4.0 and You’re Out!

When I was a junior at the Trinity School in New York, Mr. Clarence Bruner-Smith, head of the Upper School, assured me that I had an excellent chance of being accepted at Yale if I accepted the editorship of the school literary magazine.  I thought that a ridiculous reason to be accepted anywhere, and that Yale University couldn’t be all it was cracked up to be if it thought otherwise.  I turned down the position (which was accepted by Richard Neustadt the Younger, son of the political scientist and advisor to the late President Kennedy) and ended up at Columbia instead.  Several years later, my sister was not granted a diploma after four years at Smith for failing to satisfy the physical-education requirement.  Today, I suspect two people guilty of such insane behavior would be found mentally incompetent and locked away for life in some asylum, perhaps even Yale or Smith.

William Deresiewicz, whose Excellent Sheep produced an effect last summer that was part sensation and part scandal, was professor of English at Yale for ten years before being refused tenure, owing apparently to a slim publishing record limited to A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter.  In Excellent Sheep Deresiewicz addresses, among other things, T.S. Eliot’s argument, made back in the 30’s or 40’s, that a prestigious...

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