Columbia University, an Ivy League institution, has fired an admissions officer for failing to extend admissions to under-qualified foreign students, according to a recent article in the New York Post.
The motivation for the firing: The foreign students would be paying full-freight and, apparently, the university needed or wanted the money.
The official in question, who has filed a lawsuit against the university, is Yocasta Brens.
Brens said that she was not sure that the applicants in question would be, in fact, full-time students and was told to ignore their lack of credentials. The would-be students were from South Africa.
The conflict between admitting under-qualified students who can pay their own way and the desire to have only fully qualified students is an old one in academia, but usually does not reach the Ivy League, as it has in this case. At the bottom of the academic barrel there are plenty of institutions that routinely admit 100 percent of their applicants, skilled or unskilled, citizen or foreign, because that is the only way that these colleges can survive.
While Columbia has an endowment of more than $11 billion (Harvard has more than $40 billion), the finances of its many component parts presumably vary, with some elements in this huge school operating in the expensive environment of Manhattan better than others. In this case, the admissions dispute arose within Columbia’s Teachers College, which may need (or want) more money than it currently has.
Underlying this particular controversy is a fundamental point, not raised by the Post: In the U.S., unlike some other nations, the government plays only the most marginal role in the question of which aliens are admitted to our colleges and universities. If a university admits a foreign student — and that student gets through a hurried interview in the embassy or the consulate — then they can come to the U.S. It is the university that decides, and if that decision is made within the Ivy League, it is highly unlikely to be reversed by the State Department.
Brens would seem to have been fired for doing her duty within the de facto migrant-selection process.