*As the French say: “Those that profit from crime are guilty of it.” Your parents slid $50k to a university official and got you in to the college of your dreams. Some of the parents had people doctor their children’s SAT tests so that the higher score would smooth their way to getting into an elite college. One of the “internet sensation” applicants spoke of the excitement of “game days” and “parties” and, for some strange reason, never mentioned long hours in the library researching hypnotic age regression, poring over financial reports to find the best company for which to write a paper, or going to the math lab for help with calculus.
Ah, college, all of the great memories; not having money, driving and older car hoping it doesn’t break down, lack of sleep, staying up late for tests the next day, the pressure of exam week, and all for the reward of letters and emails of rejection. They’re glad you got that degree, not that it means anything to them, mind you. Well worth it.
It’s good to know that your classmates who go to the Caribbean islands for Spring Break, (where the really cool people go, without the drunken crowds and mass arrests of Florida) and who spend their summer breaks “bumming” around Europe had to at least struggle getting in to college. Or not. Not including, of course, the internship at a major organization that had four-hundred applicants, but they got noticed, mostly because the upper management and their parents belong to the same country club. You might have competed for the opportunity, worked hard, and sacrificed all the youthful fun you could have had in order to embellish that resume.
They didn’t, and they still win.
This whole debacle is blowing gaping holes in the theory of the U.S. being a meritocracy, where the talented are selected and promoted, to bring out the excellence in our citizenry; it turns out, maybe not so much. The other exceptionally sad part of this event are those young people who sacrificed a significant portion of their youth trying to get into those schools, and all it took was the right payment to the right people. There are people getting admitted to top-tier schools by the “side door,” which is to say, they found another entrance, such as claiming that you are a minority, or creating achievements that they never accomplished.
There are people getting admitted to top-tier schools by the side door”
Fairness means a lot to people, especially young people, because being treated unfairly can make an impression on them that they will carry for the rest of their lives. The imprint of unfairness will cause young people to resent the institution that treated them unfairly, and for some, the resentment lasts for a very long time. Add that they know the college they applied for took someone because of money instead of ability, and you have a great recipe for resentment.
In life, sometimes the most hard-learned lesson is that some people don’t fight fair. To some, winning is everything, and they will resort to almost any measure to win. The big problem with unfair players is that by the time you understand that they will not fight fair, you have already lost. Following this scandal, many applicants who were refused admission to the corrupt colleges are filing lawsuits, claiming that they were denied admission while the students who were admitted by corrupt means took a position that they deserved instead.
One could argue that those admitted to elite universities via corruption also have more opportunities in real life, because the bribes and personal favors don’t stop at college, and never have stopped. It is just that college, for many, is the means by which they get their “foot in the door.” While the “foot in the door” scenario might have worked in past times, going only from personal experience, the wrong degree is more of a hindrance, and will no more get your foot in the door than sending the chairman of the board a two-foot by three-foot cake with your resume written in icing on it.
The wealthy have always had an advantage. While colleges portray themselves as institutions of opportunity, and the poor have at least some chances, nothing gets you ahead better than the right connections and lots of cash. Private schools, individual tutors and test coaches are available for those who can afford them, and, if you look, there are folks that can help with those long papers of any class you would care to take in college.
If you’re wondering if this corruption is surprising to someone like me, with a lot of experience with universities, the answer is no. Making your own opportunities has always been expensive, and having cash to make your own opportunities means that opportunities will roll out in front of you. To review: Very wealthy parents spend great amounts of money to ensure that their children get opportunities and stay happy; a worthy endeavor, unless it involves bribery and corruption. This is yet another story that disproves the meritocracy that so many folks claim represents the U.S., and stories like these only make the news every ten years or so. This event is just more proof of an unfair system where the rich take care of their own, and the rest are left to fend for themselves, all the while insisting that America is this super-fair meritocracy where hard work and sacrifice will pay off.
I have no problem with the rich taking care of their own; the problem occurs when they claim that they’re being fair when they’re not; lying about corruption and nepotism is just piling up the transgressions.
Jeffrey Neil Jackson is an
Educator & Literary Mercenary
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