CLOVIS -- I was happy to receive
a letter from an old university professor friend of mine this week. In the course
of the letter he let me in on his insight about his academic career. He's now
at an Ivy League college in Boston.
He writes that he owes his success to the G. I. Bill,
"...as the beneficiary of [an admissions] bias favoring males..." he was
able attended Brooklyn College and subsequently become a recipient of a
graduate fellowship to Princeton University.
"All, that set in motion," he writes, "another
professor who befriended me by recommending me to the National Bureau of Economic
Research, where I was then hired as a research assistant. Later, during
those days, and mostly on the glamour of my short stay at the Bureau, I was hired
to teach economics at Rutgers University at New Brunswick."
He recalled,"The shortage of teachers, more
than individual merit, propelled me into securing my first full-time academic
"It was several years later," he says, "when
found a position at Syracuse University, where a friend in the sociology
department championed my interest. I became a full professor, purely on merit.
At Syracuse he received a grant from the Ford Foundation
that took him to New York City, where, with the help of a few friends with clout,
he obtained a position at New York University.
The professor provides further examples of career moves
where "...connections made the difference." All this success in academe has brought
a keen insight to my friend and a sparing bit of philosophy, as well. "To
create a truly meritocratic society,." he writes,"we would need to
look more closely at what standards for judging people are actually used."
He asks me the final question, "If decisions
will always come in part through social capital and networks, how do we ensure
that the poor, the minority, the disadvantaged, get into the loop of the privileged?"
His logic cannot be faulted. The institutional
integrity of higher education amply described in his letter presents a moral thicket.
He is still waiting for my reply.
Letter to the Editor
©2001 Clovis Free Press. All rights reserved.