As appalling as the college bribery scandal is, it should shock no one. US attorney Andrew Lelling confirmed what everyone had long suspected about the admissions process: Parents can buy their children’s way into college.
Just don’t be stupid enough to break any laws.
“We’re not talking about donating a building so that a school’s more likely to take your son or daughter,” Lelling said at press conference Tuesday, detailing the alleged crimes of fraud that ensnared parents, college coaches, and a constellation of conspirators in the fabulously named “Operation Varsity Blues.”
On Twitter, news of the $25 million scheme sparked dozens of threads where people shared their own path to college. But between reading their stories, and thinking about my own hard-fought path, it wasn’t pride or superiority that I felt.
It was pain, anger, and disgust.
As one of the “poor kids” who walked Boston University’s campus not too long ago, I can tell you that the wealthy’s gaming of the system does not stop at admissions.
Want to know how these kids, incapable of gaining acceptance on their own, manage not to fail out? Sure, a handful may have mustered up the smarts to survive, but let there be little doubt that there’s a thriving paper-writing industry on college campuses. A couple hundred bucks for a paper on economics or statistics buys a night of sleeping or partying as well as a good grade in class.
In other words, the rich and richer continue to cheat their way to graduation. And yet no one, absolutely no one, will question their legitimacy on campus. OK, I might have made a few snarky jokes about Baxter Rose and Von Jr., III, but believe me the cops never got called on them because they “seemed out of place” on campus.
They will never have to prove that they belong there; they will never have to carve out a seat at the table.
But if you’re like me — brown-skinned and raised by a single mom who broke her body working nearly 17 hours a day to ensure that my sister and I would have even just the slightest chance living a better life — questions of identification, belonging, and affirmative action are immediately raised.
When the parents of people like Olivia Jade Giannulli — the daughter of “Full House” actress Lori Laughlin and an Instagram “influencer” who vlogged that she was looking forward to “gamedays, partying” — pay for admissions, they’re stealing more than just a college education. They’re stealing the potential of real upward social mobility for the rest of us who actually did the work to get into college.
The wealthy’s privilege doesn’t end at college admissions. It continues in job offers and opportunities, in boardrooms and in corner offices. That is how they maintain the status quo, how they maintain their power.
Yes, I’m angry at how deep their sense of entitlement runs in our society, but I’m allowing myself to delight just for a moment in the stupidity of these spoiled kids — and their parents for that matter. That despite having it all, these families could not accomplish what I did in getting into college. No one needed to cheat on a test for me or photoshop my face so I can pretend to a be star athlete.
Yet I know these rich kids will survive. No need to worry about them. Meanwhile, the rest of us will continue to slog away. As my mother has always told me: You’ll have to work twice as hard for half as much. Always.
It’s a good thing she also taught me about resiliency.