Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Universities are businesses too

I stand before the graduatating class of Nonexistent University. As you leave these hallowed halls, I trust that you will remember the valuable lessons that you learned here. I could speak of the love of learning that you have received at this institution, or I could speak of the value of the pursuit of knowledge. But I will not speak about that.

I could speak about the non-academic aspects of your time at this university. The long talks at two in the morning. The wild parties. That night in that co-ed's room that you thought that no one knew about. But I will not speak about that.

Because, as you leave these hallowed halls, you will learn what is important. And it's not knowledge that's important, and it's not the college experience that's important.

What's important is that this university has to make money, however it can.

Down the road, you may have heard that there's a little bit of controversy over at Penn State University. Many are claiming that Penn State abrogated its educational responsibility by covering up a child abuse scandal. But I have to tell you, there's no money to be made from a child abuse scandal. And even today, the threat to Penn State isn't from the loss of $60 million in fines. The threat to Penn State is that alumni may quit donating to the university. And that would be more damaging than anything the NCAA could ever do.

But you tell me that Penn State doesn't have any standards. You tell me that Nonexistent University doesn't have any standards. Turn to the Ivy League, you say. OK, I will:

Brown University, eager to shed its label as one of the weakest schools in the Ivy League, bolstered its reputation by recruiting kids with famous parents. While celebrities don't often contribute financially, they generate invaluable publicity....

Brown raised its profile by enrolling children or stepchildren of politicians and celebrities, including two presidents, three Democratic presidential nominees, two Beatles and seven Academy Award winners. A particularly controversial case was the son of Hollywood superagent Michael Ovitz, whose application sparked a debate within Brown.

Celebrity students generally lag behind their classmates in academic honors. But their prominence -- and that of their parents -- helped transform Brown into a top destination for students with a creative or artistic bent. Brown accepted just 13.8% of applicants for this year's freshman class, the lowest percentage in its history, as the number of applications rose sharply. Its endowment has risen from 29th nationwide in 1980 ($123 million) to 26th in 2005 ($1.6 billion), although it remains the lowest in the Ivy League.

Now some may argue that a school should be measured by the number of Rhodes Scholars, but we all know that a school should be measured by something far more important - its endowment. And in that regard, Brown University is a smashing success.

Now that my speech is over, please line up to receive your diplomas, along with the first of many letters that you will receive from the alumni organization. I would stay with you, but I have to leave - I have a lunch with Christopher Ovitz and his father Michael.
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