We all know that bribes are illegal, but what exactly are the charges in this case? According to the law, the victims were the colleges.
The WSJ explains that “prosecutors are alleging that the parents conspired to deprive colleges out of the honest services of athletics coaches and administrators accused of taking bribes. ”
But the elite colleges didn’t care enough about this problem to police their own people. They didn’t care enough to initiate their own FBI sting. The college presidents from these schools haven’t been holding triumphant press conferences or even giving interviews with reporters.
So, you know what that makes me think? They really didn’t care about this problem.
Maybe these college thought that an occasional student who gets into their side door was just the cost of doing business. It wasn’t worth an expensive and disruptive crackdown for the one or two students that sneak in every year.
Or maybe schools didn’t care because the whole system is a joke and they know it. In a school where 30 percent of the incoming class have parents who attended the school, it’s hard to claim that merit is the sole admissions standard.
It’s also hard to maintain a high moral high ground, when another 30 percent of your incoming class are the children of wealthy factory owners in China. Those students always pay full freight, which is nice for the school.
And you think applications here are fraudulent? Do you know what those wealthy Chinese factory owners are doing for their kids? Puts us to shame. Rumors are that the wealthy parents in China buy apartments for their kids around Columbia and NYU years before their kids admitted, because they know it’s a sure thing. Wealthy Chinese students are such a huge part of the Gen Z college experience that they all have jokes about the Maseratis outside the student center.
There’s way, way more about the shallowness of the admissions process and the meritocratic myth in this story, but let’s go back to talking about the crime.
So, you have to imagine the cops coming to your door saying that arrested a criminal who was breaking into your shed. Yay. Aren’t you happy? And, oh by the way, the cops say, what are all those unopened boxes of televisions doing in your shed?
That’s what happened. It’s actually pretty funny.
And by pointing out all the problems and rot in elite universities, it totally trashes their brand, which is about they only thing that they have going for them.
Not only are faculty teaching the exact same classes as other universities (see my discussion of Intro to American Government here), but many times, they aren’t even teaching.
Last year, a friend of mine sent me her daughter’s syllabus of economics class at an ivy school. The class was taught by a huge name in the field. Having a big name at the podium is a big part of the justification for $70K tuition. But my friend was ticked off, because the guy only showed up to give about half of the lectures. The rest were taught by his TAs.
The only difference between an elite private college and an elite public college is the handholding by administrators and the fancier buildings. That’s why a lot of parents are starting to send their kids the public schools and why the lower ranked private schools are having problems.
But most parents and kids don’t really care about the classes, I suppose. It’s all about the brand. The windshield sticker. The branded sweatshirt. The bragging rights. That’s all these elite colleges offer. So, when a scandal like this tarnishes the brand, it’s a MAJOR disaster. When people start questioning their decisions about legacies and international students and athletes, when people shed light on what they like to keep very private, it’s a MAJOR disaster. When people question whether or not this is a school for the world’s absolute best and brightest, it’s a MAJOR disaster.
The colleges are the victim of a crime, but from their point of view, the villains aren’t the botoxed Hollywood mommas. For them, it’s the FBI and the public attention that threaten their brands and their empires.