Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

One Tall Alumnus: Reconsider ‘mistaken’ admissions changes

Published: September 23, 2010
Section: Opinions

During my time at Brandeis, I was extremely dissatisfied with the undergraduate community, and oftentimes used this publication to voice my sentiments concerning many facets of university life. At some points, I lashed out at the university itself and pointed out characteristics of our institution that could be improved. However, this criticism was only voiced so that I could better help the college that I loved so much and add my own small contribution to our university in lieu of all that Brandeis had given me.

Indeed, I am a proud alum of Brandeis University and am eternally grateful for everything this institution has done for me. This university has provided me with the resources to attend college and given me an education the likes of which I could never have acquired elsewhere. However, the administration’s decision to adopt a “need-sensitive” admissions policy, and controvert some of the fundamental principles of our institution has had me question my admiration for the university that I once loved so much.

I entered Brandeis without any parental support or money of my own. Indeed, as a first-year, I didn’t even know exactly where I would be staying during breaks or how I would pay for my Brandeis education. However, Brandeis, like many other top universities in the country, used to adopt a “need -blind” admissions policy. This initiative insured that the university’s commitment to social justice would be met, as any student, regardless of background, would be afforded an education at Brandeis. Indeed, non-exclusivity in all aspects is a fundamental pillar of our college and I truly benefited from this policy.

Though I myself entered Brandeis at the bottom 25th percentile, I was given a lot of financial aid and hardly paid for college. Indeed, I felt at home at this university, as Brandeis provided me unyielding support in my time of great need. Though my financial situation seemed to get worse each day, and my family seemed truly distant, the Brandeis community provided me the support I needed to get through those tough years.

I tried in my small way to give back to the community. Though I entered near the bottom of the applicant pool, I graduated near the top of my class. Though I would have most assuredly been passed up for admission under a “need-sensitive” approach, I contributed to our community through participation in 23 clubs and by earning a B.A. and an M.A. degree in four years. I worked hard to try to pay Brandeis back for their support and am now a proud alum of my alma mater.

However, this “need-sensitive” financial aid policy hurts me on so many levels, and goes against the very principles upon which our institution stands. For one, it creates a barrier of exclusivity, as people without financial means will be unable to gain admission equal to those who have monetary resources. Our university was founded in order to provide an alternative for the capricious discrimination at other top universities. Now we are the ones guilty of discriminating based on the arbitrary factor of wealth and I cannot bear this blatant hypocrisy.

This policy also goes against the core of our social justice mission, as it doesn’t help the plight of unfortunate students, but turns a blind eye to them in favor of more financially-endowed applicants. Additionally, this policy may even lead to a less diverse student body, as people with diverse experiences, due to the struggles of poverty, will be barred from admission to this university. Furthermore, this policy will affect the university’s ability to stay competitive in the future, which is a huge priority given the acts our administration has already taken that undermine our competiveness. Indeed, there is a distinct possibility that lesser qualified applicants will be admitted due to their financial resources and this will not fare well for our admission statistics.

In the end, a university is not a business, but a philanthropic organization. It prides itself not on how much money it can take in but on which students it can train and support. We are not the University of Phoenix, we are not an institution that sees profit margin above all else. Rather, this university is an institution committed to solving some of our society’s toughest problems. This mission is drastically undercut by the “greenmail” exhibited by the new “need-sensitive” policy and it pains me that Brandeis would adopt such a measure.

I understand that the university is going through a historic financial crisis and I understand that harsh decisions need to be made. But I beg that the administration reconsider their decision. Indeed, I know for a fact that I would not have been accepted to Brandeis had this policy been instituted five years ago and I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without the fruits of a Brandeis education. I pray that future generations of prospective applicants will never have to discover this reality.

Jordan Rothman ’09, M.A. ’09
Georgetown University Law Center ’12L
Washington, D.C.