Operation Varsity Blues may have disheartened the public with a major college admissions scandal, but it’s inspired a necessary national debate around elitism in the US. The actions of the parents indicted were, simply put, elitist. They used money and fame to influence the admissions offices of Ivy League and other elite universities to increase the likelihood that their children would be accepted at the expense of candidates with more merit. The parents, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, took advantage of an unjust opportunity unavailable to other hard-working families who play by the rules. Unfortunately, elitism penetrates all aspects of American society, yet Operation Varsity Blues has exposed the extent of its impact on universities and aspiring students.

Elitism takes more than one form, though, and not all of the ways it influences college admissions are considered illegal. I witnessed legal elitism my senior year of high school, when a classmate took advantage of her family legacy in applying to a “prestigious” university. If this type of elitism occurred in my small hometown of Goshen, New York, then elitism is surely affecting millions across the US. Thus, the American dream is dying before our eyes. The influence of legacy, in addition to other types of elitism, is destroying the old American system in which everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. Because many college admissions offices no longer make decisions based on merit, no one has an equal opportunity to succeed.

Sadly, the unjust nature of elitism extends far beyond college admissions offices. Elitism plays a role in who gets job opportunities, high salaries and political influence. We all know at least one person who got his or her first job via the efforts and connections of their parents. We all know at least one person who undermined the efforts of the majority of Americans who want to live in a meritocracy.

I will not only complain. I will offer two solutions in order to eliminate elitism in college admissions offices. First, under the Fourteenth Amendment, which provides “equal protection of the laws” to be applied to all persons in the United States, the Justice Department should probe universities on a massive scale. This will ensure that everyone plays by the rules. If the Justice Department fails to do this, those of wealth and privilege will stay above the law and most students will remain degraded as unworthy of receiving protection by the law. Second, the business community should alter the special treatment it gives to graduates from “prestigious” universities. Now that corruption at these universities has been exposed, employers should be prompted to stop hiring job applicants simply because they graduated from these “prestigious,” yet tarnished, universities.

Contact Anthony Palazzola at apalazzola@colgate.edu.

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