Nearly a year has passed since the contentious college admissions scandal first broke. Media outlets have identified the parents as the main culprits, thus leaving the children mostly out of the spotlight. However, they have also felt the consequences of their parents’ actions in the form of expulsion, rumors and cyberbullying.
Some of these children have admitted guilt for benefiting from their parents’ crimes. Jack Buckingham, son of businesswoman Jane Buckingham, said in a statement to Hollywood Reporter, “ I am upset that I was unknowingly involved in a large scheme that helps give kids who may not work as hard as others an advantage over those who truly deserve those spots.”
Others have not said quite as much or anything at all. Olivia Jade, daughter of actress Lori Loughlin, created a YouTube video in which she acknowledged that she had been “gone for a really long time” and claiming that she was, “legally not allowed to speak on anything going on right now.”
It is unconfirmed whether or not any of the children knew about their parents’ actions and are subsequently complicit in their crimes. Trying to resolve the questions surrounding responsibility might not be productive at the moment. Regardless of whether or not they were involved, they must face consequences.
These students shouldn’t be permitted to remain at the schools they were admitted to on false premises. That solution would ultimately undermine the justice system because the overarching crime would effectively go unpunished — the students would still be beneficiaries of their parents’ illegal actions.
More importantly, doing so would erode what the premise of higher-education: merit. If these students are permitted to remain in higher-education, their presence would bolster the protection around wealthy students in the college application process. Education is fundamentally about the growth potential of one’s intrinsic capabilities.
The college application process attempts to quantify both of those things. Undoubtedly, those who have unlimited access to expensive educational and extracurricular resources will appear the most capable on paper. And while there have been improvements, admissions officers still do not have a way to eliminate the vast socioeconomic disparities across applications. The lack of this tool makes it even more crucial to not offer class-privileged students unnecessary benefits.
Furthermore, it is impossible to determine whether or not these students actually knew post-crime. Why then, are we giving them the benefit of the doubt? If they all truly felt remorseful, they would’ve collectively used their massive platforms to speak out against their parents.
However, dismissing these students isn’t even part of a possible solution — It’s merely a necessary step to restore justice after what their parents have done. Private American universities are undoubtedly part of the problem that encouraged this unconscionable behavior. Instead of admitting the wealthy and powerful have them wrapped around their finger, universities are defining this scandal as a matter of individual decisions.
This is a systemic problem. When people can donate a building and receive an acceptance, that demonstrates you can get anywhere with money — and universities are the ones who’ve enabled that. In addition, society has placed an incredibly high value on prestigious universities, who’ve in turn made their admission processes incredibly competitive.
Nowadays, applicants feel immense pressure to be flawless on paper. They spread themselves too thin across extracurriculars and work extremely hard on academic endeavors, resulting in an unprecedented mental health crisis.
The imposed competitive atmosphere pressures students as well as their parents to adopt a “zero-sum game” mentality and find ways to game the system. This scandal shouldn’t have been surprising; this behavior comes with the realm of competition. And obviously, the more privileged have a leg up playing this game with access to private SAT tutors, college consultants and expensive extracurriculars.
Perhaps this scandal wouldn’t have taken place if higher-education was free in this country. The college application process would still not be entirely merit-based because the aforementioned resources wouldn’t be available to all, but it’s an important step towards a more level playing field. Whether or not one is able to obtain a college degree should be a matter of personal preference. It shouldn’t depend on the size of your parents’ bank account.