Inequality Accentuated


The latest scandal to plague that acclaimed paragon of justice, equality, liberty and virtue which is the United States is absolutely stunning. For we are talking here about the status of higher education, on which parents around the U.S. and the world have laid their trust on to facilitate a high quality, fair, and meritocratic education for their wards.

And it is damning to know that it is by a simple incident that the whole racket came to light – I will let you folks read up, but the FBI discovered the scam when an investor from Los Angeles revealed it to them, probably to get a reduced sentence for his securities fraud that he perpetrated on thousands of investors in his company’s stock.

This only demonstrates that sheer wealth and greed could easily blind the rich people, whose only ambition is to seek more wealth and unequal access for their children in an unfair world. The rich folks who benefitted in this higher education scam did not care about the losses that otherwise qualified candidates endured simply because the rich took away what should rightfully have gone to them in the first place.

The more shocking thing is that world beating universities such as Stanford, Georgetown, Yale, and other such universities could have been taken for a ride by their own admissions committees and athletic coaches. It would be very hard for them to claim innocence as these criminals who perpetrated the crimes belonged and worked for the universities. I am sure they would argue that they have been led down the garden path by coaches and admissions officers who probably colluded to get admissions for totally unqualified candidates and fake athletes who should have been thoroughly vetted.

This scandal, in which over 50 rich people have been implicated, is likely to lead to a class action suit by aggrieved and qualified candidates and their parents. The U.S. government is taking the right actions, and thank God, there is no interference by President Trump or his infamous Education Secretary, so far. Such happenings would have led to political action to shield the rich and famous and powerful parents from criminal action in third-world countries, for sure. To the credit of the FBI, they pursued the scandal over many months before culpability was clearly established and arrests could be made.

I am waiting to see if Hollywood, Silicon Valley and the Wall Street would defend these criminal parents. Not likely, but the other rich parents who have not yet been caught should be planning for escape from the clutches of whistle blowers and the FBI. And, there must be many such rich folks. They better be scared. Such scandals should not be allowed to taint the storied reputations of leading universities – I hope the universities acknowledge their lack of oversight and assume the blame for what has happened. That is the only honourable thing to do. A very long wait to do so would surely lead to emergence of a bad reputation for these universities (there must be other universities who are not yet caught in similar situations). The affirmative actions by the admissions committee has not only led to admissions for deserving Black/Hispanic/Asian candidates, but has also led to admissions for fake athletes who are sons/daughters of very rich parents and many of them with fake SAT scores. The SAT tests are going to be tainted as well, as the College Board allowed tests to be taken by purported candidates who did not actually take the test by themselves – they were helped by guides to change their test responses, or they allowed an expert test-taker to take the test on their behalf.

It hurts as my son just took the SAT test, before this scandal broke.

Well, the world is unjustly unfair. Universities were supposed to be fair and equitable, but that does not seem to be the case anymore. As my wife commented, such things should have been happening for a long time in various ways, but this is the first time people got caught. She also feels that this is not the end of the story, and the rich will continue in whatever way possible to execute similar actions, simply because they can afford to do so. Even if they are not paying a fixer to get admission for their wards, they can always spend lots of money in legitimate test preparation, which is denied to candidates with lesser means of course. Most test takers prepare on their own with test aids and tools, not spend hard-earned money of their parents to blow on test preparation agencies.

I am disillusioned to say the least. This was (and is) not the case when I took the Joint Entrance Exam for getting admission to the prestigeous Indian Institutes of Management (the IIMs) some three decades ago. It was extremely difficult to prepare and take these exams, there was lot of sweat to say the least. During my time, almost 100,000 candidates took the exam for just 600 or 700 seats in the three IIMs. Imagine if that exam were fixed by unscrupulous fixers and rich parents!

Well, the U.S. is having more than its share of troubles, of late. One thing I am totally impressed about is that the U.S. government does not interfere in the administration of justice. I do not know if the judges are impartial given that they are appointed by either one of the political parties (their respective governments) with widely differing ideologies. However, the execution of the process of investigation is commendable – there is absolute respect for the independence of investigators without undue interference even from their own bosses. We do not have such independence in many, many countries around the world.

Have a great weekend, folks, and think about the status of higher education and the scandal that is taking the world by storm,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

16th March 2019

Author: Vijay Srinivasan

VJ lives and works in Singapore. He hails originally from Southern part of India, and has lived in Malaysia/Singapore for over 21 years. He loves networking, reading, travelling, amateurish golfing, badminton, and arguing on intellectual issues which affect mankind with his friends and colleagues. He also loves his wines and blogging !

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