Is the college admissions scandal really shocking?

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?

Documents released by Harvard University in 2018 show that 33 percent of legacy applicants, (kids who had at least one parent who graduated from the college) gained admission to the classes of 2014 through 2019. Some of those legacy families dole out significant amounts of money in donations to universities (and not just Harvard), to express their support of higher education, if not to also cement the admission of young Tommy and Jane.

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.”

–SARAH BETANCOURT


BEACON HILL

State Rep. Paul McMurtry has been cleared of wrongdoing by a special legislative committee investigating allegations that he grabbed the “backside” of a freshman female lawmaker at a December orientation conference in Amherst. (Boston Globe) The alleged victim of the backside grab did not make a formal complaint and did not participate in the investigation. (State House News)

A WBUR event on gun control featuring several of Beacon Hill’s top leaders was interrupted by students from Roxbury and Dorchester who said the officials weren’t speaking to the reality of gun violence in their daily lives. (CommonWealth)

Attorney General Maura Healey joins a lawsuit by states across the country challenging President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the southern border, saying the declaration may divert federal funds that had been scheduled to go for various projects in Massachusetts. (CommonWealth)

The Massachusetts House again votes to lift the family welfare cap. (MassLive) The House also voted to ban conversion therapy for minors. (MassLive)

DigBoston’s Jason Pramas writes about the importance of political activism in the wake of major revelations, like a new report showing that 160,000 people are on public housing waitlists across the Commonwealth and the recent decision to hike MBTA fares.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The employment rate of residents at Worcester’s two largest public housing projects jumped from 39 percent in 2014 to 62 percent this year, which officials say is evidence that their self-sufficiency programs are working. (Telegram & Gazette)

Center Court Partners is proposing to build two 20-plus-story residential towers on Morrissey Boulevard next to the former offices of the Boston Globe. (Dorchester Reporter)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Tom Steyer, a wealthy businessman who is leading the charge for impeaching President Trump, held a rally in Agawam to put pressure on US Rep. Richard Neal. (Berkshire Eagle)

ELECTIONS

Beto O’Rourke joins the crowded Democratic field for president. (Washington Post) Diane Hessan says Democratic voters are worried about the party’s chances of reclaiming the White House, despite all the knocks on the Republican incumbent they’ll be up against. (Boston Globe)

Some Fall River residents are saying the recall election that had embattled Mayor Jasiel Correia II reelected was a waste of money. (Herald News)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Women are underrepresented at the state’s top 25 business advocacy groups, according to a survey by the Eos Foundation. Sen. Jason Lewis of Winchester said at the event where the numbers were released that he is pushing legislation setting mandatory levels of female participation on public boards and commissions and publicly traded companies with their headquarters in Massachusetts. (CommonWealth)

The possibility of a strike by Stop & Shop workers could exacerbate grocery access challenges in “food deserts” even if the company brings in temporary workers. (WBUR)

Developers are floating plans for two towers — each more than 20 stories high — at the former Channel 56 studio site on Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester. (Dorchester Reporter)

Mashpee’s Board of Selectmen has given the go-ahead for a company already operating a medical marijuana facility there to negotiate an agreement with town authorities for a proposed recreational marijuana facility. (Cape Cod Times)

Leaders of the state’s regional tourism councils are pushing lawmakers to up their funding in the coming budget. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

A report issued by the group Education Reform Now Advocacy says Lawrence schools are outperforming Boston’s, even though Boston spends 36 percent more per pupil. (Boston Herald) More than three dozen people have applied for Boston’s school superintendent post. (Boston Globe)

Salem High School principal Jennifer DeStefano abruptly resigned on Wednesday, and the school superintendent won’t explain why. (Salem News)

Attorney General Maura Healey called for closer oversight of colleges in the wake of the Mt. Ida College closure, but said she won’t sue school officials over their actions. (Boston Globe)

Linda Darling-Hammond is about to take the helm of the State Board of Education in California. You might remember her as the education official who was considered too anti-charter for the education secretary post when Barack Obama was assembling his first cabinet in 2008. (Governing)

ARTS/CULTURE

Bloomberg Philanthropies awarded $250,000 to EdVestors to provide paid summer internships for Boston high school students with arts organizations. (CommonWealth)

The Bowery Presents plans to open a 3,500-capacity music venue called The TRACK at New Balance near the Boston Landing MBTA station. (WBUR)

TRANSPORTATION

The Federal Aviation Administration grounds the Boeing 737 models that were involved in this week’s crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet as well as an October crash in Indonesia. (Boston Globe)

Department of Transportation officials say the state’s all-electronic system of tolling implemented in 2016 has collected more than $850 million through the end of January, and drivers owe about $43 million in unpaid charges. (Brockton Enterprise)

The MBTA will soon receive its first battery-powered bus, and General Manager Steve Poftak said the T will not purchase any more diesel-powered buses, a move that would cut back on pollution. (WGBH)

Lynn Mayor Thomas McGee and Bedford Town Manager Sarah Stanton are named the first chairs of the Commuter Rail Communities Coalition. (Daily Item) CommonWealth has more on the coalition.

Merrimack Valley MBTA riders are upset about the upcoming fare hikes. One rider called the sometimes faulty transit service “ridiculous” and another rider said fares are rising faster than paychecks. (Eagle-Tribune)

Former Senate president Stanley Rosenberg showed up at a Department of Transportation hearing in Springfield to advocate for a larger passenger rail expansion in the western part of the state than is currently being studied. (Berkshire Eagle)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted a 20-year license extension to Seabrook Station, a nuke plant in New Hampshire, after the plant’s owners promised to address concrete degradation caused by alkali-silica reaction. (Eagle-Tribune)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA            

A lawsuit threatening the underpinning of the state’s legalization of marijuana consumption was settled out of court with the Harvard Square medical marijuana dispensary Healthy Pharms agreeing to make a substantial payment to the Crimson Galleria and other neighbors. (MassLive)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Criminal background checks for teachers are intended to screen out adults who might sexually abuse students, but lawmakers like state Sen. Joan Lovely and advocates at Cape-based advocacy center Children’s Cove say the checks alone are not effective, and more needs to be done to keep kids safe. (Cape Cod Times)

Richard Baldwin, who was convicted of beating a Groveland teenager to death in 1992 when he was 17, will appear before the Parole Board on April 30. (Salem News)

Boston nightclubs have safety features like outdoor security cameras and identification recorders that helped identify Louis Coleman III as the suspect in Jassy Correia‘s kidnapping and murder. (WGBH)