A student newspaper has accused the president of Boston University, John R. Silber, of planning to "sell admissions" to the university's law and medical schools in an effort to raise funds for the school.
The newspaper, the bu exposure, based its story on a confidential transcript of an October 1973 meeting of a specially convened BU finance committee.
Silber is quoted as saying at the meeting: "There have been any number of people crawling all over me for admission to our medical school and our law school who have never been tapped systematically for a gift to this university. I'm not ashamed to sell those indulgences.
"We don't admit someone to our medical school and our law school who isn't qualified to get in. But at the same time, when we facilitate that admission, there's no areason why we shouldn't go right back to the person - the father of the person who's been admitted - and talk to him about a major gift to the school. We have not done this systematically."
According to the transcript, honorary university trustee Louis I. Rosenfield responded: "John, I'm very happy you've cleared my conscience because when I got this boy into law school and I demanded $50,000 I was greatly criticized."
Silber said in an interview that the transcript is valid. But he said he has no apologies.
"I'm not ashamed of a damned thing I said at that meeting," he said, adding that his comment about "indulgences" was offered as "a humorous aside."
"There's no way that I could've been serious about that. It's just logically impossible that I could've been serious," said Silber, who has been embroiled in much-publicized battles with students, faculty and administrators since becoming president of the private university in 1971.
Silber said Rosenfield also was joking when he said he "demanded $50,000 for getting a student into the BU law school.
" . . . That was a joke, too. He didn't pick up the money from a father and then go and get the father's son into law school," Silber said. He said Rosenfield solicited the contribution after the student was admitted.
Rosenfield, reached in Palm Beach, Fla., denied making any remarks about a $50,000 contribution at the 1973 meeting.
"If the transcript says I said that, then it's been altered. I have never solicited anybody," said the retired businessman.
However, he said "there were five occasions where people who were trying to get their kids into BU approached me." But, he said, "I told them I wouldn't do it."
"You can't be so naive as to think that this doesn't happen, can you?" he chided. "Three universities have come to me - large, prestigious universities whose names I won't give you - looking for gifts, telling me that they'd consider some students if I got them a million dollars. But I wouldn't do it."
No evidence has been produced showing that a student was admitted to the BU law or medical school on the precondition that the applicant's parents make a "major contribution" to the school. And it is common practice for colleges and universities to solicit contributions from the families of students almost from the moment they are admitted.
However, publication of the alleged remarks by Silber and Rosenfield has caused much consternation on campus and has raised anew questions of access to higher education - particularly, access to potentially lucrative professional degrees.
Many here see it as the same question raised in the celebrated, but unsettled, Bakke case, in which Allan Bakke, a white, claims he was denied admission to a California medical school because the university had set aside 16 of the 100 openings for minorities.
Medical school officials at the California University told The Washington Post in October that a previously unpublicized program for children of the well-connected and the well-to-do - giving the dean the right to admit five of the 100 incoming freshmen on his authority - also may have helped block Bakke's admission.
According to BU officials, the university does have "discretionary slots" thatt can be awarded to children with well-to-do and well-connected parents.
"There has always been, long before John Silber became president, pressure to admit certain students," said a former BU law school admissions official who requested anonymity.
"We do resist this pressure, except, probably, I would guess that in every entering (law) class of 360 students, not more than 10 students are admitted because of this kind of pressure."
BU, like other private schools, has flirted with financial ruin. It had a nearly $9 million deficit when Silber, a toughtaking EX, TOOK OVER THE university in 1971. According to BU's fiscal 1977 financial report, the school has a "modest" $17,796,000 in "cash reserves."
About 8 percent of BU's 18,700 students are minorities, according to a university spokesman, Silber said that about 70 percent of the school's minority population receives financial aid, with an average annual amount of $3,500.
"Now, how do we come by that kind of money to help the poor and the minorities?" Silber asked. I'll tell you. It's by going to the parents of the wealthy students who can pay more and by saying to them, 'Will you not make a contribution to Boston University so that we can educate some children of the poor and some minority students who don't have any money?"
"If that's an educational and a moral practice that's offensive to some people, then that's too bad. "I think it's exemplary as an ethical proposition.So why that hell should I be ashamed of that?"