December 5, 2020, 6:56

As Trump takes aim at affirmative action, let’s remember how Jared Kushner got into Harvard

As Trump takes aim at affirmative action, let’s remember how Jared Kushner got into Harvard

The Trump administration’s views on affirmative action are back in the news. The New York Times reported this week that the administration would rescind Obama-era guidelines on ways in which colleges could legally consider race as a factor in admissions. But as Vox’s Libby Nelson writes, the real action will be in the Supreme Court, with Trump set to replace Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote on the matter — setting the stage for a potential ruling to restrict the use of race in admissions nationwide.

Still, in conversations and debates over just who gets a leg up in university admissions, the tale of how senior White House adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner got into Harvard is an instructive one.

Of course few will be surprised that Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner, a wealthy and connected developer and political donor, helped him get in. But the details of just how that happened, described in Daniel Golden’s thoroughly reported 2007 book The Price of Admission, remain remarkable to this day.

What Golden found, essentially, was that Jared’s father handed Harvard (a school he did not attend) a big pile of money just as Jared was starting to apply to colleges. Around the same time, Jared’s dad got his US senator to contact another US senator to arrange a chat with Harvard’s dean of admissions.

Happily for the Kushner family, Jared was then admitted. But several officials at Jared’s high school outright told Golden that they found the choice puzzling, since his grades and academic record really didn’t seem to merit it:

Golden goes on to describe the role of the two senators — Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts — in getting Charles Kushner in touch with Harvard’s dean of admissions:

You can read more detail in Golden’s book, but overall the saga is a rather remarkable peek behind the curtain at just how the admissions process can be twisted to the benefit of the wealthy.


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