In light of the FBI’s Operation Varsity Blues, which revealed parents across the country bribing coaches, SAT test proctors, and other college admissions officials as well as staging scores and extracurricular activities at various top colleges, a large portion of the public outcry that resulted has been directed at the parents and officials.
In particular, William Singer, a man who ran a business to help students get ahead has been implicated and has plead guilty to four charges in federal court has faced the brunt of the outrage.
However, in the storm of all the anger directed at William Singer and the parents he helped, the general public seems to be missing one major piece of the puzzle, the place where their anger should be redirected. Fixing the system that allowed this to happen, and that still lets students use their legacy status and money to make their way into colleges while still demonizing affirmative action.
Although the parents are to blame for committing fraud, they are far from the first to pay their way into admissions, and they certainly are nowhere near the last. In the 2000s, 4-5% of admitted freshmen at Dartmouth and over 100 students a year at Brown were given special consideration due to sizable donations, enough to have them admitted with an SAT score up to 500 points below the school’s 25th percentile.
These numbers are significantly higher than the fifty parents who committed fraud to admit their children, and yet, the hundreds of parents who donate their way into universities are being overlooked in favor of this scandal.
This isn’t the first time donors have been overlooked. A group called Students For Fair Admissions filed a lawsuit against Harvard last year due to the belief that their affirmative action policy is unfair and causes Asian-Americans to be discriminated against.
It is rare that a spot get “stolen” by another student due to affirmative action, while donors and legacy admits take up a larger number of seats. In fact, a study found legacy admits are five times as likely to receive admission at Harvard.
The fundamental flaws of the college admission system are not in William Singer, Olivia Jade, Lori McLaughlin or any of the other people who now find themselves in the center of a media storm. It’s in the system that we’ve allowed to let the rich cheat for years, and it needs to be put into question as much as the people we blame for stealing spots.