No joke, those were the first words that CynicalSnark uttered here in the office when we saw the news about this bust with all the arrests of the admissions consulting bribery ring .
Get super-rich clients whose parents will donate big bucks to the athletic team in order for the coach to find a spot? Well that seems like an easy way to help a kid make it into college!!!
Obviously CynicalSnark doesn’t run the show here at EssaySnark and obviously we care way too much about ethics to try and pull off anything like this (64 posts and counting in our “ethics” category of posts here on the blahg; that’s more than we’ve written about Tuck or Haas!!).
But this scandal exposes an unfortunate reality in the world of elite universities: Yes you can pay to play.
This is much more common in college admissions but we’ve seen it happen in MBA programs too: A well-connected alumnus/a makes a call. A substantial donation is made to a scholarship fund. A well-connected alumnus/a’s child is suddenly accepted.
We’ve even advised some clients of means to go that route when they really, really, really wanted to get in to a specific school and their profile was just too crappy to make it in (why are so many super-wealthy applicants’ GMAT scores so low??? hmmmm.) And yes, they made it in.
That’s not necessarily illegal but is it unethical? Seems like it, doesn’t it? From the schools’ perspective, why are they willing to prostitute themselves in that way? Or is the applicant the prostitute? Not sure which way the unpleasant metaphor lands, but paying for something like this in America is seedy at best. And yet, it’s done all the time.
Really hate that the system works that way, but it does. Nothing we can do about it. Many experts and analysts in the education field (and other admissions consultant) who have been interviewed about this college admissions scandal have said that they don’t expect things to change. Not really.
What happened in specific in this case is, for example at Stanford, the coach of the sailing team was approached by this admissions consultant on behalf of the consultant’s clients. His clients were these wealthy parents who wanted their kids to go to Stanford. The consultant had set up a non-profit for the parents to donate to, and the consultant was offering to make a donation to the Stanford sailing team as a quid pro quo: Stanford sailing gets the money, and the coach somehow is able to find a spot for the kid on his team — even though the kid did not sail and did not even qualify as an athlete.
This happened in schools across the country with athletic teams who were not seen as stars of campus, the niche rich-kid sports like tennis, crew and water polo — to the tune of $25 million over the years.
And oh yeah: As of today, Stanford doesn’t have a sailing coach. The coach who facilitated these pay-for-play deals there was fired and he’s facing jail time. Other coaches have been placed on leave, and the schools are “investigating.” Yeah, maybe they should’ve investigated earlier? Isn’t it suspicious when so much money arrives out of nowhere like that, especially when it was sometimes tied to the admits of multiple kids from the same family? Not only were there people in the schools actively involved in this and justifying their actions, but there must’ve been many many others who suspected something foul and looked the other way.
And just ‘cuz it’s so damn juicy and brazen, we’ll crib this image of a transcript of the call courtesy of the WaPo:
The other part of the scandal of course is paying someone to take a test for your kid. And to that we say 😯
The most heartbreaking thing?
If you read through the transcripts of calls between actress Felicity Huffman and the “admissions consultant” dude who was orchestrating these scams, her second daughter wanted to get in on her own. The older daughter used the SAT test-center scam where her test results were “corrected” by someone on the inside of this ring, and presumably was able to use her artificially improved score to make it into a good school. The younger daughter was “academically driven” says Ms. Huffman on the call and wanted to take the test at least twice on her own. Yet her mom was meddling in it and arranging cheating on her behalf — when it sounds like the daughter didn’t want her to. 🙁
Dang, parents. WTF?
How do you think your kid’s gonna feel their whole life when they know that they only got in to fancy-pants college because their parents PAID for it? That’ll send you to therapy later on.
At least in this situation, the court docs say that the daughter did not use the test-cheater’s services. Good for you, second Huffman daughter!!
The way we see it, all of this boils down to the issue of wealthy people thinking the rules don’t apply to them, and the very
slippery slimy lack of ethics that follows from that. There are hucksters and scammers in every part of life and everyone is trying to play the game. It may seem like there were no victims in this scheme; it would’ve been really easy for an individual parent to justify these actions. After all, for the sports-donation side, they could feel holy and righteous in making a big donation that they otherwise would not have done, that enabled the school to do more for that underappreciated sport. (Those poor water polo players, nobody gives them any love.)
Yeah. No. Nope nope not.
This is a case where that kid from the cheating family got a spot where some other kid who was working hard and trying to make it on her own merits did not.
Hate it hate it hate it all the way to the parade.
So no, we’re not doing it wrong. We believe in the perhaps naive-sounding American dream, where you work hard and you get places in life. Maybe that’s all a charade, a trick played on the lower and middle classes to trap them, with all those rich 1%ers laughing into their tea. Dunno. We’re not in that group. Plenty of former BSers are but you probably are not.
What we know is that hard work makes you happy, and EARNING your place in life lets you sleep at night.
So that’s where we end up on all of this.
Thoughts? Comments? Shock and horror that this is going on? Lay it on us in the comments if you want to share your opinions.
Will the system change? No, not fundamentally. It’s how capitalism works. The schools are selling elitism — not an education.
That’s why we’re so meh about rankings in the first place.
That problem is too big for us to solve.
So all we can do is say, values matter, and that’s how we choose to live.
You’ll make your own choices in life. When you’re in the rich 1% class, hopefully you’ll remember and keep that moral compass in good working order.
PS: USC seemingly cannot get a break. They have had scandal after scandal after scandal in the past few years. We do NOT currently recommend USC to any applicants for any program, whether MBA at Marshall or otherwise. There is something rotted there.
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