Disappointed But Not Surprised: The College Admissions Scandal

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Disappointed But Not Surprised: The College Admissions Scandal

Madeleine Fischer, Staff Writer

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Given that it seems to be all that’s on the news, I felt it appropriate to write up a quick piece about the incident. To summarize, about 50 people were indicted for bribing college coaches and admissions officials to ensure that their children would be accepted into their T20 school of choice. In this process, parents and students alike engaged in a number of schemes, including but not limited to: faking learning disabilities to earn more time on the SAT, paying others to take the SAT in their place, outright cheating on standardized tests, paying adults to write their entire college applications, and pretending to be athletes to be recruited into highly selective schools, to name a few. Thankfully, the FBI uncovered this criminal activity and the Department of Justice will hopefully prosecute the offenders.

Unfortunately, this exposure does little to change the fact that deserving students were likely waitlisted or rejected from their dream schools because their spot was stolen by someone who couldn’t get in without a little money greasing the wheels of the admissions department machine. For students who applied to the schools listed for involvement in the scandal, regardless of whether they were accepted or denied, this truly feels like a slap in the face. Speaking from a position of relative privilege as a white woman whose family members have attended college, I actively recognize that my road to college has been smoother than that of folks of color who may not have relatives familiar with the application process; after all, I will never have to deal with the harassment experienced by many folks of color in academic spaces, including allegations by classmates and professors alike that they were accepted based on their race, rather than their achievements (this, of course, could easily be another story entirely). At the same time, given how much work I put into school and extracurriculars for the last four years, not to mention a combined six months on my applications, I am still deeply upset at the fact that students were able to lie and bribe their way into these universities.

Within this discussion, many stories are reporting that the students of the criminal parents often had no idea that those manipulative actions were taking place. Given the nature of some of the lies, which demanded active participation by the students, I personally find this incredibly hard to believe. If a student is being encouraged to cheat on their tests or pose for photos depicting them playing sports in which they do not participate, I highly doubt that they had “no idea whatsoever” that shady behavior was occuring. Most notably, YouTuber Olivia Jade, whose mother Lori Loughlin reportedly paid $500,000 to facilitate the admission of her two daughters to USC as recruits for the crew team, not only posed for photos with rowing machines to help solidify the lie, but recently told her followers that she didn’t care much about school and attended primarily for the parties and sporting events. Given the fact that Jade also did not fill out a USC application (her parents paid someone to do it for her), it seems very unlikely that she was clueless about her parents’ actions. As such, the fact that news outlets are painting the students as innocent is a ridiculously frustrating and even misleading narrative.

At the end of the day, this scandal serves to further expose the ways in which the super-wealthy have manipulated the system of higher education for generations. For generations, the donation of large amounts of money to a university by parents, conveniently timed with the submission of their child’s application, is completely legal way to better a student’s odds of acceptance. Legacy admissions, additionally, disproportionately benefit students who come from money with no bribery necessary. When analyzed together, it becomes clear that although this scandal has brought more light to the issues in college admissions, wealthy families and their children have had the upper hand in more ways than one for much longer than the last 20 years.

As a result of this revelation, a number of reparations and more long-term solutions have been proposed. On one hand, many are calling for the expulsion of students whose parents paid the way for them to enter college; seeing as those students didn’t earn their spots on their own, this certainly seems fair. Looking more long-term, others are calling for the elimination of legacy admissions, a plan that some schools have already implemented. While taking this step won’t level the playing field entirely, it is certainly a move in the right direction. Currently, the serious income inequality within the United States makes the likelihood of creating a truly equal system of admissions highly unlikely within the next few years, but we must strive to create this more optimal system in order to uphold the integrity of our education system and our democracy as a whole.