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the college admissions system was always a scandal

March 26, 2019
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You will not see me pass up the opportunity to downright cackle at the college admissions scandal mess, so when Dr. Dre (Andre Young) managed to deliver the double whammy of celebrating his daughter Truly Young getting into the University of Southern California (USC) while shading Aunt Becky and the shady parents involved in the scandal, I was fully on board. The rapper/producer posted a picture on Instagram with him and his daughter posing together with a USC acceptance booklet. Dre’s caption on the picture went “My daughter got accepted into USC all on her own. No jail time!!!”

It was 5 minutes of pure comedy before another article surfaced with an announcement that Dr. Dre and Jimmy Lovine just donated $70 million to USC to create the USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation. “The goal of the academy is to shape the future by nurturing the talents, passions, leadership and risk-taking of uniquely qualified students who challenge conventional views of art and industry,” according to the USC website. This is great news for USC and future innovators in art and industry, but the joke was now dead on arrival. The post has since been deleted.

The classism entrenched in college admissions is an open secret which can be found in the demographics present on elite college campuses. On top of that, the tradition of wealthy parents endowing institutions as a way of securing the spot of their children is as old as time and money. I cannot speak to whether Truly deserves her place because I do not know her academic record but I do know that Dr. Dre’s declaration tied a neat bow around the elitist nightmare that is education. We’ve all seen kids who get to think twice about even trying in school; we saw them get their academic track bought for them. The new buildings, equipment and donations have been wealthy family staples forever and unfortunately, Dr. Dre is no different.

Minorities in general and Black people specifically have been blamed for “taking up space” on elite college campuses when the reality is that they were created for and by the elite to educate and maintain their class. This network of exclusion is structured around the million-dollar endowments and legacy programs that ensure the same kind of people crowd college campuses with a sprinkle of the hard-working minorities who don’t have anything but their work ethic to make it into those spaces. The emergence of a Black elite should not lull anyone into a false sense of progress, even at the slowest pace. And even when our own make it into those spaces, we should still remember that they did it through the same system that was used to keep us all out completely.

For instance, we know that Malia Obama is smart with a great work ethic because, well, Barack and Michelle Obama. Michelle is the most educated First Lady to walk through the White House and she married a fellow Harvard Alumni who also happened to be the President of the United States. Malia was getting into Harvard. Period. Which brings us back to Dr. Dre and Truly, who was also getting into USC. Period. Malia and Truly’s parents worked tirelessly to be able to give their children that leg-up in life because those are the rules that we all play in the schooling system. The reality is that only a handful of Black people can afford to pony up 8-figures for their kids and therein lies the problem.

If you’re not a straight, white male, you’re unlikely to advance in your career without a degree, which is likely to put you into debt considering the very few who can afford to pay for college out of pocket. Those people are the ones who take up space on college campuses through the many loopholes afforded to them and everyone else is merely a quota. That is why we shouldn’t let the college scandal just dissipate into the ether of social media. The entire system was not built to accommodate the kind of change needed to curb inequality so merely firing the people involved in the scandal isn’t enough, for us. It’s more than enough, for them. Nothing integral or foundational changes.

In America, you can inherit an elite education because the maintenance of the race and class imbalance demands it. While that system chugs on, Asian parents and notoriously petty Becky, Abigail Fisher sue to get Affirmative Action repealed because they have been sold the notion that Black people are taking the spaces that have already been reserved for wealthy white men. The oppressed fight amongst ourselves while the gap widens. Nothing changes.