We’ve heard a lot about "white privilege" lately from the social justice crowd -- this idea that "whiteness" itself can be an asset, a proxy for class or other social privilege. But on Tuesday, we saw what the real abuse of privilege looks like -- when elites of different ethnic backgrounds and races use their money to buy status – educational status, that is — for their children.
What do Manuel Henriquez, CEO of Hercules Capital, Douglas Hodge, former chief operating officer of Pimco, actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin and Gordon Caplan, co-chairman of powerhouse international law firm Willkie Farr, all have in common? They were among 33 parents and nine athletic coaches across the country charged in a $25 million bribery scheme to get their kids into top colleges. Dubbed "Operation Varsity Blues," it exposed a web of fraud, payouts and bribes going back to 2011 up until just last month.
Celebs and titans of the industry shelled out huge money to university staff at prestigious universities, who would then designate their kids as athletes. Athletes’ applications get considered under lowered standards at many schools. The man who is at the center of this fraud is William "Rick" Singer, the founder of a college prep firm called the Edge College & Career Network, aka "The Key." He pled guilty and is cooperating.
The Sacramento Bee, quoted a local college admissions counselor Margie Ammot as saying: "Singer would tell parents that he could get their child into the college of their choice. Professional education consultants do not say, ‘I can get you into a specific, particular college.'"
Part of the Singer magic was allegedly having expert test takers take ACT and SAT tests for his clients and photoshopping applicants’ heads onto random athletic-looking bodies. In the New York Times piece about this, the focus was partly on today’s high-pressure application environment: "The charges underscored how college admissions have become so cutthroat and competitive that some have sought to break the rules.”
The reputation of elite colleges was built on merit. These institutions were envisioned as rungs for the those with the qualifications to climb up that ladder. They were not supposed to be clubs for the elites. We need to return to the principle of merit based admission again.
Well, guess what? The process has been super competitive for decades, especially since universities have increased admission of foreign students. That is no excuse for gaming the system, and in this case, breaking the law.
Talk about a "desperate housewife," apparently driven by desperate and illegal measures, a few years ago Felicity Huffman was tweeting a photo of herself, demanding respect and equality for "our daughters." I guess that wouldn’t apply to the girls applying opposite her daughters for a college slot.
Here’s how I see it: There was a time when colleges used to admit on merit — mainly test scores -- plus athletics and extracurriculars. Then they started various legal forms of corruption: legacy admissions, lowered standards for athletes, admission for big donors, and of course, affirmative action.
This latest bust takes the corruption to an entirely new level, where the elites "played” the process, turning what was a partial scam into a full-scale racket. Once college admissions is perceived as a scam, it attracts scam artists. The solution is to bust these scammers but also reconsider the legal scheme the elites have used and abused for years which only hurts the hard-working, qualified kids who deserve admission.
The reputation of elite colleges was built on merit. These institutions were envisioned as rungs for those with the qualifications to climb up that ladder. They were not supposed to be clubs for the elites.
We need to return to the principle of merit-based admission again. Make the lawbreakers pay in this case. But it’s also time to look at the institutionalized abuses of the admissions process, across the board, since these schools are being subsidized, in one way or another, by the taxpayers.
Adapted from Laura Ingraham's monologue from "The Ingraham Angle" on March 12, 2019.