The Shaw Family Admission Plan
September 28, 2019 12:06 PM   Subscribe

When it came to college admissions, Wall Street legend David Shaw knew how to hedge his bets. Some wealthy parents donate to one elite school to give their children a boost. Dan L. Golden and Ava Kofman write about a hedge fund billionaire who donated to seven. (SLNYM)
posted by crazy with stars (21 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
“Jacob, the Shaws’ youngest child, goes to Horace Mann and attended Stanford’s summer jazz program for teens. Kobliner and Jacob co-authored a children’s book, Jacob’s Eye Patch, in 2013, the year he turned 9. Editorial guidance and illustrations were provided by Pulitzer Prize–winning cartoonist and screenwriter Jules Feiffer. (“They live in a large, makes-you-want-to-kill apartment, it’s so spacious and gorgeous,” said the 90-year-old Feiffer. “They offered me real money, and I was in the market for real money.”)

In the fall of her senior year, Rebecca was accepted early at Yale. In 2016, Adam — who classmates say was also accepted at Stanford and Harvard — joined her in New Haven. Adam has served as president of the Yale chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, an honor society for history students. Rebecca majored in psychology. At Yale’s graduation ceremony in 2018, she and her boyfriend performed a comedy skit titled “Moving On,” in which she pretended to break up with him. It went viral on YouTube with over 4 million views, and this year she was hired as a writer on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”

Oh hey that gigantic chip on my shoulder I developed when I realized basically 70% of people vying for the remaining 4 secure comedy jobs where all being underwritten by their massively successful parents and this is basically the entire art world and it’s just a make work program for people who can’t ever fail in life.

The media is hostile to working people because none of them get to work on it.
posted by The Whelk at 12:57 PM on September 28, 2019 [67 favorites]


“Nicole Cliffe on Twitter, a former employee : all of this is true
posted by The Whelk at 1:13 PM on September 28, 2019 [8 favorites]


The media is hostile to working people because none of them get to work on it.

Amen to that: a former colleague in wind farm operations got stellar qualifications in natural history from all the right British universities, interned, published, shot and edited film and did all the right things to get hired by the BBC Natural History Unit. But then found that unless you had a trust fund, the salary wouldn't have allowed you to even live off ramen on someone else's couch.
posted by scruss at 1:26 PM on September 28, 2019 [12 favorites]


"he’s a real meritocracy fan. My hunch is that he invests in his kids from day one so they can get in at these schools on their own. "

"on their own"
posted by vacapinta at 1:52 PM on September 28, 2019 [22 favorites]


he’s a real meritocracy fan.

The telling part is that 'cracy' is about who has power over other people. Democracy is about the people having power over themselves. Meritocracy is about some people having power over all other people. Sure it is not aristocrats. It's just a different small set of people having that power.

I don't give a shit if you're a mensa member or whatever merit standard you feel you meet. I'm not yielding that power to you.
posted by srboisvert at 2:40 PM on September 28, 2019 [8 favorites]


“Nicole Cliffe on Twitter, a former employee : all of this is true”

Thank you for linking to that, it's an interesting inside perspective. Still, it's hard to read these anecdotes presented, as she casually does in that thread, as funny idiosyncrasies rather than enormous, over the top excesses. It doesn't matter that they're nice people. I'm glad they're nice, it's great that they're nice. That doesn't make these things acceptable.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 2:45 PM on September 28, 2019 [6 favorites]


But then found that unless you had a trust fund, the salary wouldn't have allowed you to even live off ramen on someone else's couch.

Yeah, that’s how my job in the arts is now. My colleague is married to a stockbroker, my boss is married to a stockbroker, and her boss got the job literally via handshake from the CEO on the golf course at their country club.

I’m single and live in the Bronx. People’s eyes widen when they learn what I do all day vs. what I’m paid. Yes, you’re damn right I’m looking elsewhere. Outside of this media niche. Got my PMP last year.

It’s why I stopped improv, my acting classes, my writing classes, and pursuing a music career. Everyone around me could afford to live while making their art. I feel lucky that I could go to college, even if it was a state school.
posted by droplet at 3:39 PM on September 28, 2019 [11 favorites]


OMG, my sister interviewed to be one of his nannies a few years ago! Can't wait to read this article.
posted by potrzebie at 3:46 PM on September 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


Just wait 'til advances in physiology and medicine make it possible to buy talent for your kid the way you can buy opportunity right now.

If we enter that era with our current social structure and Global Warming doesn't crash global civilization, plutocracy will have everything it needs to become truly self-sustaining and may last indefinitely.
posted by jamjam at 4:10 PM on September 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


i think we can go ahead and start calling art "bourgeois art" and journalism "bourgeois journalism" and university-level humanities teaching and research as "bourgeois humanities teaching" and "bourgeois humanities research," and lately we can even start calling many scientific fields "bourgeois science."

because the bourgeoisie have made damned sure that the rest of us are kept away from doing all of these things.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 4:30 PM on September 28, 2019 [3 favorites]


Note that one way Shaw became a billionaire is by taking advantage of the carried interest tax loophole unique to hedge fund managers that enabled him to pay taxes at a lower rate than his nannies.

He can also take his investment gains and donate them to these universities without paying any tax on the income at all.

Wait, there's more. He can then take a tax deduction for his millions in donations to get his kids in school which he then uses to eliminate taxes on his other millions in income. You and I as taxpayers end up paying for his kids admission to elite schools.
posted by JackFlash at 4:37 PM on September 28, 2019 [43 favorites]


Thank you for linking to that, it's an interesting inside perspective. Still, it's hard to read these anecdotes presented, as she casually does in that thread, as funny idiosyncrasies rather than enormous, over the top excesses. It doesn't matter that they're nice people. I'm glad they're nice, it's great that they're nice. That doesn't make these things acceptable.

Note that Nicole worked for the hedge fund, not for the family personally so probably a lot more layers of insulation.

Also, while the way American university admissions / donations work is obviously bananas, and arguably the existence of billionaires is inherently bad, most of the crazy stuff in the article isn't that crazy.

Like, if I had a massive wooded estate in the middle of Lyme country and was billionaire I would want my staff to keep it Lyme free. The moat is a little crazy but I bet what they ended up doing is controlling deer populations in the area, that will work. Maybe a long-term play that involves extra funding for deer and mouse Lyme vaccines.
posted by atrazine at 2:58 AM on September 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


The whole article is about this family who bought Ivy League admission for their kids through "donations" and everyone knows it and is okay with it. Then there's a throwaway line about how Chinese families were trying to do the same thing and it "disgusted" the admissions officer, who refused to work with the families. I think that basically sums it up.
posted by starfishprime at 4:28 AM on September 29, 2019 [15 favorites]


i think we can go ahead and start calling art "bourgeois art" and journalism "bourgeois journalism" and university-level humanities teaching and research as "bourgeois humanities teaching" and "bourgeois humanities research," and lately we can even start calling many scientific fields "bourgeois science."

I know people who work in all of those fields who do not fit this model at all. But they don't work for the name brand symphony/newspaper/university. What's bourgeois is thinking that one is only successful in the field if one plays for the New York Phil/writes for the New York Times/works at Yale, when there is a whole world of people that is working at, for example, the Charlotte Symphony/Charlotte Observer/UNC-Charlotte (or Central Piedmont Community College) and doing just fine.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:11 AM on September 29, 2019 [8 favorites]


How crazy rich is Shaw? I know somebody who works for one of his companies, designing and building supercomputers for doing molecular simulation. Why does he have an entire company for building custom supercomputers? Nobody knows. The conjectures we've come up with are automated drug discovery or crazy-ass immortality project. Both seem equally likely to me, frankly.
posted by phooky at 5:19 AM on September 29, 2019


Note how Shaw uses higher ed to reproduce his bit of plutocracy.
posted by doctornemo at 5:35 AM on September 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


I work in higher ed. This stuff is very much discussed through the top 30% or so of American colleges and universities (not community colleges).

What I hear from faculty, staff, and senior admin?

Most accept the plutocracy as the cost of doing business. They see their institutions and, sometimes, individual programs or positions as depending on people like Shaw. Since they value this academic work, they deem it a species of bargain.

Some simply enjoy the rich. They like their educated company, including their offspring. And they get a "lifestyles of the rich and famous" buzz.

Others are frustrated, but don't see a way out. I can't tell you how many profs and librarians I've heard from who want to serve the poor and marginalized, and complain to me - in private - about having to teach hedge fund spawn.

Rarely do I hear calls for strategic action, despite academia's reputation for being a hive of Marxism. Few openly recommend increased taxes on the wealthy, for example. Some call for states to spend more on public higher ed (which educates roughly 2/3rds of the US), but few of them can figure out how this would work politically and financially.

Overall, American academia knows it depends on plutocracy.
posted by doctornemo at 5:42 AM on September 29, 2019 [15 favorites]


Why does he have an entire company for building custom supercomputers?

In the end, everything with these people is about (a) predicting prices faster and (b) getting that prediction expressed in some form in the market faster. Although I will allow the 10% prediction of something to do with a weird dream of immortality.
posted by praemunire at 7:53 AM on September 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


Plutocrats gonna plutocrat.

If you're gonna have plutocrats (and note: I don't want em but we have em), shaw is the type I'd choose. Rather than found some obnoxious free market think tank that destroys the world, or buy a football stadium, or build boats named tits and nipple, DE Shaw research is the focus of his life these days.

Multiple science nature and PNAS papers, and serious academic collabs. He's the real deal scientifically, a billionaire who actually funded a real-science company pushing forward computational chemistry of proteins involved in biology and disease. Shaw's modeling work might actually do some good in the world - e.g. new drugs using the notoriously challenging GPCR protein class as a target or understanding and thus improving Altzheimer drug efficacy....... assuming we have a world to do good in in a few years time.

In summary, "he may be a bastard, but at least he's our bastard."

* Yes, yes, I know, by some very weak definition of "our"
posted by lalochezia at 7:23 AM on September 30, 2019




Muth, the former University of Virginia admissions dean, said he knew of several Asian billionaires who gave millions to multiple elite universities to which their children were applying in recent years. Dismayed by their efforts to buy acceptances, Muth declined to work with them.
Great when the white American billionaire does this, gross if Asian ones do it. Subtle.
posted by jeather at 11:50 AM on September 30, 2019 [4 favorites]


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