Where the College Admissions Bribery Scandal And Affirmative Action Intersect

It was recently revealed that many affluent celebrities are being accused of using bribery so that their children can attend prestigious colleges and universities. According to media outlets, it has been estimated that these parents have collectively spent tens of millions of dollars to bribe admissions offices, falsify ACT and SAT test results, fake sports team participation, and have also taken many other illegal actions to solidify their children’s spot in that college. Some of the schools that are currently being investigated include Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, Boston University, and USC. One case that is most known by the media is Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli, who “agreed to pay up to $500,000 to have their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team -- despite the fact that they did not participate in the crew -- thereby facilitating their admission to USC” (Friedman.) In fact, in one of her YouTube videos, Laughlin’s daughter, Olivia Jade, declared that she does not like or care about school and that she was looking forward to social activities such as partying. Someone with such an attitude towards education should not be in one of the top schools of the nation, but her family being so rich and privileged has placed her in a position where she feels entitled to her spot, even if she clearly doesn’t deserve it.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

This information highlights the underlying privileges of wealth in our society and challenges the notion of simply having to work hard in order to be wealthy. Although these children were already born into a position of affluence, their families had to resort to fraudulence to maintain their reputations of prestigiousness and uphold their “family names.” We are often taught that the reason why rich people are so rich is that they work hard and that the reason why poor people are poor is that they don’t work hard enough; however, there are many other factors that create this great divide between classes. I am by no means claiming that the parents who bribed the colleges did not work for their money but their children will never have to work for their money. They will not know what it is to have to work for anything because their parents have created an environment for them in which working is not necessary.

The reality is that if the parents have to resort to fraudulence in order to get their children into the school, they do not belong there in the first place. Allowing them to occupy spaces they didn’t work for pushes aside many hardworking, qualified young adults. Wealth should not be one of the deciding qualifications that allows someone to attend a prestigious school. In this sense, the system of higher education has proven itself to be a classist institution that primarily benefits the rich, while the poor are allowed access to whatever is leftover. Although students still have access to less prestigious schools or community colleges that the wealthy children (who are undeserving of the seats they occupy in the first place) don’t want to go to, these schools are often looked down upon by society and are not as revered as a degree from an Ivy League school. This alone allows the rich children, who already were allowed the upperhand in life by their wealth, to get further ahead of their less fortunate peers. My argument is not meant to demonize people not for their wealth alone, but for their use of their wealth to unfairly get ahead in a race where they already had an enormous head start. If they would have used that wealth to get tutors and work towards fairly being admitted into the universities, it would be much more just. 

With this serious issue having light shed on it, many have began to look at this issue in relation to attitudes towards Affirmative Action. Many of the arguments against Affirmative Action are made under the assumption that the admission of underqualified Black people and people of color is prioritized over the admission of qualified White people. Many have argued that for this reason, Affirmative Action should be eliminated; however, with these issues being revealed, it is becoming more and more evident that Black students be admitted to colleges is not the reason why certain White people do not have access to prestigious institutions.The reality is that while people of color and Affirmative Action laws have served as scapegoats for people that believe that their children were wrongfully denied access to certain college, seats are being taken by wealthy people who paid their way in so that they didn’t have to work like every other student there did. 

Affirmative Action laws are not meant to keep qualified White people from being able to take advantage of opportunities; they instead serve to try to mend the gap created by inequality and allow equally qualified minorities to have access to the same opportunities that White people have. Black students are not admitted to colleges simply because they are Black nor are they given automatic free tuition for their race. That’s not what Affirmative Action is. Instead, Affirmative Action pushes colleges to be more inclusive of minorities. It is critical to acknowledge that historically in the U.S., Black Americans have been excluded from many opportunities on both federal and local levels. These exclusions include being terrorized by the KKK, not being permitted to vote (or participate in government), and being excluded from enjoying the (housing) benefits of the GI Bill. Affirmative Action exists only to level the playing field, not to reverse the roles, therefore it should not be demonized. That being said, the corruption that has allegedly taken place has exposed that there is a much bigger picture that people fail to recognize. 

 

Sources:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2019/03/18/30-facts-college-admissions-scandal/#30bff60f12a0

https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/18/07/case-affirmative-action