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January 12, 2010 7:40 PM Well What Are Donations For, Anyway?

By Daniel Luzer

Cornell_logo.jpg

More slightly awkward news from the ivies. The Ithaca Journal reports that:

Eldred Harris, a former reunion campaign officer in the [Cornell University] Alumni Affairs and Development Office, is suing the university for $30,000 in overtime fees. Cornell officials allege in court documents that Harris said he had information about a supposed university admissions practice in which mediocre students were offered placement in return for large donations, and threatened in March 2008 to reveal it if a settlement was not reached.

Now obviously this issue an issue that remains unresolved and the truth is entirely debatable (Harris’s lawyer says the university is using the admissions issue to distract attention from the money his client is owed) but the nature of this debate seems odd.

Harris apparently threatened to release emails that outlined the donations-in-exchange-for-admissions plan. And this is extortion. The university would admit mediocre students in return for large contributions? Oh, the scandal. Isn’t that sort of thing fairly standard practice in legacy admissions?

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer