Nobody likes a cheater
This article first appeared in Malta Today
People are fond of saying “I would do anything for my kids” but some well-known US celebrities took that old adage too far when they bribed difficult-to-get-into colleges so that their children would be accepted.
According to Reuters, it all started when William Singer, the mastermind of the scheme last week pleaded guilty to “racketeering charges for bribing coaches, cheating on standardized tests and fabricating athletic profiles to help children of wealthy families gain admission to top universities including Yale, Stanford and Georgetown.”
The high-profile case in what federal prosecutors called a $25 million bribery and fraud scam, involved at least 50 parents among whom were two Hollywood actresses, Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman. Lori Loughlin and her husband have been charged with agreeing to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for their two daughters, aged 20 and 19, to “facilitate their admission” to the University of Southern California. Felicity Huffman allegedly paid to have her daughter Sofia’s score on the crucial SAT exams increased by 400 points. (The SATs – scholastic aptitude tests – are the official exams one sits for when applying for colleges – the higher your score the more chances you have of being accepted to the best colleges). Sofia was also granted extra time and had her answers secretly corrected.
The fallout for the celebrities has been considerable, especially for Loughlin who has been dropped from her current TV series Fuller House as well as her lucrative contract with the Hallmark channel, where her wholesome image is in sharp contrast with this turn of events. In a case of life imitating the title of a TV show, Huffman is mostly known for her role in Desperate Housewives. It is not yet known what will happen to the TV series she has just filmed for Netflix in which she is (ironically) playing a public prosecutor.
The public backlash has been so harsh that both women deleted all traces of their social media accounts immediately. One parent is personally suing the parents involved in the bribery scandal for $500 billion because she claims her son was wrongly denied admission to the colleges involved in the scam. The outrage is understandable when one considers how expensive it is to go to University in the States where parents start saving for their children’s college funds as soon as they are born (forget the concept of a free education and stipends as we have here).
Others have been more blasé about the whole scandal, pointing out that it is nothing new to learn that rich families wangle their their children into prestigious colleges by any means possible – by donating a library or a new wing for example – a practice which has happened for many decades. Some feel that the mounting anger against the celebrities has been an over the top reaction which is out of proportion to the ‘wrong’ they have actually done.
However, I am on the side of those who are extremely pissed off, because there is something just so unacceptable and underhanded about what is, basically, cheating. When you have these top celebrities who are wealthy beyond belief and who are already living a life of entitlement and privilege, acting like ordinary rules do not apply to them and doing everything they can to circumvent them, it makes my blood boil. Why shouldn’t their children have to jump through hoops, pass their tests and be assessed the same as everyone else? It is true that life is not an even playing field and if you are born into the lap of luxury rather than in some poverty-stricken ghetto in the Bronx you are already way ahead of the game. But that is precisely why when it comes to something like this, on which one’s future depends, the realization that those who are already privileged are further rigging the system to their advantage, becomes so galling and enraging.
Obviously, there will always be those who have more money than they know what to do with while others struggle just to pay their bills – but this scandal has further lifted the lid on how social inequalities are perpetuated. Nothing drove this home more than watching Lori Laughlin’s daughter Olivia on her Youtube channel laughingly describe how she was barely going to have enough time to attend classes at the college which (we now know) her mother bribed her way into. If there were any further reasons to prove why cheating your way into getting admitted into college is wrong it was all there in that video: if you haven’t worked hard for it, if you haven’t done something on your own merit, and if you have not been given a place because you truly deserve it, you will simply not appreciate any of it. Instead. like many a typical millennial princess, you will think it is all one big joke and you can “speak to the Deans” so that you can miss classes while you flit about to carry on with your modeling contracts..or whatever this “social media influencer” actually does.
The worst thing about this college admissions scandal is the message which these parents have given to their kids – don’t worry honey, you don’t have to lift a finger, Mommy will take care of it. It is probably the worst dis-service you can do to your adult children because it not only prevents them from growing up, taking responsibility and achieving independence, but it also teaches them cheating your way into something is justifiable.
But, no, it is not justifiable and it will forever haunt these kids that their parents resorted to such measures. It either means that their parents did not have faith in them to do it on their own steam, or else the parents knew the kids were not college material but wanted them to attend college anyway, no matter what. Rather than building their children’s character, they have simply ruined any chances of instilling any shred of integrity.