Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Bad Advice: IvyAdmit Consulting Associates (2010)

IvyAdmit Consulting Associates is a company that specializes in offering advice to international students on how to become admitted to the top universities in the United States. They are based out of Cambridge, Massachusetts but also have offices in New York City and travel the world to meet with potential clients. IvyAdmit Consulting Associates is run by Mark Zimney who employs a group of current and former professors and students from Ivy League universities. Based on their combined experience they are able to help international students become accepted to the dream schools of their choice. As consultants, they help students in preparing and taking the required entrance exams and courses for American universities.
Controversy arose for the IvyAdmit Consulting Associates in 2010 when a lawsuit was filed by Gerald and Lily Chow. (Kim 2012) The Chow’s accused IvyAdmit Consulting Associates of lying to them about credentials they were promised when the consulting firm was hired. The Chow’s paid Mark Zimny millions of dollars in services in hopes of getting their son into Harvard University. It was later discovered that Zimny was not a professor at Harvard University, as he promised he was to the Chow’s and his only connection was being a visiting assistant professor. Zimny’s relationship with Harvard University had ended in 2005, over two years before Zimny introduced himself to the Chow’s. The Chow’s were told by Zimny that to be accepted into a prestigious university, one must make lofty donations to the school. Due to “embedded racism” schools did not accept large donations from Asian families according to Zimny. Therefore for the Chow’s have their son accepted, they must pay Zimny who would then make the donations in his name on behalf of the Chow’s son.  It was later discovered that Zimny did not make the donations on behalf of the Chow’s. . For compensation, the Chow’s began paying 4,000 dollars a month per child for services, then an additional one million dollar retainer for each of their two children. Zimny then asked for an additional one million dollars to start a donation fund for Stanford University. The Chow’s refused to pay this after Zimny refused to allow Mr. Chow make the donation in his late mother’s memory.
There are four ethical theories that this case can be based on. The first one individualism states that an act is ethical if it maximizes profit as long as the actions are legal. This case does not follow that as Mark Zimney lied about his credentials and accepted payment which was meant to be donated but instead he kept for himself. Both of those are illegal.
The second theory is Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism says that the ethical act is the one that causes the most people to be happy. In this case there are four groups of stakeholders, the Chow’s, IvyAdmit Consulting Associates, other foreign students, and other consulting firms that deal with international students. The Chow’s were hurt by these actions as they lost millions of dollars. IvyAdmit Consulting Associates was helped by making money. Other International students were harmed as they lost trust in consulting firms. And other consulting firms were hurt as the industry lost support and trust of international students based on this act. When it is considered that three out of the four groups of stakeholders as harmed by this case, it can be concluded that the actions were unethical.
The third theory is Kantianism. Kantianism states that one should do proper actions because it is the right thing to do. People are humans and should be treated as such according to Kantianism.  Mark Zimney did not do the right thing in this case. He should have helped the Chow’s son be accepted into a top university instead he just used them for their money. Kantianism would not support this case.
The final ethical theory is the virtue theory. The virtue theory states that people allow for others to be happy and not prevent this by giving them vices. IvyAdmit Consulting Associates did not do this. For the Chow’s to be happy, they would need their son to be accepted into an elite university. IvyAdmit Consulting Associates prevented this by not offering them the proper assistance that they desired. The virtue theory would not support this case.


Desjardins, Joseph. An Introduction to Business Ethics. New York: McGrawHill, 2011.

IvyAdmit Consulting Associates, "IvyAdmit." Last modified 2010. Accessed April 13, 2013.

Kim, Susanna. "Parents Sue Education Consultant For $2 Million After Sons Don't Get Into
Harvard." ABC News, 10 10, 2012. http://abcnews.go.com/Business/parents-sue-education-consultant-million-sons-harvard/story?id=17436668

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