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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

It used to be that the controversial college admissions policies that got the most attention had to do with skin or scores.

But the one unspoken policy that has been overlooked for decades is the nod-nod-wink-wink influence of privilege.

The old adage "it's not what you know but who you know" seems to be reinforced on college campuses across the nation - whether it be landing that job after graduation or even getting on campus in the first place.

Right or wrong, we are not so naïve as to believe that those who have the advantage of signing a prestigious last name on an application don't positively influence their chances of acceptance.

Many students at UF have certainly earned their place on campus, it's hard to imagine that we've all arrived with equal consideration.

And though many tend to associate the power of privilege with the upper echelons of Ivy League institutions, the state's flagship university is no stranger to favoritism - especially political.

One doesn't need to look much further back than this semester, with UF President Bernie Machen's public endorsement of Republican John McCain and the controversial hiring of Republican state Sen. Mike Haridopolos, to find evidence that we are now on a highly politicized campus.

So when the dean of UF's College of Medicine decided to disregard the backing of the Medical Selection Committee in an unusual move to admit a student from a well-connected family, we were not exactly stunned by his actions.

But we had a particularly hard time believing Kone when he commented to The Gainesville Sun that he was not influenced by any outside sources, especially when the outside influence turns out be none other than Gov. Charlie Crist and a very kind donor to the Republican Party - the father of the candidate in question.

Though the dean declined to comment on applicant Ben Mendelsohn's qualifications and expressed regret that he couldn't reveal how exceptional he was, we suspect it wasn't actually for the privacy concerns he cited.

Because, really, if Mendelsohn was so outstanding as to warrant a sweeping violation of standard acceptance procedures, then why would the committee not admit him in the first place? If he were truly that brilliant, the dean's actions would have been unnecessary.

And, so all things considered, it really becomes obvious why Dean Kone would bend over backwards for one application and why he chose to risk the reputation of the entire college in the process.

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For us, it's pretty clear: Money talks.

In 2006, Mendelsohn's father contributed about $15,000 to Republican candidates, including $500 to the governor, according to records from the Florida Department of State Division of Elections. His father also held a May 2005 fundraiser for Crist at his home, where more than $100,000 was raised for Crist's campaign.

That recommendation better have been on some pricey letterhead. But the true cost of allowing privilege to control the admissions process at UF's College of Medicine, and any other college, will be much higher than a couple of thousand dollars.

As thousands of applications pour in for the 135-seat class at the UF College of Medicine, the genuinely qualified candidates who are turned away will lose a deserved opportunity.

And those who make it in simply because of their connections won't do much to increase the standing of the university.

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