From a NY Times article on the crazy low success rates of applicants to prestigious (and even not-so-prestigious) US universities:
Bruce Poch, a former admissions dean at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., said he saw “the opposite of a virtuous cycle at work” in admissions.
The “opposite of a virtuous cycle”. There ought to be a name for that. Maybe, I don’t know, a “vicious cycle”?
(“Virtuous circle” is obviously a back-formation from “vicious circle”. It reminds me of the phrase “random act of kindness”, which seems to have almost superseded the “random act of violence” that it is obviously modelled on. Not that that’s a bad thing…)