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A Privileged Education: The US College Admissions Scandal

The oldest idea of history; the perennial problem of station: education. Get the child as far as possible so that he or she can be propelled, as if from a trebuchet across the ramparts of life. Nasty obstacles – one being a lack of intellect – will be cleared, and the wretched genetic issue will find itself in sinecures, positions of influence and sat upon the comfortable chairs of the establishment.

Universities should be places of educational exultation. In practice, they have become creatures of the state, friends of various industrial complexes, and complicit in some of the darker tendencies of society. Go to university, and understand dankness and rot; go to university, and acquaint yourself with what foul pools of unrefined group-think looks like. (The very idea of a “school” of thinking is disturbingly boxed-in nature),

It is also clear that any institution which hands caps out in hope of filling them is bound to be influenced by the heaviest contribution, though how that contribution is assessed can be a point of conjecture. As the issue of Benjamin Franklin’s diamond snuffbox, a present from Louis XVI showed, a gift might be as troublingly influential as a bribe.

Cap filling, in other words, is beyond rebuttal as a university practice. What is significant is the form it takes. It can either be subtle, with the old blood and club ties playing a role, greased by donations and a designated background; or it can be more direct, with employees of the university taking a cut, an overt way of exploiting the process.

Yale women’s soccer coach Rudy Meredith, for instance, was of the latter persuasion, supplying what were considered by the university “fraudulent athletic endorsements” for two applicants. One failed to get in; another was admitted around January 2018, with parents paying Rick Singer, the grand poohbah of the operation, $1.2 million for the facilitation of acceptance. A good slice of $400,000 went to Meredith.

The Boston US Attorney’s Office got wind of the matter. A federal grand jury subpoenaed the Yale Office of the General Counsel on November 16, 2018, requesting information about Meredith. Full details were revealed once the charges were unsealed on March 12 this year.

Singer has made a pretty sum from such transactions in what appears to be the largest, and longest running college admissions scandal in US history, his modus operandi being the counterfeit athletic and exam profile (doctored photos and exam results, bogus special needs certificates). Other colleges, coaches and parents, have found themselves wading in the pool of accusation, though Southern California seems to be ground zero in that regard. Half of the 32 parents who found their way into the FBI affidavit filed in the US District Court in Boston are linked to USC, accused of old fashioned bribery of college entrance exam administrators, varsity coaches and administrators responsible for athletics recruitment and using “the façade of a charitable organization to conceal the nature and source of the bribe payments.” 

This Monday, former coaches from the University of Southern California and Georgetown University, part of a select dozen, pleaded not guilty to charges that they had participated in the scheme. The list reads like a thick who’s who of the establishment gone south: former USC women’s soccer coaches Ali Khoroshahin and Laura Janke; former USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic, and Gordon Ernst, Georgetown’s former head tennis coach. They are said to be part of an enterprise of 50 individuals, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, part of a racketeering project worth $25 million.

As is the nature of such processes, universities retreat behind an assembled body of rules and spectral processes that are supposed to guarantee accountability. Yale’s attempt to do so in this latest college admissions scandal fails to disappoint. “On the very rare occasion when Yale receives an allegation that a current student included false information in an application,” explains the university in a statement, “Yale gives the student the opportunity to address the allegation.” If the university deems the allegation true, “the student’s admission is rescinded, based on language in the application that requires applicants to affirm that everything in the application is true and complete.”

The university also denies, in an effort to ward off speculation on the subject, that there is “no evidence that a student admitted under this scheme has graduated.” Traditional, indirect ways of influence tend to be the norm; the recent US college admissions scheme was simply more daring, and brazen, in its implementation. It was daylight looting.

It all comes down to style and method. Daniel Golden had already shown in his 2006 publication The Price of Admission, that the wealthy in the US purchase a pathway for under-achieving offspring into elite universities via enormous, tax-deductible donations and the exertion of influence on appropriate university committees. Take a certain Charles Kushner, New Jersey real estate developer, who pledged $2.5 million to Harvard University in 1998. Son Jared, hardly jaw dropping with his SAT or GPA scores, was duly admitted, the rate of acceptance then being one out of nine.

That decision was greeted with consternation at The Frisch School in Paramus, NJ, Jared’s boyhood stomping ground. “There was,” opined a former official of the school, “no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard.” The backfill response, often coming from a spokesperson for Kushner Companies, has always been consistent: there was no link between Charles Kushner’s gift and his son’s admission.

Similar principles, at a stretch, apply to Oxbridge, but the British tend to prefer the subtlety that comes with hypocrisy and class impenetrability. As UK Professor David Andress wondered when looking at the US example, “Why these people didn’t just make strategic donations, perfectly legally, to achieve the same end…” And so he tails off; thickness can only go so far. What is needed there is an additional good “blag” factor, a heftily billed private school education, and good family ties. Exaggerated sporting achievement can help.

This is the issue of corruption in universities who, like any bureaucratic institution linked with establishment values, desire money and possess a self-subsisting interest in supporting its favourites. Where education is not universally free, favours will be done, or least be seen to be done. Appropriate backs will be rubbed. Regulations written in mosaic stone will be broken if needed. In some cases, no law need ever be broken; appearances will triumph.

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  1. Joe Carli

    Wad’ I tell yer…the middle-class is corrupt and decadent beyond rescue or redemption…”AWAY with all trash!”

  2. paul walter


    How easily are people deceived by the illusion.

  3. Joe Carli

    Look at Trump. Kushner, Bolton et al…a bunch of goons. Look at Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, David Cameron et al..another mob of lunatics and then look to our own Government …..what a collection of the scrapings from the effluvients left in the bottom of a night-soil bucket!…..all the filth in the world…and in control of three major western democracies in the world…
    You can kiss it all goodbye, because these scum are not going anywhere without bringing the entire kit and kaboodle down with them…

    “In truth it is just because Don Quixote is a fool that he is a tragic figure. It is an affecting fact that on that world stage, where so many great and wise people have moved and acted, that the fool was destined to give the epilogue.” .. Mommsen ; The History of Rome.

    It’s a absolute disgrace.

  4. helvityni

    Go to Finland and find out how education should be dealt with, free good PUBLIC only schools and universities….

  5. paul walter

    The Mommsen quote is a gem.

  6. Joe Carli

    Helvi’…after watching all those “Nordic Noir” series on SBS on demand, it looks a bit rough over there!!….

  7. helvityni

    Joe, you have been watching the Swedish ones, don’t you know that on the happiness index they now have Finland, Norway, Island and Denmark topping the list…Sweden is somewhere there lower, a bit above Oz.. LOL

  8. paul walter

    They are magic shows.

  9. Joe Carli are right, Helvi’….but say!…that bridge connecting Sweden and Denmark is a beauty!…..Can your Finnish people use it as well…or do they have to go the long way around?

  10. Michael Taylor

    Middle-class! I’d hardly call $1M bribes or the Kushners middle-class. No, this is an upper-class rort.

  11. Michael Taylor

    helvityni, if we didn’t throw so much easy money to the private schools here then we could probably have free education too.

    That’s one of the benefits of travelling: you see other countries doing things better than us.

  12. DrakeN

    Michael T,

    anyone getting more than the basic wage is middle class – according to Joe, the arbitrator of all things classical 😉

    Only a complete take-over of the whole education system by governments will produce anything like equity.

    Rorting is the reason that those with money have their wealth: Class and merit are irrelevant to the debate.

  13. Joseph Carli

    Here is a section from a description of the type of people who set up and manage these Private education systems…..

    ” . . . Mr. Torrens and companion who foolishly confessed to Charles Flaxman an intention to claim the land once back in Adelaide, within the twisted rights of a perverted legislation of what was called ; “Special Surveys”, where a parcel of 4,000 acres of land could be claimed with a deposit of 4,000 pounds, which then allowed the “purchaser” right of purchase for the surrounding “surveyed land” of 12,000 acres for each block of 4,000 acres…once the price of land was then dropped from one pound per acre to 12/6 pence per acre…it became a speculator’s wet-dream!

    On hearing of this intention from Mr. Torrens, Charles Flaxman excused himself from their company, pleading to set up camp away from them for the night, when in fact he left Col’ Light there and rode helter skelter back to the Adelaide lands office to reach it just before closing time to submit his own claim to that very valley that Mr. Torrens thought he was entitled to…A legendary ride by a desperate entrepreneur…BUT..there was a sting in the tail to his action..Because while he did claim that initial four parcels of land of 4,000 acres each, a total of 16,000 acres with right of purchase for another surrounding thousands of acres, he claimed three of them in George Angas’s name and ONE PARCEL of 4,000 acres in HIS OWN name..thereby securing a quarter of the total for his own profit…and not only did he double-cross his master by this covert action, he then had the audacity of forcing Angas, on threat of dropping the entire claim (Angas was in England at this time) unless Angas paid also for HIS : Flaxman’s quarter share!!…The audacity of the man to play Angas at his own game was seen as the ultimate insult and though Angas did wincingly fork out the money, it broke the employment contract and started a vitriolic litigation that lasted for many years.

    So THIS was the sort of person that later desired to start a “Propriety School” for the education of the children of his peers in the colony…for all the like-minded, like attitude, like cunning members of his own class…a private school that would inculcate the intentions of gaining, securing and protecting their ill-gotten wealth . The fore-runner of those public-funded, private screened, profiteering poltroons of a future white-collar criminal class, that now holds by far majority major influence in our institutions of law-making, judiciary, corporate boards, government political appointments, politicians themselves and higher echelon authorities in the land….a corruption complete of every institution of governance by a coterie of like-minded philosophied religious/capitalist indoctrinated “consciousness of kind” pusillanimous buffoons that have steered this nation and a few others in the West to the situation we find ourselves in now…teetering on the verge of economic, physical and environmental breakdown…AND STILL having no desire or perhaps no idea of which way to go from here except to encourage feral bogan elements in our midst to clamour and cry for a new Fascist order.

    The entire private school system has to be blocked from any future funding by THE State Government and left to fund themselves..We ; the people can no longer afford to pay for their private fantasies. They have to be left to grow up or get out!”

    Ps….Get your hands off it, DrakeN…you’ll wear it out.

  14. Lambert Simnel

    To think they name streets, suburbs, even football teams after people like this.

  15. Joseph Carli

    Filth, Lambert…absolute filth!……Joe Stalin WAS too soft!

  16. Matters Not

    MT re:

    No, this is an upper-class rort.

    Sorry, the upper-class option is not available. People are either working class (the goodies) or middle class (the baddies). A type of Procrustean Bed for class theorists.

    It’s a trip back in time. You know – how we once conceptualised social/economic relationships.

  17. Lambert Simnel

    Don’t be a goose MN, unless you are attempting irony..I’ll go the second, but…

  18. Joseph Carli is just the usual lazy attempt to obfuscate the central issue..those with no idea generally resort to ANY idea..usually the most messy and confusing…a situation matching their understanding…consider them not, for they are but fodder….chaff in the wind..

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