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Friday, October 25, 2013

Did Obama get into Harvard because he was a legacy?

Obama's father graduated from Harvard, thus making his son a legacy. About half of legacies who apply to Harvard get admitted. Obama admits to being a poor student at Occidental, which begs the question of how he got into Colombia.

Obama's other main claim to fame is that he was the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review. On Harvard Law's website, I found this:

"Membership in the Harvard Law Review is limited to second- and third-year law students who are selected on the basis of their performance on an annual writing competition."

It also says that a total of 46 students become editors each year. Interesting, because every time I read about Obama at Harvard, they make a big deal about him being an editor.  


Furthermore:

"Fourteen editors (two from each 1L section) are selected based on a combination of their first-year grades and their competition scores. Twenty editors are selected based solely on their competition scores. The remaining editors are selected on a discretionary basis. Some of these discretionary slots may be used to implement the Review's affirmative action policy.

Emphasis mine.  That's from this year. I don't know what it was years ago, but if anything, there were probably more discretionary slots. But suppose it was the same. 46 - (14+20) = 12. If Obama was one of those 12, it would appear that this achievement is not all it's cracked up to be. 


I would like to emphasize at this point that the only thing dumber than affirmative action is legacy admission. Obama may have benefited from both. I am much more impressed by achievements that have objective/measurable criteria, because that means the activity was not a suck-up/popularity contest. Getting into Harvard and becoming an editor look a lot like suck-up/popularity contests to me.  And for things like that, all it proves is that you are good at getting a person or a small group to like you. That's a useful skill but hardly extraordinary. I know because I've done it and so has everyone else who's ever gotten a job. 

I am tired of hearing about how Obama is brilliant because he went to Harvard and was an editor and graduated with honors. Why? Because anytime someone asks about his grades the immediate answer is that it was a long time ago and so doesn't matter. 

Let me show you how easy it would be to resolve this issue. My college GPA has come up a few times during job interviews and I never hesitate to reveal it. It's 3.78. See? Piece of cake. And I feel no need to hide it because it's pretty good. Ask anyone who majored in engineering and they'll tell you it's hard to keep a good GPA. If Obama is really proud of his academic achievements and earned them fairly, he has no reason to keep his grades secret.

I'm going to rip-off Bill Maher and make a new rule. New Rule: if boast about your Ivy League background, you must reveal how you got in and what grades you got. 

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