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Unforced Errors

In response to:

The Business of Learning from the February 22, 2018 issue

To the Editors:

The article by Paul Reitter, “The Business of Learning” [NYR, February 22], contained an egregious error. It reads that “hundreds of admissions offers [were] rescinded by UC Irvine on shaky grounds.” As of August 2 Howard Gillman, chancellor of UC Irvine, announced that the decision to withdraw admissions was “unacceptable” and stepped in, stating that “effective immediately, all students who received provisional acceptances into UCI will be fully admitted, except those whose transcripts clearly indicate that they did not meet our academic standards.” Thank you to the Editors for correcting this mistake.

Dorothy J. Solinger
Professor of Political Science Emerita
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, California

Paul Reitter replies:

It would have been easy, alas, to make the list of administrative missteps in my essay longer and harsher. But my aim wasn’t to impugn UC Irvine or state universities in general. Tony Judt once wrote that “by far the best thing about America” is its public universities; most days I agree. As part of a discussion of the pressures on public higher education, I was simply pointing out that some administrators in the UC system—and elsewhere—chose a bad time to commit obvious errors of judgment. I didn’t mention that the university was attempting to fix a problem brought about by its own misguided enrollment projections, or that students were only informed that their admission had been rescinded after they had committed to attend Irvine and had turned down other schools. What mattered for the purposes of the essay was that, citing technicalities, UC Irvine told hundreds of successful applicants they were no longer admitted, and that this did not go over well with the public. It was evidently the outcry that led the university to reverse its action. But that reversal won’t undo the damage to its reputation, and contrary to what Professor Solinger appears to be suggesting, it can’t wipe away the fact of the university’s poor original decision or erase the weeks of anguish that decision caused.