A Harvard Money Manager Suggests an Honest Auction for Elite College Seats in Place of the Current Dishonest One.

Let’s bring a cold sharp Chicago School of Economics eye to the big ol’ worldwide elite college admissions scandal.

Ladies and gentlemen: To my left, a large cohort of global superrich so irresistibly attracted to Harvard, Stanford, Yale, and let’s say ten to fifteen other colleges, that they are willing to pay the schools – what? – up to ten million? – bidding starts at ten million? – to get their kids in.

To my right, elite American universities with unimaginably large endowments. As we speak, for instance, Harvard’s is close to forty billion.

Hundreds of billions of dollars that might go to actual need sit static in the titanic endowments of our elite schools. What is the schools’ interest in this new proposed auction?

Well, they want more. Twenty, thirty, forty billion dollars: not enough. They bombard their graduates with pleas to make big yearly gifts; they scream bloody murder if you propose upping their taxes a tad; they talk poor all the time.

(By the way – these schools are not simply victims of their own success, but also of the world’s failure. Keep in mind that most countries – even rich sexy developed ones like Italy – have almost uniformly shitty and corrupt universities. I assume you already know this, but as a reminder: If you open up places at truly great, storied schools for auction — as one of Harvard’s money managers has proposed — you’re going to get a flood of spectacular bids from almost every country in the world. Beats there a Colombian drug lord’s heart so weak as not to want Isabel at Yale?)

It’s already pretty hard to distinguish between Princeton and Gstaad; once the auction is up and running you’re going to create enclaves of such landmark ostentation that a tourism industry will grow around them, generating yet more millions for the schools. Instead of Don DeLillo’s South Bronx Surreal poverty-voyeurism bus tour, Princeton by Copter will waft you – in the superrich’s favorite mode of transportation – over the leafy bejeweled campus.

Mrs Zhao’s Deep Pockets Chinese Pizza


$6.5 million

Michael Wu

Rick Singer



Vincent Law, Esq.


John Hammergren’s a Folkloric Figure Here at University Diaries…

… (read all of these posts to refresh your memory) and he’s just beginning to claim his share of the attention he deserves from the larger world. But we need to be patient; he remains — despite having been rewarded with seven hundred million dollars in personal compensation over ten years for addicting much of the state of West Virginia — parenthetic.

For most businesses, $150 million [in fines] would be a lot of money. At McKesson, it was less than the $159 million retirement package the company granted its longtime chief executive, John H. Hammergren, in 2013. (After a public backlash — a Forbes headline asked if it was “The World’s Most Outrageous Pension Deal?” — the company later reduced the package to $114 million.)

PARENTHESIS $114 million? And why not mention that this, er, specimen sits on the board of the Center for Strategic and International Stupefacients, bringing his knowledge of drug distribution to global thinking at the highest levels? There’s a lot to say about John Hammergren. But people seem willing to wait until he gets arrested (think it can’t happen?) to say it. Here on University Diaries, we’re saying it now.

Some nice writing about the admissions scandal.

All this malfeasance has led to the creation of a 200-page affidavit, and a bevy of other court documents, that can best be described as a kind of posthumous Tom Wolfe novella, one with a wide cast of very rich people behaving in such despicable ways that it makes The Bonfire of the Vanities look like The Pilgrim’s Progress.

The whole article’s good, and the last few paragraphs are very explicitly Wolfe-ish, in style and content. Here’s one:

All she wanted was an even playing field for her rich, white daughter! All she wanted was a few hundred SAT points so the girl didn’t get lost in the madness that has made college admissions so stressful, so insane, so broken, so unfair. “We’re talking about Georgetown,” Macy informed Singer about their hopes for their younger daughter. Fortunately for them, and for the younger daughter—and possibly for Georgetown itself—they had not employed him to work on this goal before the indictments were handed down. Fortunately for Macy (who seems to have taken a modified Parent B position), only Huffman has been indicted in the scheme.

Should come as no surprise that many of us are thinking of Wolfe, “the sage of status anxiety.”

Harvarde: En Garde!

How could Harvard not be part of the buy your kid into college story? The first story out of Harvard (expect more) is definitely classier, and un petit peu more convoluted, than the fork over money to the guy pretending to be a college admissions consultant dealie we’ve been reading about. This one’s about fencing, a sport which boasts lots of French words and is featured in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice. But it has in common with many other admissions scandal stories what I’ll call the sports vector. You get the kid in by greasing the already sweaty palm of an Ivy coach in some sport or other: soccer, tennis, water polo, basketball, and now fencing. Once he or she has collected enough money from you, the coach puts your kid’s name on a short list of desired athletes, which the admit office rubber stamps.

The complicated money-delivery angle here is that the palm-greaser bought the coach’s house for twice its value:

The house at 212 Forest Street in Needham, Massachusetts looked nearly identical to every other upper-middle-class colonial in the Boston suburbs. So when it sold in May 2016 at nearly a million dollars – well above the three-bedroom’s assessed value of $549,300 – the town assessor was so confused that he wrote in his official notes: “makes no sense.”

Reporting from the Boston Globe now provides a little more clarity into the not-so-rational purchase. According to the paper, the buyer, Jie Zhao – who “never lived a day in the Needham house” – had a son who was interested in applying to Harvard and fencing for the school team. Zhao purchased the home at a several hundred-thousand-dollar markup from Harvard’s fencing coach, Peter Brand. Zhao’s son got into Harvard, and joined the fencing team, and 17 months after his initial purchase, Zhao sold the house at a $324,500 loss.

A true Composé Attack, incorporating many elegant feints.


UPDATE: And there’s a local angle! Looks as though the world’s most nonsensical real estate investor lives just a hop skip and a parry from UD, in Potomac, Md.

In one end out the other

[A]s the country’s addiction crisis worsened, the Sacklers spied another business opportunity. They could increase their profits by selling treatments for the very problem their company had helped to create: addiction to opioids. ..

The business potential of adding addiction treatment to the mix was illustrated in internal company charts and diagrams.

“Pain treatment and addiction are naturally linked,” one Project Tango document, included in the New York complaint, said. It depicted a big blue funnel. The fat end was labeled “pain treatment”; the narrow end was labeled “opioid addiction treatment.”

The company, the document said, could make money at both ends of the funnel as an “end-to-end pain provider.”


Sing it.

Smack and treatment smack and treatment
They go together in a way that’s sequent
This I tell you brother
You can’t have one without the other

Smack and treatment, smack and treatment
It’s a business plan we plan to frequent
Ask the local gentry
And they will say it’s elementary

Try, try, try to separate them
It’s an illusion
Try, try, try, and you will only come
To this conclusion

Smack and treatment smack and treatment

Have a flavor that Purdue finds piquant
Brother told to brother
You can’t have one you can´t have none
You can’t have one without the other

Try, try, try to separate them
It’s an illusion
Try, try, try, and you will only come
To this conclusion

Smack and treatment smack and treatment
They go together … well, enough repeatment
Brother told to brother
You can’t have one, you can´t have none
You can’t have one without the other
No sir

When the going gets tough, Tufts…

… just keeps going. That university doesn’t see why it should shut down its lucrative Sackler money-collection project just because everyone else is shutting theirs down. As UD predicted, it’s hemming and hawing and hemming and hawing. And the Tufts-Sackler love affair looks significantly ickier than that family’s other alliances, because, like the University of Toronto before it, Tufts seems to have let Sackler money mess with its curriculum.

The Sackler family also funded the Master of Science in Pain Research, Education & Policy (PREP) degree program within the Sackler school…

In a powerful editorial, the Tufts student newspaper says what needs to be said.

Companies identified human pain as a source of perpetual profit and knowingly created addictive and lethal substances to exploit that opportunity. This act was the ultimate perversion of medicine, a corruption of the relationship of trust and care that ought to exist between healthcare workers and the sick. Tufts took money from a company and a family whose fortune was based on knowingly creating addicts and lying about it. Tufts is still willing to take money from them.

“We’re going to cheat like crazy.”

“Haha. I mean we’re going to fight like crazy.”

Because when you’ve got thirty billion dollars for a campus of fewer than 13,000 students, you need a rainy day fund.

“Notwithstanding their rhetoric about meritocracy, admissions offices already make the pragmatic compromises necessary to cultivate — and pay for — good scholarship.”

But it’s all falling apart! What will happen to Yale without that money?



Where the smack comes sweepin’ down the plain

Where the cowboys rope

Prescription dope

And it fucks so badly with your brain …

OOOOOOOklahoma! Every night my pharmacist and I

Sit alone and talk and watch a hawk

As we share the most amazing high…

We know we belong to the land

Of incessant controlled-sub demand

So when we say … Hey! The Sacklers just gave way!

We’re only saying you’re in a fix Oklahoma

Oklahoma nokay.


… calls time.

‘“Will we also see an interpretation of La Traviata in veils?” asked Federico Mollicone, a member of the parliamentary committee on culture, referring to the fact that Saudi women are required to wear a veil covering their faces in public.’

Well, “Traviata” makes perfect sense for the new Saudi-money-whore opera house La Scala, veils or no veils! And don’t forget Salome, which features SEVEN veils… Though La Scala’s new Saudi masters might not approve the dance sequence in that scene…

But ah shit ah fuck ah shaddup okay we’ll give back the money and we won’t let the Saudi guy buy himself a place on the board. Okay? Happy?

Desacklerizing: It Begins.

Now that you’ve addicted the poor and defenseless of America, you’re making aggressive plans to addict the poor and defenseless of China and India. The reward for that is cultural oblivion, which is exactly what you’re going to get.

‘There isn’t an abomination award going that you haven’t won.’

George, in UD‘s favorite play, is famous for having said this to Martha; but I think it does as well for the gathering storm that is Philip Esformes – a man who seems never to have seen a code law or rule he didn’t try to break.

And I’m sure Vanderbilt University’s not the only one.

Vanderbilt’s immune system worked: Scammers were unable to find anyone to bribe in order to admit the rancid rich.

Fact is, not all American universities are criminal in this way. Yale and University of Southern California certainly are: Both seem to offer multiple avenues of corrupt access. But there are other Vanderbilts out there, schools that avoid, among other things, hiring greedy shits to coach their students. (Along those lines: Did the University of Rhode Island not know why its new tennis coach was fired at Georgetown? How could they have hired the dude?) As this big-time story evolves, I think we’ll see more and more universities touting their … well, their legitimacy.

For the record: The more you monetize these non-profit settings – the more you look like, say, Yeshiva University, which spawned Madoff, Merkin, Rennert, and Wilf, the more bad actors you’re incubating across the entire system. People get the message, people! Look at the University of Louisville with its high-profile, highly-paid, low-lifes, from athletics to the office of the presidency. What do you think other people at the university, pondering this cast of characters, are going to conclude?

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