An open letter to Marilee Jones

Dear Ms. Jones,

I read tonight that you had to resign from your job at MIT for lying for longer than I’ve even been alive about your qualifications working in the university’s admissions office. This story will be all over the news for the next three or four days and die out and you will be left to handle the aftermath.

Let me start by saying, Ms. Jones that although I guess I agree with MIT that it’s not good for people to lie about their qualifications, I fully support you in whatever your endeavor is. I guess you lied about graduating from Union and RPI, which are nearby here, but you clearly did it to find work in a field you enjoy, which is to help people get into the school of their dreams. I can’t begrudge you the work you did for nearly three decades. Personally, I don’t care. My admissions process was pretty stressful. Not that I was trying to get into prestigious schools, unless you count Keene State College, SUNY Cortland and SUNY Oneonta or Emerson College as such. I ended up graduating seven years later with a degree from Brooklyn College, by the way. Anyway, there were some people in my high school who actually had good grades and got into good schools and for some of them I felt really awful. They seemed so miserable, so stressed about the whole affair. Who knows why. Maybe they thought that their value was only in getting into a school and neglected their other strong points or maybe their father and mother were just uptight yuppies. Either way, I’m sure that in your time heading up the admissions department there at one of the hardest universities to enter in the nation you encountered not a few kids who felt life would end if you didn’t accept them to school. Some you accepted I’m sure while others you didn’t. One kid who went to my high school for a while who did get accepted ended up drinking himself to death, some say because of the stress of your university. I’m sure, Ms. Jones that you did your best to let in the best and the brightest and also the most stable, and I think your college owes you that credit. I hope the state of Massachusetts leaves you a good severance. Anyway, I wont join any bandwagon of people who create Sunday morning chatter about the “hypocrisy” of what you did. Certainly, you’ll be talked about for a while by the likes of commentators and radio talk show hosts and your story will circulate through the email chain for a few days and then your affair will be an afterthought. It’ll be mentioned in a few books about ethics, but believe me, Ms. Jones, you have nothing on any presidential administration, ours included.

So, hang tight while some may try to vilify you. I for one wont. I understand. I’ve embellished a few job applications in my life, adding an extra month to a previous job or making a friend a supervisor–this was back in the day. Anyway, in that regard, we are certainly no different. Do you know how many people lie on job applications? Hundreds of millions here in America, I’m sure. There was a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays who told the organization that he’d served in Nam, for crying out loud. You’ll be fine. Your book will sell well, I should say, except perhaps with those parents who emotionally shame their children for not getting into the top schools out there, forcing them to take extra violin lessons or go to computer camp, when really no one wants to go to those places.

Be proud of the work you did, and think about reorganizing your financial situation. Relax. Do a talk show. Defend yourself if you have to. Sure, you lied, but we all do. What you likely did was for the good and imagine how many scientists, researchers and educators have sprouted in part because of your encouragement. I stand with you, Ms. Jones. You may have not done the right thing, but you clearly did better things too.

Good luck,

Paul

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