Service of Getting a Leg Up

April 6th, 2017

Categories: Bribe, Help, Let Up

Jared Kushner’s responsibilities in running the country continue to expand to the point that even some conservative talk show hosts, like Todd Schnitt on the WOR Radio morning show, question the background, aptitude, experience and competence of 45’s son- in-law to handle so much. During a recent program Schnitt noted that Kushner’s Dad had paid for his spot at Harvard.

This comment inspired today’s post. Kushner’s not alone.

I looked into the allegation. Daniel Golden corroborated it. Golden penned “The Story Behind Jared Kushner’s Curious Acceptance Into Harvard” on Mother Jones as well as the book “The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way Into Elite Colleges—and Who Gets left Outside the Gates.”

In Mother Jones Golden wrote: “My book exposed a grubby secret of American higher education: that the rich buy their underachieving children’s way into elite universities with massive, tax-deductible donations. It reported that New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner had pledged $2.5 million to Harvard University in 1998, not long before his son Jared was admitted to the prestigious Ivy League school. At the time, Harvard accepted about one of every nine applicants. (Nowadays, it only takes 1 out of 20.)

“I also quoted administrators at Jared’s high school, who described him as a less than stellar student and expressed dismay at Harvard’s decision.”

I once knew a sculptor who said she felt guilty because she’d inherited a ton of money and wasn’t the typical starving artist and thought, because she could afford a fancy studio and had a fat marketing budget that this would slow her road to success.

I also benefited from a leg up and took good advantage. My sister was accepted at one of NYC’s most prestigious and tough-to-get-into private schools and because they loved sisters, daughters and granddaughters to attend, I profited. At five I could play canasta, checkers and dance the Charleston, also thanks to her, but doubt that this had anything to do with my admittance. Surely any tests I took—tests being my downfall—would not have been a key inside.

We haven’t yet seen what Kushner is capable of. Maybe we’ll be lucky. The sculptor was lazy and because she wasn’t hungry her inheritance was probably more of a hindrance than a help to her career as an artist. I work as hard as I do largely because of a dozen years at that school. As we often read in corporate reports, I “exceeded expectations,” [though in my experience, in corporate speak, that  could mean that I fell short. In this instance, I’m taking the words at face value.]

Having an advantage doesn’t always involve money as my example illustrates. Do you think getting a leg up is right or wrong? How would you change the system if it’s wrong? Can you share other examples?

Tags: , ,

8 Responses to “Service of Getting a Leg Up”

  1. Judith B Schuster Said:

    Even at the University of Michigan, which I and my brothers all attended as out-state students, there was a small point bonus on the application if a parent or sibling attended the university. Since my Dad was a graduate of their law school, I got those extra points toward my application. (My brothers got the benefit not only of my Dad’s attendance, but mine as well, not that they needed that bonus.) Since I was admitted my junior year in high school via their early admittance program, I like to think that even without those points I would have been admitted. Personally, I think encouraging families to attend a specific school is a good idea for the university as well as the family. My brothers’ children all decided to go elsewhere and mine didn’t qualify, but I still appreciate the concept. Since I didn’t inherit a dime (only some nice household items and a tourmaline ring), I will never know what that would have done for me. My parents paid for my education, and I inherited a desire to achieve, something that was encouraged by them, and that was enough. I expect to do the same for my own children.

  2. Lucrezia Said:

    The day it is declared “wrong” to have powerful parents, relatives or friends is the day it becomes “immoral” to profit by any advantage they may bestow. So Kushner gets into Harvard despite the fact he may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer. Should he or papa be taken to court? What laws have been broken? Over and above the fact that’s a ridiculous idea, many of those hefty donations may find their way to scholarships, thus helping brighter and more deserving students.

    Nothing is wrong with Kushner or others getting a jump start. They lucked out is all.

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Legacies at schools and colleges are lovely, I agree. What’s not good–and where I disagree–is when a parent forces a child to attend a college that’s clearly a poor fit simply because they and grandfather or grandmother went to the place.

    One of my dearest friends also went to “old blue” and there’s a bar I pass on the way home from work every night that blows up a huge plastic football player dressed in painted U. of Michigan garb on appropriate nights. It’s always been a super school with a great football team!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    It’s the way of the world that some use their money to help their kids [and others] in a way those without such funds can’t do. The question is did Jared Kushner benefit sufficiently from his platinum education to handle the jobs he’s been now given? Was it, along with his graduate degree, enough to balance the fact that his experience has been exclusively in one business–real estate–with zero experience in advising a president; in diplomacy; reorganizing government to mention just a few of his responsibilities? Is he not up to the task due to lack of experience or lack of essential abilities? By paying for his entrance to Harvard, did his father cast doubt on his potential?

    If I had the money I’d be thrilled to help people pay for college but I wouldn’t bribe a place to have them accept someone.

  5. hb Said:

    Perhaps influenced by the Socialist Minister of an egalitarian school I attended, one day when I was about 18, I told my parents that maybe it would be fairer if we had a 100% inheritance tax. They were appalled.

    This sounds like a little of the same. A “leg up” is how both nature and capitalism work. You can tweak if you want, but you can’t suppress it. If you try, the “leg uppers” will always find another way to get around what you are trying to do.

    I am far more concerned by what I sense is a dangerous deterioration in the quality of academic accomplishment , especially in the liberal arts, at most, if not all, schools and colleges, than the perceived “fairness” of their admissions policies.

    Remember if you are for “diversity,” it stands to reason that you should want to have a few “leg uppers” in your mix.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I hope that the minister also told you to donate to the school well before the 100 percent inheritance tax had to apply.

    Nobody has mentioned the leg up syndrome that kept sons and grandsons of wealthy people safe and out of the military when the US had conscription, especially during wartime. That bothers me while someone’s buying a swimming pool expecting their kid to get into a school doesn’t. Once in, I assume that that the young man or woman gets the work done and if they don’t then he/she should be booted out like the best of them.

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    There’s no way I’m about to judge whether or not Kushner is able to carry out his job. I don’t know him so am not qualified to make an intelligent evaluation. There will be conflicting views on his abilities, most being based on whose side one is on. For everyone’s sake, I hope that if he’s overwhelmed now, he learns and grows. Blunders could be costly for all.

  8. jmbyington Said:


    Perhaps he’ll surprise everyone. Maybe he’s a late bloomer. Maybe like me he doesn’t test well but he has other qualities. Fingers crossed.

Leave a Reply