Harvard is investigating allegations that a student was admitted after his father bought the university fencing coach’s home for almost double market value, the latest accusation of college admissions bias to roil an elite U.S. institution.
According to the Boston Globe, Harvard’s legendary fencing coach, Peter Brand, sold his Needham, Massachusetts property in May 2016 to businessman Jie Zhao.
The home had an estimated worth of around $549,000. But Zhao bought it for close to $1 million.
After the purchase, Zhao’s son gained admission to Harvard and joined the fencing team, the Globe reports. Zhao later sold the Needham house at a $324,500 loss after never having lived there.
“We are now moving quickly to learn more about these claims through an independent review,” a statement from Harvard said Thursday. University officials said they learned about the property transaction through the Globe.
The newspaper’s report comes after a separate spate of college admissions scandals last month prompted a nationwide debate about academic fairness. Some 50 people were indicted in March in a scheme that saw wealthy parents bribing college coaches and testing center officials to get their kids into elite universities, according to federal prosecutors. Harvard was not among the campuses implicated in that scandal.
But according to the Globe, “The 2016 sale of Brand’s home raises questions about whether Brand helped Zhao’s son get into Harvard in exchange for the inflated home price.”
Zhao denies any wrongdoing. He told the Globe he simply wanted to help the fencing coach shorten his 12-or-so mile commute after hearing the coach complain.
According to Zhao, his son had stellar high school grades at the prestigious St. Albans School, was a successful fencer and had multiple Harvard connections, including his older brother and mother. Zhao said his son’s admission to the Ivy League campus was a “no-brainer”.
Harvard told the Globe that its admissions policies are strenuous and said it is “committed to ensuring the integrity of our recruitment practices.”