For prestigious universities and even many private secondary schools, philanthropic donations have a long tradition.
They are typically driven by gratitude for what the institution contributed to one's life and, not infrequently, are meant as a soft bribe for allowing children or other family members to gain admission. But what happens when educational institutions use donor drives to help themselves avoid "value pricing" their various degrees? The question matters for a simple reason: Should a major in sociology or gender studies cost the same as one in semiconductor engineering?
We don't think so.
Often in response to demands from the woke Left, schools are diverting resources away from the fundamental educational purpose of providing the knowledge base and skills for graduates to succeed in some productive pursuit. Tuition costs are ballooning from the bloating of school administrations with diversity officers, faculty counselors, and others. This is a huge contributor to student debt and a detriment to the quality of education.
Mission corruption also comes from a single-minded effort to achieve "diversity" in admissions. This risks diluting the quality of the student body, which, in turn, underutilizes teaching assets. SATs and other admission selection measures are being dropped in favor of ethnic and race-based admissions formulas. Moreover, distorted admissions criteria result in some snubbed students with great potential being deprived of the educational opportunities they deserve.
This trend is trickling down to secondary education. Oregon is dropping its high school proficiency requirements (devaluing diplomas), Seattle is killing its gifted student programs, and New York City has debated eliminating the merit-based tests for its legendary specialized high schools.
The real question then becomes: Why should donors continue to support institutions that have strayed so far from the values they remember with affection?
This is especially poignant for preeminent institutions that have fallen prey to woke ideology. The most academically elite schools should be training future leaders in all fields of endeavor, including STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), business, law, government, academia, and public service. This demands selectivity, the pursuit of excellence, even at the expense of diversity. International competitors such as the University of Tokyo, the Indian Institute of Technology, the ETH Zurich, and other counterparts have shown no inclination to reject the best students in the name of some woke social movement.
In summary, by funding it, loyal, well-meaning alumni are abetting this downward spiral. We need fervent anti-giving campaigns to force institutions to rethink their priorities, stick to their mission, value-price their products, and strive for excellence.
Andrew I. Fillat spent his career at technology venture capital and information technology companies. He is also the co-inventor of relational databases. Henry I. Miller is a physician and molecular biologist. They were undergraduates together at MIT.