Admission to the University of Schadenfreude

Admission to the University of Schadenfreude

Yale University
[lead dropcap="yes"]There’s a lot of fascination and glee over this college admissions scandal story. In case you aren’t following the constant stream of reports, ultra-wealthy and famous parents along with a bunch of college coaches and administrators in a federal criminal case that says the essentially bribed and lied to get their children into elite universities. Because it also involves a couple of TV actresses, it’s gotten even more attention. The Boston Globe has had more than a dozen stories in the paper the past two days about it.[/lead]

It’s not just the newspaper. TV, print, and Web media are all over this and people are sharing the stories and commenting at a furious pace. We can probably guess why. Most people want their children to succeed in life and most see college as the path to success. They also see ultra-competitive, expensive schools as the surest of those paths, but only a tiny percentage of those who apply can get in. Meanwhile, many people have suspected for a long time that while their own smart kids have a tiny chance to get into the likes of Stanford, Yale, or even USC, if you’re rich enough or able to play a sport well enough, you get special treatment.

So now we learn that parents were able to cheat on their kids’ SATs or ACTs and get them fake-recruited on sports teams for the price of a tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars for the prestige of the right diploma from the right school.

But now they’ve been caught and people are fascinated by this, not just because it confirms previously held beliefs, but because it contradicts a belief that the rich and famous get away with stuff the rest of us cannot. Of course, not everyone has to resort to crime.

It’s widely acknowledged, including in some of the coverage of this story, that if you give a college enough money to get your name on a building or even a lecture hall—or if they believe that you might do so in the future—the college is likely to look favorably on your kid’s application. Likewise, it’s clear that if you can play a sport well enough to get on a team at a Division 1 or 2 school, but aren’t academic, you get in with a pass. Melanie has told me stories of student-athletes she taught at Boston College who weren’t doing the work and she was asked to “be more understanding” so they could retain their academic eligibility.

Privilege takes many forms. And so when the privileged are pulled down from their lofty heights, the rest of us can enjoy their comeuppance for a moment. Meanwhile, the rest of the system remains.

Image Credit

  • Yale_Peabody_Museum_2.c7c901abe3114fd492a838b8b1a856d9: Wikimedia Commons | Public domain
  • Some people got caught, and many more are wiping the sweat off their brows saying, Glad it wasn’t us. People will continue to get away with this. They just know to be a little more careful if they are doing this in a criminal manner.

    And yes there will be the completely legal ways people get preferential treatment. It is interesting about athletics. I don’t particularly see the use in them anymore with all the injuries, and so very few people can use their athleticism outside of football, baseball, hockey and basketball once they graduate. Even then sports lives are very short. shrugs

    • College athletics is a huge money maker. For the top-level schools, like Notre Dame, it brings in millions of dollars per year in TV rights and merchandising. But even for lesser schools and lesser known sports, it brings in donor money by giving alumni a reason to root for their schools and maintain their emotional connection long after they’ve left. With regard to this particular scandal, note which sports they pretended to play: tennis, water polo, crew. These are the sorts of sports that rich kids play at elite prep schools and they carry a certain amount of prestige later in life for the swells who used to play them competitively. After all, why would these Ivies still offer them otherwise?