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Privilege and corruption continue to dominate our universities

In a world where the white are favoured over the coloured, where men are favoured over women, it is no surprise that the rich are favoured over the poor. It’s called privilege. And this privilege is ever-present in our universities.

Recently, a college admissions scandal broke out in the United States where children of wealthy parents were admitted into elite universities through bribery and fraud. The universities included University of Southern California (USC), University of Texas, Georgetown University, University of California, Los Angeles, Stanford University, among others.

Lori Loughlin, actress of the famous 90s-sitcom Full House, allegedly paid $500,000 in bribes to arrange for her two daughters to enter USC as members of the rowing team, although neither girls participated in the sport. Another actress, Felicity Huffman, best known for her role on Desperate Housewives, paid $15,000 to boost her daughter’s SAT score and secure her daughter’s admission into USC.

It is sad to know that no matter how many hours you put into writing your personal statement, or how hard you study, that wealth and money still play a dominant role in college admissions

After news of this scandal broke, numerous complaints and law suits were filed claiming that students would have not wasted their time had they known the college admissions process was “warped and rigged by fraud”. Students who are studying at said institutions felt that prospective employers may question whether they were accepted to their schools based on their own merits. It is sad to know that no matter how many hours you put into writing your personal statement, how much hard work you put into studying, that wealth and privilege still play a dominant role in college admissions. This makes it very unfair towards students from disadvantaged or low-income families who have to work even harder whilst juggling extracurriculars and jobs. It may be beneficial to the school as the money contributes to its facilities, but it makes our supposedly equal right to education selective and subjective. Acceptance to an elite college, or any university for that matter, should be based on the individual’s merits, achievements and academics, not the wealth of their parents.

In a now-removed Instagram post, Dr Dre posted about his daughter getting into a university on her own merits. Conflictingly, the rap mogul donated $70m to USC in 2013. It is not wrong that Dr Dre donated to the college six years prior to his daughter receiving her acceptance letter. Yet, there is simply no way of knowing if making a hefty donation had a role in ensuring his daughter’s acceptance.

Acceptance to an elite college, or any university for that matter, should be based on the individual’s merits, achievements and academics, not the wealth of their parents

What’s even more worrying, is that this issue is not simply in the United States. Rather, it is far closer to home than we think. In the UK, a student, Yang Li, bribed his professor £5,000 in an attempt to pass his degree at the University of Bath. The student was charged with bribery and sentenced to a year in prison. Whilst the offer was rightly rejected, it does not change the fact that the UK faces a similar issue.

The elite universities in the UK, namely Oxbridge, accept individuals “based on ability and not on ability to pay,” said Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust Social Mobility Charity. A University of Oxford spokeswoman said the same entry standards applied to all students, UK or overseas, based on “academic talent and ability alone” – and UK applicants had a higher rate of success than those from overseas. The message from the very top of the university ladder is clear enough.

Four-fifths of students from the UK who were accepted at Oxbridge between 2010-2015 had parents with top professional and managerial jobs

However, reality paints a far different picture from the rhetoric. Four-fifths of students from the UK who were accepted at Oxbridge between 2010-2015 had parents with top professional and managerial jobs. 45% of offers go out to students who live in the City of London, Richmond and Cambridgeshire. The North West, the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber between them received 15% of Oxford offers and 17% of Cambridge offers. The data reveals these top two social classes cleaned up in terms of places, with their share of offers rising from 79% to 81% between 2010 and 2015. A spokesman for both Cambridge and Oxford stated that they “there are big geographical disparities in the numbers and proportions of students coming to Oxford. On the whole, the areas sending few students to Oxford tend also to be the areas with high levels of disadvantage and low levels of attainment in schools”. The statistics are clear: whilst not as obvious in the UK, privilege and corruption continue to dominate our universities, and will continue to do so in the future.

By allowing individuals with more wealth and status to fill the spots in these elite universities rather than offering those places to individuals from low-income families, universities become part of the social issue of how privilege dominates higher education.

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