The disastrous, continuously unraveling debacle at UNC-Chapel Hill illustrates an essential principle of academic admissions all officers of that role should vigilantly defend: Abide by the standards, and beware of anyone – outside the institution, but especially those inside – seeking an exception.
This isn’t to say one should not allow variability in the selection and interpretation of performance indicators, but rather, whenever someone deliberately chooses to ignore the portents to failure the academic indicators suggest, it’s safe to conclude that same someone is seeking something wholly unrelated to the prospective student’s education, which is the rightful core and nonnegotiable purpose of the school. Stated bluntly, the would-be student is being used.
As a rule, exceptions to admission criteria net poor outcomes; worst of all, they net more exceptions. They pave the way to a culture of creeping compromise and mediocrity, where lowering the bar, even if only for one student, simply encourages that student and other more capable ones to under-perform. It bears repeating that the unremitting scandal at Carolina all began with a single exception.
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