Editorial, Opinion

EDITORIAL: Perversion of extreme wealth sheds a light on elitist college sports

Federal prosecutors charged 50 people for corrupting the college admissions process last week. Wealthy families spent between $200,000 and $6.5 million to get their children into elite universities including University of Southern California, Georgetown University and Yale University.

When this information was released, people across the country were outraged by the blatant level of fraud and elitism. But we were not surprised. Money and elite universities go hand in hand.

With tuition at elite schools exceeding $50,000 these days, the wealth required to afford these institutions is immense. Sure, there is financial aid, but aid is often limited. What the government and universities consider to be a family’s expected contribution can be widely disproportional to what the family can actually afford.

Many of the students involved in this scandal cheated, some knowingly, to improve their standardized test scores. Universities should not be blamed for accepting students with fraudulent scores, as responsibility for catching this lies more with the College Board and ACT.

However, these elite universities are certainly responsible for accepting and enrolling students with fabricated athletic profiles.

William Singer, the leader of the admissions scheme, made up sports profiles for some of his clients. One student used a posed photograph of themselves on a rowing machine to fake that they were a rower, and others were photoshopped onto web images of athletes, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s indictment.

How are these universities not keeping track of who is dropping out of the sports for which they were recruited? Yes, some coaches were paid to turn a blind eye, but universities must hold students accountable when they offer them a spot in their incoming classes, regardless of why or how the student got there.

To be a college athlete, you have to be the best of the best at your craft. These students spend hundreds, if not thousands, of hours tirelessly improving their athletic abilities over the course of their childhood and young adult lives.

Football and basketball are high-profile sports that can earn colleges hundreds of millions of dollars in addition to prestige that attracts more applicants. Less “popular” sports, such as water polo, tennis, rowing and sailing, have much less of an impact on the culture and power of these institutions.

Yet class spots are still offered up for these generally lower-profile and likely less accessible sports, and admissions officers listen to coaches when they tell them an applicant deserves to have a spot on a team. Some listen, apparently, even when the applicant doesn’t.

Many of these sports are elitist in and of themselves, where access is primarily restricted to the wealthy. Tennis lessons are not cheap. How many middle-class students have a rowing team at their high school? And who sails competitively but the rich?

At selective universities, there are a multitude of applicants who are “qualified” for a spot in the freshman class but get rejected. Sports can and should be used as a factor for admissions. But there should not be slots in a class reserved for athletes.

We doubt there are similarly set slots for robotics champions, prize-winning high school journalists and young academics with similar accolades. Winning a science competition is a factor that may get you accepted to Yale, but it certainly isn’t a guarantee. The same should be true for students who row.

What is perhaps most sickening about this college admissions scandal is how parents viewed their students as having the right to attend an elite college. The fraud and bribery involved is illegal and morally reprehensible, but the real issue that’s brought to light here is elitism.

YouTuber and social media influencer Olivia Jade Giannulli, whose parents allegedly for her acceptance into USC, said in a 2018 YouTube video, “I don’t know how much of school I’m going to attend. But I do want the experience of, like, game days, partying. … I don’t really care about school.”

Therefore, it’s clear some of these students, especially Giannulli, viewed their intended degrees as accessories — not tools or signifiers of a quality education.

There should not be anyone at college purely for the parties and the drinking because for every place in a freshman class, there are thousands of students who were denied the privilege to learn at a place like USC.

This goes for the students who got in fraudulently and for those who were accepted because their last name adorns a building somewhere on campus.

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