Today, Jacques Steinberg returns to campus. We’re looking back at his classic book.
The man, the myth, the legend—Jacques Steinberg.
Jacques Steinberg’s The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College is pretty much indisputably the most illuminating and insightful book written in the past few decades about elite college admissions, which Steinberg terms a series of decisions made “behind a cordon of security befitting the selection of a pope.” Conveniently, it also happens to focus on Wes. Steinberg, a journalist and education expert, tracks a diverse group of high school seniors and a then-Wesleyan admissions officer (Ralph Figueroa, currently Director of College Guidance at Albuquerque Academy) as they navigate the 1999–2000 admissions cycle.
Along with a handful of other Wesleying staffers, I read the book in high school, around the time I decided to apply to Wesleyan, and realized what I had already suspected: college admissions is about as complex, random, and ultimately meaningless as—well, the selection of a pope. It also makes for more thrilling drama than any reality show on TV. Before the rise of CollegeConfidential, The Gatekeepers was the most intimate glimpse at the people on both sides of the admissions process that existed. In fairness, it still is, because CollegeConfidential is a hellish underworld.
Mr. Steinberg, who also founded the New York Times’ “The Choice” blog, where he recently announced his departure from the newspaper after 25 years, is on his way to Middletown yet again. This time, he’s not writing a book about us (we think). He’s coming to lead a talk and Q&A in the Chapel, which is being hosted by the WSA. In honor of this glorious occasion, here’s a round-up of six things we learned about Wesleyan from The Gatekeepers—before even setting foot on campus.
From WSA Prez Zachary Malter ’13:
Interested in issues of education, college access and affordability, Wesleyan’s admissions, or journalism?
On Tuesday, April 9th, at 7:30 pm in the Memorial Chapel, the WSA will be hosting a talk by author and journalist Jacques Steinberg, titled “Beyond the Gatekeepers: The State of College Access and Affordability in America.” All student are encouraged to attend. Jacques Steinberg is the author of “The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College,” a New York Times-best seller about the Wesleyan admissions process. Jacques was a journalist at The New York Times for nearly 25 years, most recently as its senior editor for education initiatives. Jacques left The Times in 2013 to join the senior leadership team at Say Yes to Education, a national non-profit organization based in New York City that provides an array of services to families in low-income districts – all with the goal of raising high-school and college graduation rates.The talk is a part of the WSA’s New York Times Readership Program. A book signing in Zelnick Pavilion will follow the talk and books will be available for purchase there.
Date: Today, April 9
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Place: Memorial Chapel
RSVP to the Facebook event
I googled “college admissions stock photo” and this is what came up. Can you dig it?
It’s been a rather turbulent few days for Wesleyan in the news, so here’s some positive news for a change. According to the New York Times’ The Choice blog (which has been surging along since the recent departure of its dear leader/resident Wesleyan hound Jacques Steinberg), total applications to Wesleyan rose by 4.18% for a total of 10,942 applicants for fall 2013. Since we’re all suckers for a good comparison chart, here’s how that stacks up with a few peer institutions:
It’s a comfortable leap (and eerily close to last year’s 4.5% rise in applications), but it’s nothing compared to Skidmore’s freakish 42% rise in applications.
It was the grading scale he’d used since he started teaching. Professor Peter Fröhlich of Johns Hopkins University had a simple curve: the student with the highest grade on the test would receive an A, and all other grades would be adjusted accordingly. This approach, he says, is the “most predictable and consistent way” of comparing students’ progress to their peers’. Seems pretty okay, right?
During finals week of their first semester this year, Fröhlich’s students all unanimously agreed not to attend his final. The result? Everyone received a zero, which meant it was the highest grade, giving every student an A on the final.
Last month, while you were chillaxing in your break cocoon, the New York Times devoted an article to lesser-talked-about Wesleyan filmmaker and Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer ’97, whose latest release, Gangster Squad, stars Sean Penn in the story “of the struggle between good and evil on the streets of Los Angeles, in a post-World War II era that was known for shady compromise between the two.”
Unlike his Cardinal peers, Fleischer wasn’t a film major at Wesleyan. He got involved in the industry by way of coding Web sites during the dot-com boom, which led him to Los Angeles, which led him to Mike White ’92 (who co-produced and wrote Dawson’s Creek and Freaks & Geeks, but whom you might more readily recognize from his classic role in School of Rock, which he also wrote). Then, Fleischer moved up the ranks. About halfway through the Times article comes a classic, tried-and-true glimpse into the innerworkings of what has come to be termed the “Wesleyan Mafia” in Hollywood, which is apparently the real engine behind Fleischer’s early career:
Before long he was building sites for big companies like Microsoft.
That led to a Web-related job in Los Angeles, where he met Mike White [’92], a filmmaker and television producer who had also attended Wesleyan and who got Mr. Fleischer hired as a production assistant on the TV series “Dawson’s Creek.”
It was a short step to a job as assistant to the director Miguel Arteta [’89], another member of Wesleyan’s movie mafia, on the film “Chuck & Buck,” starring and written by Mr. White.
The New York Times Magazine’s “The Lives They Lived” issue features a stirring tribute to Alex Okrent ’05, the Wesleyan alumnus who collapsed and died last July at the Obama headquarters, where he worked, in Chicago. The cause of death was later determined to be cardiac arrhythmia. Okrent, 29, was a College of Social Studies major at Wes, and his passing inspired expressions of condolences from both candidates that day in July:
As journalist Mark Leibovich tells it, Okrent was on board with the Obama cause well before the senator even announced his candidacy in 2007—he took off a semester off from Wesleyan in 2004 to work on Obama’s Senate campaign. Between organizing a campaign book club and dressing up as Tobias Fünke on Halloween in Iowa, Okrent was “demanding, fun and irreverent,” Leibovich writes. “And he was never shy about telling people that he loved them.”
The occupation of Cooper Union (by students apparently unencumbered by a deluge of finals and end-of-semester projects) came to a close late yesterday morning.
As you may remember, on December 3, a cadre of eleven
freeloaders Cooper Union students locked themselves in the Peter Cooper Suite on the eighth floor of Cooper Union’s Foundation Building, a.k.a. The Clocktower. Protesting the university’s formation of an exploratory committee on “examining potential revenue streams from undergraduate programs,” the occupiers brought with them sleeping bags, blankets, at least one hammock, and oatmeal and ramen noodles for sustenance. Cooper Union has funded the education of its undergraduates since at least 1902 using an endowment that draws as much from alumni donations as it does from its own holdings, including the property on which the Chrysler Building sits.
Last night, the New York Times‘ City Room blog detailed the end of the occupation. Click through for a more Wes-centric take on the story.
What’s the Twittersphere saying about the Times piece? Click past the jump.
A weekend New York Times article covers Wesleyan’s change in admissions policy, giving a national and international platform to some of the activism surrounding need blind here on campus. With little communication to the alumni and larger Wesleyan community about the recent change in admissions policy, for many alums this could be the first they hear of the policy shift, a topic we’ve been abuzz with for months. Not only did my mom text me this morning to check the article out, but other people are wildly sharing it, too: it is listed in the top-emailed articles on the NYT website, and the tweeting world is hot on the topic.
The article cites financial instability as threatening diversity at small elite colleges, specifically Wesleyan and Grinnell. Small schools like our own have been steadily raising tuition, while families are increasingly unable to meet rising costs in a weak economy. Richard Perez-Pena writes,
As a result, more students need financial aid than did a few years ago, they need much more of it on average, and colleges have fewer resources with which to provide it, though a major expansion of the federal Pell Grant program has made up some of the difference.
Wesleyan is described as having “had the most heated recent debate.” Disappointingly, then, no students are quoted in the piece, but President Roth gives a shout out to student activism, saying “I applaud the students’ commitment to our values,” and adds, “I did not think that the economic model we were using would be sustainable in even the midterm, over the next decade.” This is out of character given his recent confrontations with chalking Wesleyan students and Nemo Allen ’12 from Democracy Now!. Links in the NYT article direct readers to two Argus articles about student activism surrounding the barge-in at the Trustee meeting and protest at the Homecoming football game. Additional coverage here and here. Added to this semester’s memorably heated moments—but unmentioned in the Times—are the artistic chalk bomb, Alumni letter asking to withhold alumni donations, and parent assembly infiltrations.
Below: the view from the 51st floor of the New York Times building, 620 Eighth Avenue
Want to watch Hurricane Sandy? Like, the real epic scenes?
Everything is closed on campus, Governor Malloy has ordered all non-emergency vehicles off the state highways by 1 p.m. (Malloy: “Stay home. Let me repeat that—stay home”), Mayor Drew has declared a state of emergency, and you probably shouldn’t go outside if you can avoid it. (Note: you can.)
Unless you’re going streaking.
Thankfully, you can watch it from the comfort of your macbook.
We all know Wesleyan has a history of activism and student camaraderie. We all know Wesleyan students love farming. We all know the administration hates it all. This, my friends, is the true tale of when the Freshmen of 1856 said, “Enough.”
Digging through the New York Times online archives this morning, I came across this curious piece of Wesleyan history: