A collection of in-depth journalism previously published in Vanity Fair, each piece exposing trouble at an elite university or prep school.
Even the articles dating back a decade still seem timely, and most of them have been updated briefly at the end of the original text. In some ways, the monthly magazine is about high society and fashion, but editor-in-chief Carter (editor: Vanity Fair’s Writers on Writers, 2016, etc.) has never wavered in his commitment to investigative journalism. Most of these articles carry the bylines of veteran investigative reporters, including Sarah Ellison, David Margolick, Nina Munk, Todd S. Purdum, Buzz Bissinger, and Alexandra Robbins. The targets of the investigations include the University of Virginia, Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Harvard University, St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, Duke University, the United States Air Force Academy, Yale University’s Skull and Bones Club, and the shuttered and disgraced Trump University. Many of the pieces deal with sexual misconduct on campus, while others focus on financial malfeasance, racism, and athletics. The somewhat disparate themes are tied together brilliantly in an introduction by magazine editor Cullen Murphy, who illuminates the schools that offer such an important, attractive subject matter for journalists. They are usually easily accessible and familiar locales for almost every reporter and editor, as opposed to, say, corporate headquarters or government agencies. In addition, many journalists and their audience members carry high expectations for campuses, especially at elite colleges and universities. “We expect more from schools than we do from big business or big government,” writes Murphy. “When it comes to standards of conduct, standards of honesty, and standards of care, schools represent a first line of defense. A breakdown here portends a breakdown everywhere else.” While the book could have benefitted from value-added material, such as reflections by the journalists on their reporting and writing, this is a worthy collection.
Solid material for Vanity Fair readers, fans of investigative journalism, and observers of higher education and its myriad problems.