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  • The hallowed halls of the Ivy Leagues are  seen as a place where the American Dream  

  • comes to fruition, where great minds from all  walks of life can come and be molded into the  

  • leaders of tomorrow. The reality, it turns  out, is much different. From inconsistent  

  • actual financial and professional outcomes for  graduates, to elitist college campuses built for  

  • the wealthiest students to succeed, to admissions  processes that do very little to actually improve  

  • diversity of identity or thought, to the very  unsavory products of Ivy League schools that  

  • lead you to question whether we should just  throw the whole system out with the wash (see,  

  • for example, Donald Trump, the UnabomberSteve Bannon, Ted Cruz, and Charles Davenport,  

  • the most influential eugenicist in the United  States, to name a few), the reality of the Ivy  

  • League and the damage that our obsession with  elite colleges does to our students and our  

  • society is incredibly bleak. This is why we should  abolish the Ivy League. Roll the intro.  

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  • Today I’m gonna discuss my own experience  with education and prestige having gone to  

  • law school and also a prestigious undergraduate  school. Then well get into where the Ivy League  

  • even comes from and how even its origins are  problematic, plus why there’s so much hype  

  • about them in the first place. And then well  get into the actual societal harms that come  

  • from concentrating so much power in the hands  of a few schools, and what needs to change.  

  • My experience with the Ivy League is that  I didn’t go to there. And it might be easy  

  • to then try to write me off as either not knowing  what I’m talking about or I’m just jealous because  

  • I didn’t get into my dream school or somethingThat’s not the case. Not exactly, anyway. I went  

  • to Vassar College in undergrad, one of the Seven  Sisters, formerly all female schools that were  

  • created to provide women with the education they  were denied by sexist policies in the Ivy Leagues,  

  • and it’s part of a group of small colleges  called theLittle Ivieswhich is frankly  

  • patronizing no thank you. It’s a prestigious  school but it’s not an Ivy League. I toured  

  • Brown but the guy who gave the tour was wearing  an argyle sweater vest and not in an ironic way,  

  • so I knew it was too square for me. Butfelt at home with the queers at Vassar.  

  • Law school was another story. If the disease  of prestige obsession hasn’t bitten you yet,  

  • it will when you think about applying for law  school. Some of my peers at Vassar got into Ivy  

  • League law schools and there was a period of time  when I thought that the only option was for me to  

  • get into an Ivy League law school, and if I didn’t  then like what was I even doing this for? It would  

  • mean that I wasn’t destined for greatness and  that just wasn’t an option. It’s a disease. I  

  • cried when I got my LSAT score back. I scored  in the 90th percentile. And I cried. Because I  

  • knew it wasn’t good enough for the Ivy Leaguewhich typically only accepts scores in the 95th  

  • percentile and above, unless of course you havebackdoor in, which well get into. It’s a disease.  

  • Once I got over that and realized that I could do  a lot of good in the world without an Ivy League  

  • education, my practical brain turned back on and  I decided to go to a school where my LSAT score  

  • would get me a full ride scholarship, becausedidn’t know what exactly I wanted to do with my  

  • law degree, so saddling myself with six figures  of law school debt seemed like a bad idea.  

  • And THEREIN lies one of the many issues with Ivy  League schoolshad I gotten a score good enough  

  • to get into an ivy league school but not good  enough to get a full ride to said ivy league,  

  • which you only get generally if you get a perfect  score on the LSAT or damn near it, then would I  

  • have been drawn in by the prestige and decided  fuck it give me 150k of debt I want Columbia  

  • on my resume? Honestly probably. And then I would  have gotten a prestigious big law job (which I did  

  • anyway) but instead of deciding 10 months in that  it was hell on earth and quitting, like I did,  

  • I would have been absolutely trapped under $2000  per month student loan payments. The freedom that  

  • NOT going to an ivy league gave me to forge my own  path and find a job that is unconventional and my  

  • absolute dream (YouTube) is absolutely pricelessAnd the death grip that ivy league prestige has on  

  • people, especially millennials, leads many people  into situations that, had they listened to their  

  • gut and stayed true to themselves, they would  have never gone for. If given the opportunity,  

  • would you have attended an Ivy League  school?[a] Debt and all? [pause]  

  • To help you answer that question, let’s get  into some facts n figures, shall we?  

  • The Ivy League is seen internationally as the  gold standard for higher education in America  

  • and for intellectualism at large. That’s been  established over a very long history, one that  

  • is foundational to American colonialism and white  supremacy, and which benefited from the labor of  

  • minorities who were barred from attendance. There  are eight schools in the Ivy League: Harvard,  

  • Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, DartmouthCornell, and the University of Pennsylvania.  

  • All of them except Cornell were created before  the formation of the United States.  

  • Harvard was created in 1636, that’s before the  Salem witch trials, when the Massachusetts Bay  

  • Colony voted to create a college. It was  the first institution of higher education  

  • in the United States. The rest were founded  before the Revolutionary War in the 1700s,  

  • except for Cornell, which wasn’t founded until  1865. In the early years of the Ivy Leagues,  

  • schools were mainly attended by sons of wealthy  colonists where they studied rhetoric, math,  

  • and Latin, and often prepared for careers in  the church or in law. Students were almost  

  • exclusively white, wealthy, and male, for  literal centuries. The elite nature of the  

  • Ivy Leagues was baked in from the very beginningAt Harvard’s first commencement ceremony in 1642,  

  • graduates walked across the stage in order of  their family’s standing in society. That process  

  • of ranking students by social status continued  for more than a century. Before the revolution,  

  • colleges were seen as instruments of Christian  expansion, part of the English strategy to  

  • maintain authority over colonies and assert  cultural superiority over indigenous and  

  • enslaved people. Early university trustees who  grew these schools into the institutions they  

  • are today were almost all engaged in the Atlantic  slave trade. Additionally, public universities  

  • benefited financially from the taxes collected  on the import and sale of enslaved Africans.  

  • Many of these universities benefited directly  from slave labor. Enslaved people maintained fire  

  • for heat, hauled water, prepared food, cleanedmended clothes, built and repaired the buildings,  

  • maintained the grounds, cultivated the land, and  kept the animals on rural campuses. While doing  

  • so, the very institutions that could run because  of the labor of enslaved people were developing  

  • the theories that justified white domination of  native lands and exploitation of slave labor,  

  • including eugenics and polygenesis, theories  that posit that white people are biologically  

  • superior to other races. These theories were  legitimized because they came from the most  

  • prestigious colleges in the land. They got the  ol Harvard stamp of approval. All the while  

  • receiving endowments from slave traders for  their medical schools and science facilities.  

  • Recent graduates of the schools would use  their school connections to apprentice and  

  • work for alumni who had made their fortunes in  the Atlantic slave trade. The wealth of cotton  

  • planters was given to schools to expand their  infrastructure. These schools became hostile  

  • to abolitionist activity and rhetoric, instead  favoring the American Colonization Society’s  

  • plan to send free blacks back to Africa. A literal slave auction was held on Princeton’s  

  • campus in 1766. Members of the University of  Pennsylvania faculty and alumni pushed for slavery  

  • to be enshrined in the US Constitution. According  to the book Ebony and Ivy, “There were arguably as  

  • many enslaved Black people at Dartmouth as there  were students in the college course.” Yale’s first  

  • set of scholarships were funded by the profits  of a slave plantation that was donated to the  

  • school. Its dining room, for centuries, featured  a stained glass window that showed Black people  

  • picking cotton. It was shattered by a Black  school employee in 2016. Icon. The residential  

  • colleges at Yale were headed bymasters,”  one even had the same layout as a Southern  

  • plantation and the housing in the back of it was  originally named theslave quarters.” Until 2007,  

  • the Yale board of trustees would hold their  meetings under a massive painting depicting  

  • founder Elihu Yale with a couple other white dudes  being served by a young enslaved girl. YIKES.  

  • As to the origin of the termivy league”,  around the mid-1800s, students at Harvard began  

  • an ivy planting ceremony every year that included  “the ivy orationor a speech given by a fellow  

  • classmate. That connection between ivy and elite  northeastern colleges continued until the 1950s,  

  • when a new athletics conference was created  between 8 elite northeastern colleges and  

  • was called The Ivy League. By the start of World War II,  

  • around 125 black students total had earneddegree at an Ivy League school. Most schools  

  • did not admit women until the 60s and 70s. And  those efforts to admit women were met with strong  

  • push back from alumni and donors. One Princeton  alum declared, "If Princeton goes coeducational,  

  • my alma mater will have been taken away from meand PRINCETON IS DEAD." A Yale alum wrote a letter  

  • to the school’s alumni magazine, saying "Gentlemen  — let's face itcharming as women arethey get  

  • to be a drag if you are forced to associate with  them each and every day. Think of the poor student  

  • who has a steady datehe wants to concentrate  on the basic principles of thermodynamics,  

  • but she keeps trying to gossip about the idiotic  trivia all women try to impose on men." In a  

  • letter written to the Dartmouth board of trustees  in 1970, one alum lamented "For God's sake,  

  • for Dartmouth's sake, and for everyone's  sake, keep the damned women out."  

  • And despite years of affirmative action, and  showy lip service to increasing campus diversity,  

  • Ivy League schools continue to reflect their  exclusionary history. And that is a feature,  

  • not a design flaw. Most Ivy League schools  enroll more students from the top 1% than  

  • they do from the entire bottom 60%. Children  whose parents are in the top 1% are 77 times  

  • more likely to attend an Ivy League than those  in the bottom fifth. 15% of graduating seniors  

  • nationwide are black, while only 8% of students at  Ivy League schools are black. Legacy preference in  

  • the admissions process means that if your daddy  went to Harvard, you have a one in three chance  

  • of getting in, compared to a 6% chance for all  other applicants, perpetuating a lineage of white,  

  • wealthy attendees that goes back upwards of  16 generations, while black applicants, who  

  • were barred until very recently, have about one  generation of legacy to pull from.  

  • And I say that’s a feature, not a flaw, because  it serves the Ivy League well to maintain their  

  • elitist, exclusionary history. If you are born  in the bottom fifth of income distribution in  

  • America, your odds of reaching the top 20% of  earners sit at just 7.5%. It’s a lot easier to  

  • maintain wealth than to grow it from nothingSo favoring wealthy students means producing  

  • wealthy alums who will donate money into the  multi-billion dollar endowment funds that each  

  • Ivy League school has. Funds that grew massively  during the pandemic to support institutions that  

  • also receive federal tax payer dollars and insane  tax exemptions, all while providing education  

  • to .4% of the college students in America. The  eight Ivy League colleges enroll around 68,000  

  • undergraduates out of 17 million total  undergraduates in the country, or .4%.  

  • And that exclusivity is part of the design. Each of the Ivy Leagues have the funds to expand  

  • and provide education to more students, but as  anyone who knows a thing or two about economics  

  • knows, exclusivity breeds demand. And boy is there  demand. Harvard University accepted just 3.2% of  

  • applicants for the 2026 undergraduate classAnd with that level of supply and demand you  

  • can charge pretty much anything you want. And they  do. And this fuels a frenzy, mostly by parents,  

  • who are desperate for their children to have  the best of the best. And parents are spoon fed