It has recently been revealed that Operation Varsity Blues, a sting operation that has netted 50 people who have participated in bribery in order to get unqualified students into top colleges, has had quite a fallout. Hundreds of court documents have resulted in parents being charged with things like felony conspiracy to commit mail fraud and at least one count of honest services mail fraud. Among those caught up are Lori Loughlin, who was a longtime regular in When Calls the Heart, a Hallmark channel drama series, and her daughters, Isabella Giannulli and Olivia Giannulli.
Olivia Jade Giannulli was a first year student at the University of Southern California (USC) who was accepted in the school under false pretenses. Her parents allegedly bribed USC athletic officials saying that Olivia was a rower even though she had never competed competitively. Isabella was admitted under similar circumstances. Their mom, Loughlin, was arrested and has been released on a $1million bail. Also caught up in the sting was Gordan Caplan, co-chairman of mega-law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher, who prosecutors say paid $75,000 to have his daughter’s ACT score doctored. Caplan has been placed on a leave of absence from his firm. In addition to these situations, numerous others are in the process of dealing with the consequences of these breaches of academic protocols.
It will be very interesting to see how far the rabbit hole goes regarding this cheating scheme. More importantly, there are other ramifications that are of even greater import. For years, African Americans have had a love-hate relationship with affirmative action. On the one hand, they have had to struggle to get it. On the other hand, it has painted Black college graduates with the brush of suspected academic inferiority; people have a tendency to believe that they were not smart enough to achieve without the extra help that affirmative action provided. It has not been enough to convince people that affirmative action’s ultimate goal is the leveling of the playing field, even though the deck has long been stacked against Blacks.
We have turned a new corner with the revelation of the cheating scheme. Along with legacy college entrants and wealthy parents who have generously donated large sums of money to schools, we have another greased road to contend with; those who are wealthy enough to bribe their way into top tier schools. This disenfranchises others not similarly situated.
Why are people so intent on getting into elite schools? For one, the quality of education that one receives at those institutions is top flight. More importantly, however, are the connections that one makes at those institutions. People who attend schools with individuals who are destined to become society’s movers and shakers places them in a position to ascend to high positions post-graduation themselves. This is one of the chief benefits of these schools.
With the recent cheating scheme revelations, which are probably the tip of the iceberg, it gives us an idea as to the kind of barriers African American school applicants have routinely faced. When the highest halls of academia are off limits, there are barriers placed in other areas of American life, especially in the halls of corporate power.
It is becoming apparent that things are not what they appear to be in American life. Because of corruption, cream does not always rise to the top, due to inequities in education access for those who are not a part of the “in crowd.” In this regard, the field is definitely not level; it is more like a see-saw with the wealthy holding everyone else up in the air where they are at a distinct disadvantage. Hopefully, now people will see clearly the need for helping to ensure that minorities and the non-wealthy have equal access to quality education; the covers have been pulled off for everyone to see that some type of affirmative action is needed, and not because of any academic deficits possessed by those who need the extra help accessing quality education. We now see how wealth, i.e., white affirmative action, has kept others locked out. A Luta Continua.