By Nigel Roberts
A new lawsuit against elite universities over the admissions scandal suggests that Black alumni of those schools will likely face new scrutiny and fresh doubts in addition to what they’ve long encountered over affirmative action admission programs.
Two Stanford University students filed a class action suit on Wednesday against several universities, including Yale and the University of Southern California (USC), that were engulfed in a massive admissions cheating scandal involving wealthy parents who paid bribes to get their underachieving children into elite schools.
The two plaintiffs, Erica Olsen and Kalea Woods, alleged that fraud prevented them from gaining entrance to their school of choice, despite their stellar qualifications. The two Stanford students also said that the scandal means potential employers will undervalue their degree, USA Today reported.
The undervaluing of degrees from elite schools would add an extra layer of doubt about the qualifications of Black students from those schools. Racist views about the intellectual ability of Black students already fuel the view that the bar was lowered to allow them to enter and graduate from top schools.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama has spoken about her high school counselor discouraging her from bothering to apply to Princeton University. She ignored that advice and gained admission. As a student, she endured “that everyday drain of being in a deep minority” and feeling that she had to prove her intellectual abilities so that others would believe that she “belonged at Princeton, as much as anybody.”
In the federal lawsuit, Olsen said she had high standardized test scores and athletic abilities, but Yale rejected her after she paid the application fee.
“Had she known that the system at Yale University was warped and rigged by fraud, she would not have spent the money to apply to the school,” the lawsuit states. “She also did not receive what she paid for — a fair admissions consideration process.”
Woods also said she achieved high scores on standardized tests and was an athlete. But USC rejected her application, alleging that she “was never informed that the process of admission at USC was an unfair, rigged process, in which parents could buy their way into the university through bribery and dishonest schemes.”
Woods also claimed that the scandal means that her degree “is now not worth as much as it was before, because prospective employers may now question whether she was admitted to the university on her own merits, versus having rich parents who were willing to bribe school officials.”
This article originally appeared in the Chicago Defender.