills? His children would be eligible for a free education at the local state-funded public school. Until they turn 18, why can’t they take at least whatever the state would have spent on them in K-12 and use that to offset the tuition charges? Shouldn’t a family be entitled to 13 years of taxpayer-funded schooling per child? (Maybe Elizabeth Warren will fix this!)

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Elizabeth Warren’s student loan forgiveness idea is flawed…

… because it doesn’t go far enough!

Economists have found that most of the benefits of subsidized federal student loans went to colleges, which used the money to overpay administrators (how do we know they’re overpaid? look at the quit rate!).

Colleges seem to charge students however much they think a family can cough up. When the Feds added guaranteed and/or subsidized loans, colleges just raised their prices. Students did not receive a better education because they paid more. The extra money was used for more administrative bloat and higher salaries for existing administrators.

Instead of merely forgiving student loans that haven’t yet been paid off, what would be fair is if the government admitted this was a welfare scheme for universities and, in addition to forgiving unpaid loans, refunded all payments made under these ill-advised programs.

Readers: Is it time to admit that the government helped universities fleece American families and give back the stolen money?

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Don’t hire American college graduates (says Harvard Business School)

“Dismissed by Degrees; How degree inflation is undermining U.S. competitiveness and hurting America’s middle class” (Harvard Business School) is a 2017 report recently brought to my attention by a reader.

It is worth reading because it corroborates the minimal improvement in skills described in books such as Academically Adrift (my review). Today’s typical college graduate doesn’t perform much better on tests of general research/thinking/writing than he or she did on finishing high school. HBS:

The results of our survey were consistent across
many industries—employers pay more, often
significantly more, for college graduates to do jobs
also filled by non-degree holders without getting
any material improvement in productivity.

Results vary by major, but our funding and investment in college educations is, unlike Chile’s, not conditional on major.

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Should Californians who bribe other Californians have to fly to Boston to be prosecuted?

One thing that I haven’t figured out in the college bribery case (see https://philip.greenspun.com/blog/2019/03/13/admissions-fraud-layered-on-top-of-the-existing-american-college-fraud/ and https://philip.greenspun.com/blog/2019/03/20/college-bribery-scandal-is-evidence-of-social-mobility/) is why the defendants are having to fly to Boston to be prosecuted by the Federal government.

Consider an actress who lives in Los Angeles, California and is alleged to have bribed a ringleader who lives in Newport Beach, California, to get a child into University of Southern California. I’ve just finished listening to a lecture series on the Founding Fathers and I don’t think any of them would have imagined the California resident having to travel out of state to be prosecuted.

Suppose that everyone can agree that the alleged actions are crimes. Why are they federal crimes?

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Scientists identifying as women are held back by men, but won’t gather in their own institute

“‘I Want What My Male Colleague Has, and That Will Cost a Few Million Dollars’; Women at the Salk Institute say they faced a culture of marginalization and hostility. The numbers from other elite scientific institutions suggest they’re not alone.” (New York Times) is about three elderly biologists who are suing their employer for gender discrimination after they were replaced with younger employees, purportedly due to their failure to raise sufficient grant money.

Life is great if you’re a scientist identifying as a man:

Some current and former Salk employees identified Wylie Vale, Ron Evans, Stephen Heinemann and Rusty Gage as the men who, along with Verma, seemed to enjoy extraordinary resources and status (though only Verma was mentioned in the lawsuits). These men, titans in their fields, spoke often at faculty retreats, and on milestone birthdays would reign over symposia in their honor.

If anyone typified the male “rock star” scientists said to have held sway over the Salk, it was Verma. As of 2015, he was the Institute’s highest-paid scientist

The Institute’s 2015 Form 990 shows that the purported superstar male scientist, Inder Verma, raked in total comp of about $437,000, i.e., about half of what a dermatologist running a cosmetic laser clinic in the neighborhood might earn. (The article also shows that Verma’s career was ended by accusations of sexual harassment, something that would have required a lot more work to achieve to inflict on a dermatologist running his or her own clinic.)

The article definitely shows the superiority of medicine as a career to science (see “Women in Science” for more on this topic), for humans of all gender IDs. By getting their jobs at Salk Institute, these women were among the most successful scientists of their generation. Yet their earnings were much lower than what a medical specialist could obtain, their years of earning were cut short involuntarily, and they had limited choices regarding where in the U.S. to live and work.

From my comment on the article:

There are great biology research institutions all around the world, at least some of which are run by people who currently identify as women. If there are great scientists who identify as women who are being held back at male-run places, why wouldn’t they simply move to the female-run places and accomplish their world-changing research there? The NYT informs us that women can be hired for 70 percent of the cost of equally qualified men. So the female-run and female-staffed science labs should have a huge edge over competitors. (One part of the article that rings true is that success in academic science is all about the Benjamins!)

[Response from a virtuous reader: “Sigh. I am weary. … Some humans who identify as men will never get it.” Yet if men are so generally clueless, how is it that at least a few have been credited with some scientific discoveries? Nearly all of those who “get it” are women, but a handful of outlier males “got it” and were sufficiently observant to function in science? Or behind every credited man there is the woman from whom he stole everything? (see Katherine Clerk Maxwell, for example, the likely true developer of Maxwell’s Equations, or Rosalind Franklin, to whom all credit for DNA structure should go)]

There should be no shortage of female-identifying labor. The article says “the biological sciences are one of the only scientific fields in which women earn more than half the doctoral degrees.” (but maybe a lot of them change their gender ID to male after graduation in order to soak up the privileges that are reserved to male scientists?)

Readers: In a world that funds science more lavishly than at any time in history and in which changing institutions is as easy as getting on an Airbus, why wouldn’t the brilliant female scientists gather in their own institute and crank out the Nobel prizes?

[Top-rated comment by NYT readers:

How many diseases have gone uncured, how many scientific discoveries not made, because men’s priority is their own power, and do anything and everything to hold on to that power and keep women down? They will never give us equality voluntarily.

Isn’t this a great argument for a women-only research?]

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No statute of limitations for accused academics

David Marchant, still a geologist, but no longer a Boston University employee, has learned what my friend who teaches at University of California explained: “I can be fired for any reason… except incompetence.” (Science Mag)

The alleged unkind words and actions toward three people occurred in the late 1990s (2017 Science Mag article), but no complaints were made until October 2016 (at least 17 years after the alleged facts).

Had these aggrieved individuals wanted to sue former Professor Marchant, they would generally have had to do so within three years (Massachusetts law) of the events.

(Separately, the accused geologist seems to be a bit of a skeptic regarding climate change catastrophe. He is co-author of a paper telling people not to worry about the East Antarctic Ice Sheet melting and leading to a 60 meter rise in sea level. The Ice Sheet has been around for 14 million years, the paper says, and thus has survived some very warm periods indeed.)

Even if we assume that we can establish 20-year-old facts to perfect accuracy, should there be a statute of limitations for this kind of situation? We could say that what Dr. Marchant (his Ph.D. hasn’t been rescinded yet!) allegedly did was like murder and it can’t be forgiven so we need to punish him even though he might have changed completely during the intervening years. Or we could say that people do evolve over a period of two decades so we want to consider only accusations regarding reasonably recent behavior.

What if, for example, Dr. Marchant had changed gender ID between 1999 and 2019? Would it still make sense to get rid of her on the theory that her presence made it difficult for women?

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