Each year, tens of thousands of students apply for coveted spots as undergraduates at Penn. Less than nine percent of the applicant pool was accepted last year. It is no secret that certain groups have advantages in college admissions: legacies, students who come from wealthy families that can afford to hire college counselors or make hefty donations to Penn, and recruited athletes.
While some consider these advantages to be as ethically murky as the crimes revealed this week in a national bribery scheme, students from these privileged groups still earned their spots at Penn legally.
Penn was not named in the nationwide admissions scandal. But that doesn’t mean the University is off the hook. Just last week, former men’s basketball coach Jerome Allen testified in federal court that he received about $300,000 in bribes from the father of a current Wharton senior in exchange for helping his son get into Penn as a recruited athlete. Allen also said that former men’s basketball assistant coach Ira Bowman was involved in the bribery scheme.
Obviously, this is both extremely unethical and illegal. But it is nonetheless concerning that this happened at Penn, and it sheds light on the ways the college admissions process has been corrupted.
It’s easy to get bogged down by the overwhelming number of stories of corruption unearthed in this scandal. But we can’t dismiss the fact that a very similar scheme succeeded in defrauding Penn.
Dean of Admissions Eric Furda told The Daily Pennsylvanian that Penn Admissions and the University's Division of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics have been considering changes to admissions processes since October 2018.
"Penn Admissions and DRIA have worked with an outside consultant to review and strengthen our processes for the recruitment of student athletes and, in light of the current charges, will again consider whether any further changes are called for in our recruitment and evaluation processes," Furda wrote in an email to the DP.
It is encouraging that the University is taking this matter seriously. Still, it is crucial that we pay close attention to how the University responds to this scandal, particularly at a time when the admissions process is under nationwide scrutiny.
"We believe we have a culture of compliance here and have put in place appropriate policies and practices to prevent the kind of unlawful and unethical activity reported in the news today," Furda wrote. "But it is always important to be reminded that this kind of situation does arise, so that we can be vigilant in our efforts going forward."
If anything, Operation Varsity Blues has shown us that the college admissions process is broken. We can’t forget that Penn is no exception, and the University should not be left out of discussions about college admissions offices' vulnerabilities to fraud. We shouldn’t be patting ourselves on the back because Penn wasn’t named in this particular lawsuit, and we must continue to hold the University responsible for involvement in these kinds of scandals.
Editorials represent the majority view of members of The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. Editorial Board, which meets regularly to discuss issues relevant to Penn's campus. Participants in these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on related topics.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.