As a Stanford alum, I feel obliged to defend my alma mater in light of the recent college admissions scandal. Yesterday, 50 people were charged in a racketeering conspiracy where wealthy parents paid million-dollar bribes to get their kids into fancy schools.
People are pissed because the revelation squashes any notion of college meritocracy. But…does it really? These backdoor students are, quite arguably, the very embodiment of what it means to be an Ivy League admit. Not only did the parents bribe their way around the admissions process, they deducted the bribes as charitable contributions. In doing so, these kids demonstrated the most important life skill of all: The ability to work the system.
Exploiting the system is what American meritocracy is all about! Examples abound on Wall Street and in DC, and this is even true in Silicon Valley. The Y-Combinator application specifically asks founders to describe a non-computer system they have successfully hacked. One notable YC founder wrote about his adventures in shoplifting, and his company went on to receive $72 million in funding. Incidentally, this guy is a graduate of both Yale and Stanford Law School.
So here’s what’s gonna happen to the parents accused of exchanging bribes for admissions. They’ll hire some white-shoe law firm, settle without admission of wrongdoing, and the students will go on to graduate with inflated GPAs and privilege intact. The best measure of merit is money.
(Don’t tell the plebes though. We need to keep them busy fighting for scholastic aptitude scraps so they won’t notice while the privileged elite pillage the world.)
Edit (14-March 2019): Here are some fun Ivy League admission stats. Between 10 and 15% of admitted students are recruited athletes, and up to 25% are legacy admits. I don’t see what all the bribery brouhaha is about — undeserving rich kids stealing spots from other undeserving rich kids.