Is the college admissions scandal really shocking?
There’s the side door, the back door, and the trap door
THE COLLEGE ADMISSIONS AND BRIBERY SCANDAL is riveting, side-glance worthy, but definitely not shocking. The back door and side doors described by the instigator of the college admissions scandal have been bolted shut to middle and working class students, regardless of their academic acumen, since the dawn of higher education in this country.
“There is a front door of getting in where a student just does it on their own. And then there’s a back door where people go to an institutional advancement and make large donations but they are not guaranteed in,” William “Rick” Singer told Judge Rya W. Zobel in Boston federal court Tuesday as he pleaded guilty to four charges.
Singer was the bouncer to the side door, which he described in a phone call to a parent interested in his services as a scrutiny-free guaranteed pathway to higher education.
Howie Carr in the Boston Herald, the front pages of major newspapers, and the anchors of TV stations are all gasping in shock at the fraud. But lift the veil, toss politics aside, and you have to wonder, was there much integrity to begin with?
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Daniel Golden writes in an op-ed in the Boston Globe, that his 2006 book, The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges — and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates, was intended as a work of investigative journalism. But he says it also became a how-to guide for affluent parents who have “inundated” him with questions and, in some instances, money, to serve as their child’s admissions consultant.
Golden’s poster boy for using the back door to the system was Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, who gained admission to Harvard not long after his developer father made a $2.5 million donation to the university in 1998. According to a book by Richard Kahlenberg, and further analyzed by Buzzfeed this week, three-quarters of US News & World Report’s top 100 colleges offer some form of special admission for children of parents who went to said schools. In Harvard’s case, most of those kids are white.
Even beyond the three doors, let’s not forget the trap door, where well-off parents chat with university officials and friends of said university officials at networking events, convincing them to move Tommy and Jane’s applications to the top of the pile.
It’s difficult to imagine the kids pounding on the door, decent grades in hand, and tests not taken by paid-off lackeys, have parents with the time to grease palms like that. You’re looking at the parents who work medium income jobs — the teachers, the social workers, loan officers, and the janitor who might even have to work two jobs. That 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift doesn’t exactly lend itself to extra time to attend cocktail parties with the elite.This already existing privilege is the reason why many students told NPR’s “All Things Considered” that they’re frankly not surprised by all of this.
“My initial reaction was disgust,” said UCLA junior Rugile Pekinas. “[I was] not surprised at all, really.”