MOST high school seniors would sacrifice their left earlobe to be admitted to Harvard. Not William Desmond of Baltimore. Desmond, admitted to Harvard, Princeton and Yale, looked at all three, decided he didn't like what he saw and cast his lot with Loyola College of Maryland.
He wrote about that decision on this page last Tuesday under the headline, "Tell Harvard I'm not home." The following things happened:
On Wednesday, the New York Times opposite-editorial page published essentially the same article as part of a series titled "Voices of the New Generation." The timing of the publication in the two papers was coincidental. (Desmond also had sent his essay to The Sun, which had rejected it.)
On Thursday, the Times news section quoted Desmond's mother in a story concerning a Justice Department settlement with Ivy League colleges in which the schools agreed to stop sharing information on financial aid. Maria G. Desmond told the Times her son had been offered financial aid packages of $12,000 by Harvard, $11,575 by Princeton and $12,300 by Yale. He had turned down all three, however, because at Loyola "his tuition is free because both his parents teach there."
This information, which hadn't been included in Desmond's article, prompted William Altman of New York to send a letter to the Times that was published Saturday. "It would appear that at least one of the 'Voices of the New Generation' . . . specializes in disingenuousness," Altman said.
Perhaps Altman is a Harvard alumnus. Perhaps he is making too much of Desmond's omission. Perhaps I (and the Times editor) should have been more aggressive in pressing young Desmond for his reasons for choosing Loyola. (He had not mentioned Loyola by name in his original text. I -- and presumably the Times -- had insisted that if he was going to mention the schools he had rejected, he should mention the one he had chosen.)
The last word on the subject comes not from Desmond but from Marge Mitchell of Baltimore. Not knowing of Desmond's golden connections at Loyola, Mitchell wrote us late last week about the joy of having her son accepted at Harvard (as well as Amherst, Brown, Johns Hopkins, Wesleyan and Williams).
Chris Mitchell graduates next Thursday from Loch Raven High School, and his mother isn't loath to brag about him. Her son, she says, is an example of a public school student "reaching for the stars."