New Orleans Conservatives and the rich whine about affirmative action and whether or not their sweet, young things are being denied their rightful entitlements to privileged college and university placements. All manner of people yell and holler about the shoe, clothing, and athletic departments passing some money over to athletes and their families who are wildly recruited and cash cows for their universities, but unpaid and often trying to make it at that level with families already strapped for money. At the same time study after study seems to establish that the educational offering from elite institutions does not confer much more in terms of likely income or attainment although they do reward huge advantages in class status and opportunity access. Despite all of the false claims about the meritocracy of America, no one can keep a straight face about the advantages that institutions accord to legacy applicants where family members get a greased track in admissions based on relatives that have paved the way before them. The farce of six and seven figure donations from the rich to institutions to buy their children a place, while claiming a tax deduction from the nonprofit claims of the university, are just seen as business as usual for the rich and the institution’s development offices.
Indictments of fifty people, including thirty-three parents of children were released by the Justice Department. The high and mighty from Hollywood, law, finance, food, and fashion paid about $25 million in bribes to college coaches and insiders to get their children into Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, Wake Forest, the University of Texas, the University of Southern California, and the University of California at Los Angeles.
The chief scamster ran a college prep agency in southern California. One of the fake test takers he employed joined him in flipping on the parents, coaches, and others once the feds were onto the scheme. He famously described his admissions-for-hire-bribery operation as a “side door” for parents trying to buy a leg up and a way in for their children. The front door would be the way most of the suckers got into school by actually applying, taking the tests, and hoping for the best. Of course, that’s not an equally swinging door for everyone, because families with more resources and advantages can pay for tutors, preparatory test centers, and support extracurricular activities while still pretending everything is equal. He called the back-door entry the straight up big-time donations to development programs. His approach offered the side door by helping falsify athletic prowess and bribe coaches and admissions folks in small, precious sports that one writer termed an “white affirmative action program” populated by the rich and well-to-do like sailing, crew, and water polo to give them a slot.
Reports on this scam claimed that the children were clueless. Really? When they had to fly to Houston to take a test with a special proctor who changed their scores while often claiming they were supposedly disabled or needed extra time?
A Stanford University official claimed that they were the victims too. Really? When admissions and development departments work hand in hand with the athletic departments and created the whole system in the first place? I think not!
The system is rotten to the core. A scammer just figured it out and found enough of the 1% to make it worth his while along with many others. It is up to the universities – and the government – in this overheated admissions process to finally create one system that is fair to everyone who applies, rather than keeping their fist on the scale to help more wealthy applicants hedge bets on their future class status.