The Haves v. The Have-Nots

When federal prosecutors charged more than two dozen wealthy parents with bribery, and fraud for using substitute test-takers and false athletic records to gain their kids’ admissions to top colleges, many in the media were not surprised.

“This large-scale grift,” Willa Paskin writes in Slate (Mar. 12), “is a window into the ethical and moral rot of our supposedly meritocratic college-admissions system and a class-riven America where even extremely rich and privileged parents are in a panic for their children’s future…”

“The real scandal,” Libby Nelson writes in Vox (Mar. 12), “is what’s legal.”

“Wealthy parents wanted to get their kids into elite colleges,” Nelson points out, “but their kids had so-so grades and test scores that wouldn’t qualify them for admission through the usual process. Happily for them, college admissions isn’t a level playing field.

“The children of alumni get a leg up. So do the children of major donors; a recent lawsuit over Harvard’s admissions policies revealed the details of how they are treated as much as revenue generators as they are for their potential as students. And athletes are routinely admitted with lower grades and test scores than other students.”

Writing for The New York Times (Mar. 13), former college student Rainesford Stauffer reports (Mar. 13), “I met with an older friend who had attended an Ivy League-adjacent school. I wanted her advice on whether to apply to her alma mater.

“I’d love it there, she assured me, with one caveat: You have to be really smart, she said. It became evident that her ‘smart’ and my ‘smart’ were different things. She casually rattled off hours she’d logged with a personalized standardized test tutor, paid to boost her score. Her parents opted not to pay an editor to work with her on her application essay, but plenty of her classmates’ families had.

“I suddenly felt as though I’d failed a test I didn’t know I was taking. I was even more gobsmacked when I realized how common her experience was.”

Some parents went so far as to allegedly photo-shop their kids’ faces onto the bodies of water polo players and pole vaulters to show admissions their kids’ special skill set worthy of an athletic scholarship. Worse still, several of the coaches were in on the scheme.

“[Actress Lori] Loughlin,” Alexandra Robbins writes in The Atlantic (Mar. 12), “and her husband allegedly paid ‘bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team—despite the fact that they did not participate in crew.’ The FBI alleged, ‘In many instances, the students taking the exams were unaware that their parents had arranged for this cheating.’ ”

This brings up an interesting ethical question: Should children, who were ignorant of the fraud, be removed from the schools they’re currently attending?

One East coast college professor offered this response with an eye on the long-term consequences.

“If admission was only the result of bribery – even if the students were unaware – then they should be removed, and each student should be reviewed under the admissions criteria for that institution for readmission. If on a level playing field, the students were not qualified but for the bribery then those students, in my judgment, should be removed and other qualified candidates admitted.

“As you know, a number of colleges and universities no longer base admission primarily on testing, in whole or in part. And, to me, that’s a good thing because the applicant has to be viewed within the totality of who they are including character, academics, sports, life experiences, etc. …

“The ability of hard work, honesty and determination to overcome obstacles – on a level playing field – is the hallmark of Horatio Alger and the belief of many Americans.

“If a 4 X track team can lose a medal because one of the runners was found to have taken PED’s [Performance Enhancing Drugs], then – though not quite the same case – students who are admitted either because of bribery or due to other forms of cheating should lose their seats at those colleges (and have to reapply).

“If the ‘fix is in’ then the rise of what Teddy Roosevelt called the natural aristocracy would not occur and the best and brightest of our young people would be denied the opportunity of advancement based on their intelligence, ability, and skill. We all lose unless this cheating is stopped immediately.

“Faith in the integrity of our institutions requires no less.”

Coming Friday: @StopTheInsanity

1 comment… add one
  • Gary Lange March 20, 2019, 3:42 am

    As a professor, parents who “cheated” to get their kids into a university sickens me. However, I disagree with your East coast professor who thinks that students should be unenrolled because of the “sins of their parents”. If the students did not know about it, let them finish their degree and get on with the lives. Maturation is about becoming who you are and could be–no matter what your parents did.

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