College Scandal

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College Scandal by Dina Barish - Photo by Auden Yurman

Bribery unlocks the side door to elite universities for children of celebrities. With every resource at their fingertips–wealth, fame, privilege, connections–pop-culture icons resorted to robbing students with genuine merit of an acceptance letter to benefit their own childrens’ status.

In a word: pathetic.

How mediocre must these students be? Granted virtually every advantage in the college admissions game, they cheated the rules to win.

And who’s to blame? The students, for embodying corrupt privilege? The celebrity parents, for modeling such exploitation of wealth? The administrators, coaches, test proctors, and various other middlemen, for being willing pawns? The inherent immortality of the admissions game itself?

Naturally, we wouldn’t accuse the actual universities. It’s a rigged process—scandal and injustice at the forefront—but the institutions cultivating tomorrow’s intelligentsia are noble, virtuous, and good. Ivy walls transcend moral controversy.

Yale University boasts its students’ ability to “take responsibility for their personal growth and development.” Georgetown University pledges its “commitment to justice and the common good.” Stanford University’s mission statement profoundly reads, “To promote the public welfare by exercising an influence in behalf of humanity and civilization, teaching the blessings of liberty regulated by law, and inculcating love and reverence for the great principles of government as derived from the inalienable rights of man to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Besides acclaimed academics and reputation, these three top-tier universities share the error of admitting privileged frauds. In the face of systematic deception, each university forsakes the intellectual and honest environment it claims to create. To object the innocence of the universities, therefore, is not to blame collateral damage, but to recognize the fundamental fault of our nation’s esteemed establishments: the inability to detect deceit. The utter blindness toward authenticity versus scam. The failure to disqualify players who cheat.

But maybe I’m being unfair toward the universities. Despite their idealistic mission statements, we cannot expect Yale, Georgetown, Stanford to identify every applicant—or applicant’s parents—guilty of bribery or fraud. A dishonest application, by the time it reaches the hands of an admissions officer, is tainted by so many layers of deception that uncovering the truth is, as a colossal understatement, unlikely. And as much as we want college admissions to be the unbiased referee—the adamant proponent of fair play—strict adherence to the rules proves near impossible.

This is the sort of game in which the directions are complicated and oftentimes vague. You know that exceptions are made for certain strategic moves, but you can’t quite figure out how, when, or if you can make those moves yourself. You have the sensation that the rules keep changing, but you can’t keep up with your competitors. Everyone plays for himself, but alliances are imperative, and you’ll likely find yourself on multiple teams. Your instinct is to refer to the instructions, but no instructions relay all the information.

We don’t want loopholes for the rich and famous. We don’t want integrity to lose. We don’t want fraudulence to unlock the side door.

So, in a word: trust. Acknowledge the imperfect reality, and trust that by resisting negative influences and staying you, you’ve conquered excruciatingly mediocre opponents. You, fair player, are undefeated.

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Dina Barrish is a senior at Rochelle Zell Jewish High School in Deerfield, Illinois. She is the co-founder and managing editor of her school paper, The Stripe, and the executive editor of her school literary magazine. She enjoys musical theater and is very involved in her Jewish community.
Accompanying photo by Auden Yurman