Posted in Writings
Published in Chronicle of Higher Education
In the late 1990s, I served as dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto. As Canada’s most selective law school, the competition for admission was fierce. Applicants were always in search of anything they could do to secure an advantage in the application process. In my position as dean, it was not uncommon for alumni whose children were applying to the school to approach me and inquire what kind of admissions bump those children would receive by virtue of being a legacy. The answer I gave was always the same: none whatsoever.
One encounter stands out. A prominent and philanthropic alumnus whose child had been denied admission to the school contacted me in the hope that I would reconsider the application. After all, he reasoned, his relationship with the school must mean something. As I had done in many similar situations, I explained that there were clear guardrails in place that fettered my capacity to reverse this decision. I simply had no ability to admit his child. Before our phone call ended, he said something that has been etched in my memory ever since: “If you really want to stand shoulder to shoulder with the great Ivy League law schools in the United States, you better start acting like one.”