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Free Felicity Huffman!

September 15, 2019

On Friday, September 13, 2019, U.S. Federal District Judge Indira Tallwani sentenced actress Felicity Huffman to federal prison for fourteen days, one year of supervised release, 250 hours of community service and a fine of $30,000.  Her crime: arranging for someone to take SAT tests for her daughter who has difficulty taking standardized tests.

Indira Tallwani earned a BA from Radcliffe and a JD from UC-Berkeley.

Two things disturb me about this sentence.  The defendant is a woman and Judge Tallwani’s statement, according to Melissa Korn’s report in the Wall Street Journal, at sentencing , that the admission system is corrupted:  “…the larger unfairness in the college admissions system, preferential treatment for athletes, and the opportunity to get additional time for standardized tests.”  In this direct quote, Judge Tallwani stated that “The outrage is a system that is already so distorted by money and privilege in the first place.”

Apparently “the system” did not unfairly block admission to Radcliffe when Judge Tallwani applied in 1978. Legacy admissions took a hit in the Ivy League in the mid to late 1960s and the Economist estimated in 2004 that legacy admissions in the Ivy League ranged from 10% to 30%. Before believing that, I would like to know how a British journal reached that conclusion.  I’d like to see the research.

Judge Tallwani’s statement indicates that she did no research to affirm her view that the system for college admission is unfair.

Indeed, things have improved as grades are largely discounted and greater emphasis is placed on SAT scores. Money counts, of course. If you can pay full tuition, admission is in your favor. As for athletes, if a college wants to win in football it must recruit athletes, not scholars. Admission of athletes simply represents alumni demand.  All those parents with Tail Gate parties before games want their team to win. As for additional time to take standardized tests, they are administered by the College Board, a private corporation.

I’m sorry, despite the fact that Judge Tallwani is female, the tendency of our judicial system is to treat female defendants more  harshly and Judge Tallwani’s legal “system” didn’t require her to sentence Felicity Huffman to prison; that was spite, sheer spite. Just ask Martha Stewart.

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