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#11 - Nick: The Pincus family and their construction com

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Complete Question Explanation

A Point at Issue question here, where we must determine to which of the five claims in the answers Nick and Pedro would give opposing answers. This question is in the Prove family, like Must Be True questions, and we must therefore rely entirely on the text in the stimulus to guide our selection.

Nick begins by claiming that the university should not give a contract to a competitor of a construction company that has, along with the family that owns it, been a long time financial supporter, on the grounds that doing so would be disloyal. Pedro responds that the university has no obligation to refuse to award the contract to the competitor, because if there was such an obligation it would devalue the charity of the longtime donor, apparently treating it as a payment for services rather than a charitable donation. He concludes that the contract should go to the most competitive bidder, regardless of who that turns out to be. The stem asks us what it is that the two disagree about.

Answer A: This is a potentially attractive wrong answer that asks whether loyalty should sometimes be taken into consideration in business matters. While Nick would clearly say yes, it is unclear what Pedro would say about whether it should ever be a consideration. We know only that he would say it should not be a consideration in this case or in similar cases involving a charitable donor. In other business matters that do not involve charitable contributions, Pedro might be fine with giving loyalty some weight - we just can't know based on this stimulus. For that reason, this answer must be rejected.

Answer B: This answer asks about the motives of the family for making their donations over the years. It's unclear, based solely on the text, what either of our speakers would say about that, so this answer cannot be the credited response. We need clear evidence that one person would say yes and the other would say no, and there is too much room for doubt here.

Answer C: This is the correct answer. Nick's argument is based on the idea that accepting a donation does place the university under an obligation to the donor, while Pedro argues against that very idea, saying it does not do so. Nick would say yes, Pedro would say no, and we have sufficient proof, based solely on the text, that this is the point at issue.

Answer D: This answer sets up a sort of sliding scale of gratitude, with long time donors deserving more than to newer donors. As neither of our speakers advance any such idea, and the stimulus says nothing about any such a comparison or indeed about any new donors, this answer is a loser.

Answer E: This brings new information that is completely unknown from the stimulus. It is unclear whether any bids have yet been submitted, let alone about whose is the most competitive. Due to this new information, not allowed when dealing with questions in the Prove family, this too must be rejected as a loser.
PianolessPianist
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Hi there

I had a lot of trouble with this one because the correct answer seems to strong to me.

Although Nick states that the univeristy *should* offer the contract to the Pincus family, he doesn't suggest that there is any kind of obligation -legal or moral - to do so. In fact, perhaps he just thinks that this is just the most financially prudent decision, and that the univerity ought to adopt the most financially prudent practice (which, obviously, is not an obligation by any means).

Ordinarily, I wouldn't be splitting hairs between "should" and "obilged," but given that the LSAT often expects us to make similarly nuanced distinctions, it seems unreasonable to expect students to intuit when such distinctions apply and when they do not.

Or perhaps I'm just missing something - any insights would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks!
Jon Denning
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Hi Pianist - thanks for the question! This one is a little tricky given the wording, but I think we can get to the bottom of it :)

On the one hand, it's fairly easy to see Pedro's position on (C): he clearly disagrees, stating "accepting a donation does not oblige the university to give the donor any special privileges." The notion of obligation is even in both Pedro's claim and the correct answer. So the question, as you suggest, is what Nick might say upon hearing (C).

Nick's position is that the university should not award the contract to the Pincus family's main competitor, because doing so would be disloyal to a family (Pincus) that has supported the university financially for decades. So what's the motivation behind Nick's position on the university's behavior? Favoritism towards a donor. That's the only factor Nick mentions in drawing a conclusion about what the university should/shouldn't do. What that tells me then is that Nick must believe a donor ("friend of the university" as he puts it) deserves some sort of special or privileged treatment, and a university should act accordingly (why should it? there's an obligation/responsibility to do so). And from that it's reasonable to conclude Nick would agree with (C).

Is (C) a bit stronger than I was expecting? Yes, likely so. But note that when Pedro takes such a strong position—"accepting a donation DOES NOT...—we can get away with an answer choice that's fairly absolute, in this case where Pedro would undoubtedly disagree with it. Then it's just a matter of (1) asking whether Nick's statements seem to put him in a position of agreement (they do), and (2) comparing it to the other four options to see if it's the one that "provides the MOST support for" a disagreement (it is). Always keep in mind that second point: an answer doesn't have to be perfect, or ideal, or even precisely what we were expecting/hoping for...it simply needs to outcompete the other four. And (C) does that here!

Finally, I'm really glad to see you're examining questions with this level of scrutiny and this type of attention to detail as you practice! Far better to approach things with an eye towards failure and elimination than the flip-side where people are constantly trying to make answers work...that's a recipe for disaster on a test as clever as this :)

So keep it up!

I hope that helps!
Jon Denning
PowerScore Test Preparation

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My LSAT Articles: http://blog.powerscore.com/lsat/author/jon-denning
PianolessPianist
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Thanks Jon!
Personally, I'm not at all a fan of this question (I'm generally quite impressed by the LSAT's questions in terms of their ability to check what they're designed to check), but I appreciate the helpful explanation!