Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. – April 24, 2019
Everybody knows that college admissions aren’t made only on academic merit and haven’t been for a long time. If you want your son or daughter to be admitted to college and you have enough money, all you have to do is donate a lot of money to the university and your child will have no trouble getting in.
Here are a few examples: In 2015, Stewart Cohen gave $5 million to the USC School for Cinematic Arts. The gift came right after the very competitive school admitted Cohen’s twin daughters. In another well-known case, the New York real estate tycoon Charles Kushner pledged $2.5 million to Harvard in 1998 shortly before his son Jared was admitted. Jared Kushner’s grades would not have gotten him into the highly selective school without the donation.
Admitting students with poor qualifications takes place far wider than this. Because athletic teams make big money for the university, athletes get admitted under special programs. In our current politically correct climate, black students who score below the norm on the SAT and other admissions tests are not only admitted but actively sought out. Admitting them has been assiduously promoted by the federal government.
Is it a good or bad thing that college admissions aren’t made only on academic merit? I have an opinion on this issue, and I’m sure you do as well. But our opinions shouldn’t be forced on others. In a free society, the government shouldn’t force universities to follow affirmative action programs, but otherwise it should be up to the universities to decide whom they are going to admit, and on what basis. That’s what the free market is all about.
Given this record, why should parents who try to get their kids into college be investigated by the FBI, charged with major crimes, and be subjected to a campaign of defamation in the media? Yet this is exactly what has happened.
A number of parents, including the actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, payed William “Rick” Singer and his company The Key a total of about $25 million to get their children admitted to elite colleges. Singer paid people to take college admissions tests like the ACT, bribed coaches to say that the children of his clients were athletic recruits, and in general, went all out for his clients.
Why is this much different from what has been going on for years? Why is this a so-called “national scandal”? You may object that this case is different. The big donors to universities, like what they did or not, played within the rules. These parents are different. They cheated.
This objection ignores something important. College cheating is not new either. For years, students have paid “ringers” to take tests for them. Students buy stolen copies of exams and sell them. Students who don’t want to write their own papers can buy papers online, or pay someone to write the paper for them. You can even buy a masters or doctoral thesis.
Universities don’t like these practices — except when they turn a blind eye to them, such as when athletes are given grades for courses they didn’t take. In a free society, it should be up to each university to decide what to do about cases of cheating. It can put students on probation, suspend them, or expel them, as it thinks proper.
If cheating has been going on for years, why has it now become a national issue? The answer is simple. It is because the FBI has made it one.
The FBI has become a secret police spying on all of us. It bugs phones, wiretaps people, and as it pursues its investigations, lies to people in order to trap them into saying what it wants. The FBI is not bound by any laws and you cannot record them as they deceive you. If you tell them something that is false, or that they say is false, you can go to jail, even if you have not committed a crime. This is what happened to Martha Stewart. She was accused of “insider trading”. She wasn’t guilty, but because the FBI said she made misleading statements, she went to jail.
Isn’t there something morally offensive about an agent of this Orwellian agency making a public statement denouncing the parents who had paid Singer for using their money and “privilege” to gain unfair advantage over other students, depriving them of their chance to gain admission? Why does the FBI have the right to determine the basis on which students should be admitted to college? Apparently, the FBI wants to enforce “equal opportunity” on the American public at the point of a gun. This is not a metaphor. Felicity Huffman was arrested at her home in Los Angeles by FBI agents with their guns drawn.
It’s even worse than that. The government is using laws designed to entrap the Mafia to threaten the parents with Draconian penalties. They are being charged with wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering — all because they paid money to get their kids into college!
You might think that the parents have a remedy for this persecution, even though it is risky. Can’t they plead not guilty and try to convince a jury that the charges are ridiculously overblown? If you thought that, you have underestimated the power and malevolence of the government. Before a defendant comes to trial, the government will offer a “plea deal.” In this arrangement, the defendant agrees to plead guilty. The prosecution doesn’t have to prove its case in a trial, and in return, it will recommend a “lenient” sentence for the defendant. The judge will usually follow this recommendation. For example, after Felicity Huffman pled guilty, the government has recommended that she serve “only” 4 to 10 months of prison time. If a defendant refuses the deal and is found guilty in a trial, the sentence will almost always be much harsher than what was offered in the deal. Also, unless the defendants plead guilty, the government can keep bringing more and more severe charges against them. You must give away your right to a fair trial, or risk going to prison for years. Lori Loughlin has been brave enough to defy the government. For that, she deserves our admiration. She should not be condemned for what at worst are minor peccadillos but celebrated for her heroism in refusing to bow down before “that coldest of all cold monsters, the state.”
This article was originally published at Mises.org. Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., is founder and chairman of the Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, and editor of LewRockwell.com.
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