While Wake Forest students enjoyed spring break last week, the university was embroiled in Operation Varsity Blues: a national conspiracy between wealthy parents, athletic coaches and others to game the U.S. college admissions system. Wake Forest women’s volleyball Head Coach Bill Ferguson was indicted for allegedly accepting a bribe totaling $100,000 to influence a student’s admissions status.
While the scope of the scandal was stunning in its breadth and audacity — more than 50 people were indicted, and bribes totaled millions of dollars — many Demon Deacons were relatively unsurprised by the U.S. Department of Justice’s revelations.
The Editorial Board of the Old Gold & Black believes that Operation Varsity Blues is emblematic of the advantages privilege can buy in the U.S. college admissions system, creating a grossly uneven playing field.
While the alleged actions of those named in the scandal were criminal and deserve to be prosecuted, they are illegal versions of legal ways that wealthy families can rig the system — for example, the father of Jared Kushner, son-and-law and senior adviser to Donald Trump, promised Harvard University $2.5 million just as his son was applying. Actions such as these, which are not uncommon, elevate money over merit. How different are they from illegally bribing coaches to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars? Why are these methods deemed legally, morally and socially permissible?
In addition, colleges and universities across the country, Wake Forest included, pledge to increase socioeconomic diversity, but it is essential that they patrol the system enough to make good on that promise. The college admission system is highly subjective, variable and unpredictable, especially because seemingly objective metrics such as the SAT are strongly correlated with family income, but colleges should do their part to minimize opportunities to further game the system.
Further, the Wake Forest Office of Admissions and admissions offices nationwide need to examine their practices regarding the admission of athletes.
Admissions offices often defer to coaches for advice on prospective student-athletes, and rightfully so, as coaches are much more qualified to determine a candidate’s athletic prowess; however, increased oversight and diligence will be necessary moving forward to prevent nefarious practices, like those uncovered by Operation Varsity Blues.