The newest story dominating the news cycle dissects a multimillion-dollar scheme perpetrated by wealthy parents, SAT/ACT administrators, exam proctors as well as varying sports coaches at elite higher institutions of learning. Such widespread corruption is a regular staple of the college community. In fact, these scandals are so rampant, the FBI only came across this scheme while investigating other forms of misconduct at these colleges. Which begs the question, “How legitimate are the selection processes at these institutions?” As a student who attends one of these elite institutions, the lack of transparency is disconcerting for two reasons.

First and foremost, the ability of the university to pick and choose what it wants to disclose exempts them from all accountability. Without the vigilance of exterior parties, universities like USC have the option of looking the other way from questionable donations and when confronted with their impropriety, they can claim that they were victims of the scam. Legacy admissions have been ongoing for a century and are based on the exclusion of up and coming immigrants with the desire to achieve a college degree, yet the practice only comes under fire when exposed as fraud.

However, the knowledge that classism plays a major role in the admissions process does not excuse this blatant use of privilege and entitlement. It is particularly upsetting that students with a predetermined background of wealth are able to bypass all the measures of merit put into place by a society that prides itself on the American ideal of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.” Not only are they able to bypass these measures through nepotism and bribery, but they are also able to profit off of it. Case in point, Olivia Jade, the daughter of Lori Loughlin, is an occasional class-goer, part-time Youtuber and full-time influencer. Despite openly admitting that she “doesn’t care about school,” she still managed endorsements from Amazon Prime Student and Smile Direct Club, which is quite insulting to the hardworking, low-income students. Some of these students don’t even have “bootstraps,” yet have overcome the odds without the resources and connections available to students like her. Not only do her actions and the actions of her parents rob deserving students of positions to better themselves, but it also serves to cheapen the collective degrees of all the students who attend those institutions while elevating their status. What value does an acceptance or degree hold if it can be bought by someone with an exaggerated remix of manifest destiny and a checkbook to match?

This scandal exposes the flagrant systemic prejudice and inequality that surrounds the college admissions process. On one hand, Harvard University is currently being sued by students who feel they were passed over by less-qualified candidates. Yet, instead of taking steps to correct such discrimination, the suit has opened an attack on Affirmative Action, a law seeking to bridge the gap between people like Olivia Jade and those without the deep pockets needed to attain such opportunities. This suit conveniently ignores the legacy admissions and legal donations that form a significant portion of accepted students yet attacks and disparages low-income and minority students who may have benefitted from affirmative action.

As students, we have to hold these elite institutions to higher standards and not just because of the exorbitant price tag attached to our tuition bills, but because they are meant to serve as level playing field that fosters cultural and intellectual exchange in a world of disparity and injustice. What good does diversity provide if it serves as a front for inequity?

Lead Image Credit: Pixabay