So, any bets on what snares the cover of the next issue of Kentucky Alumni? C’mon, chance a guess.
Carolina Alumni Review, in its March/April 2012 issue (Regina Oliver, editor), reports that dog handlers now bring therapy pooches to UNC’s library to provide a bit of solace to students cramming for final exams. Yes, the image of the spread is here because I wanted to run the adorable dog photo. Yes, that violates the babies-and-cute-animals-are-cheating rule. I’ll wait while you click to expand the image, show your office mates, get all doe eyed, then come back here . . . . . . . . . . OK, that’s enough. Now, credit to Oliver and writer Beth McNichol for the cover story “Family Matters” (no link at the moment), an honest exploration of legacy admits—children of alumni who want to attend North Carolina, are expected to attend North Carolina, but don’t always get into North Carolina, and perhaps should not always get into North Carolina. From an institutional standpoint this is dicey emotional and political ground, and McNichol does a good job with the story. Her opening provides a sample of her lively prose:
One week after we had our first daugher, who is now 7, my husband and I had a serious discussion about commitment.
“Look,” I told him, flush with 2005 pre-national championship game fervor and my fair share of postnatal hormones. “I know you didn’t go to Carolina, and I know that you’d rather watch MythBusters than a basketball game. But I am going to need your help with this.”
I pointed to the slumbering child in the bassinet, who wore a Tar Heel onesie.
“She has to love Carolina,” I said. “I’m going to do everything I can to instill this in her, but I would really appreciate it if you would, from time to time, help push my agenda. Talk it up a little. Get on board with some sporting events and the like. Tell her she’s going to school there one day. OK?”
McNichol delves into the numbers—the percentage of alumni offspring who gain admission versus the percentage of non-alumni kids—and the fact that whether you are a Tar Heel alum or not doesn’t alter the fact that if you live in the state, you pay the state taxes that support the school and expect a fair shake from admissions. She quotes extensively admissions people who seemed to be doing their best to honestly respond to her questions and articulate however much, truthfully, it matters that your parents have UNC degrees. She also discusses—and due credit to Carolina Alumni Review for putting this in the magazine—an example of appalling parent behavior when the son does not get in, and the aggrieved father, an alum, whose first three kids got into Chapel Hill but the fourth did not, on two tries. The story notes legacy students who question whether they got in on merit or because a parent was an alum, and quotes the parents of a rejected kid who wrestle with their respect for fair admissions and their understandable wish that, in the case of their own kid, their legacy status had landed her a spot. Finally, McNichol comes back to her own ambivalence.
Everyone has a life story. At some point, that story becomes an admissions tale, sifted like sand and rock for gold. No one, including me, wants her children to be labeled silver. Twenty years ago, it mattered who I was on my UNC application. A decade from now, should it matter who I am on my daughter’s?
Well, that’s the question, isn’t it?
In the same issue, Carolina Alumni Review devotes a feature to debate over the university’s 212-year-old honor code, in light of a football player recently accused of plagiarism. That makes for a damned strong issue of the magazine, I’d say.
Also in my mailbox was Oberlin Alumni Magazine‘s redo. (That’s the old on the left, new on the right; Jeff Hagan edits the magazine.) I think the new design looks great, and as an editor on a publication that is just receiving the first reviews of its own revamp, I loved this letter to the editor:
At the risk of not being politically correct—I hate the new look of our alumni magazine. In fact, I first threw it away, thinking it was some corporate investment brochure, until I saw the words “Class Notes” (my favorite part), as the pages fanned out falling into my recycling bin.
Alumni magazine editors everywhere will wryly note the unwitting irony in that letter.
Finally, under “things I didn’t know until I started receiving ’most every alumni magazine in the country”: Hobart College and William Smith College are close neighbors in upstate New York, so close they operate as a “coordinate college system” and publish a joint alumni magazine with the lovely title Pulteney Street Survey (Catherine Williams, editor). Now I know, and so do you.