Words by Katherine Cunalata
Illustrations by Katie Herchenroeder
“The fact that money can get you anywhere is insane,” says City College of New York Senior and political science major Jenessis Sanchez. College students who were not primarily born from wealth know the struggle when it comes to money. Am I going to have enough money for the week if I catch this Uber? Should I really order Seamless tonight? Do I wanna eat, or do I wanna pay this month’s rent? Money can get you a lot of things, but as most CCNY students agree, it should not buy your access to education.
In the wake of the recent college admissions scandal, Jenessis shares her plights as a high school senior going through college admissions, “It took me forever to get into college. I had to transfer schools and work around my GPA so it’s ridiculous that we go through all the trouble versus them.” As she is sifting through what she remembers about the straining process of college admissions, she says that “It’s a much longer process for us to get into college, and it’s just handed to them.”
Before we can get into that, though, here’s a friendly one-liner about the scandal we’re referring to in the following: CNN reports, “Federal prosecutors say 50 people took part in a scheme that involved either cheating on standardized tests or bribing college coaches and school officials to accept students as college athletes — even if the student had never played that sport.”
Every year come September, a whole new round of college freshman flood CCNY to fill the graduating class that left us, and this season high school students are taking their practice SATs while some may be receiving their college acceptance letters as we speak. CCNY students know what the college admissions process entails because they’ve gone through it already, but what about former high school students like Charmaine Gentles, a political science major, who was one of many students oblivious to the college admissions process during her high school senior year?
Charmaine tells The Campus, “There was one time when everyone had an opportunity to take a free SAT exam but some of these students didn’t even know what an SAT was.” She continues to explain that “it shows just how much we didn’t know about the college admissions process in my school, which was a primarily black school.”
Underfunded schools like the one Charmaine attended are especially lacking in resources to help their graduating class of high schoolers reach higher education in the most accessible and affordable way. When a scandal like this comes out, we have to direct ourselves to look at the larger scale of the conversation. We have to ask ourselves, “What does this mean? Who is this affecting?”
The majority of CCNY’s diverse student body understands the need for affirmative action. While some might try to bring up fairness about the application of affirmative action for minority students, Actress Lori Loughlin and the many other celebrity parents who took part in these fraudulent acts proved exactly why affirmative action is absolutely necessary for minority students to have an equal chance at going to college. Caissady, an English major in her junior year, agrees as she talks about Lori Loughlin and her daughter’s acceptance into USC, saying, “She just took the spot from somebody who could’ve gone to school. It’s really unfair to say they want to remove affirmative action. Black, hispanic, and other minorities don’t have the access to go to college and you’re just taking spots from somebody who deserves it.”
The excessive number of officials who seemed to be easily swayed by the number of zeros in their paychecks shows how much underprivileged students need affirmative action because, as Mariah Gonzalez states, who is currently a sophomore education major, “[We should never] judge a student on what you think their social, economic status is. Everybody has potential to be great.”
Here are a couple more students who’ve expressed their opinions about the need for affirmative action after the college admissions scandal came out to the public:
“I think now more than ever we need affirmative action to have equal equity in the admission of historically marginalized, discriminated, and oppressed racial groups applying for college…It’s important for affirmative action to continue its strive for fairness in a country that promotes freedom because without equality there is no freedom”-David Londono, Senior and Financial Economics major.
“I do find it unfair when it comes to controversy with the college admissions scandal that celebrities get away with having their children get enrolled to any school with no problem yet students that struggle to pay for fees and tuition still do not get accepted to their dream school. Race-based affirmative action does play a big role with this scandal as well due to amount of “diversity” colleges there are, and it affects families who need more money”-Jeanette Abreu, Senior and Communications Major in the AD/PR program.
“People of privilege love to claim that racism and inequality isn’t a thing anymore because the government puts systems in place to create ‘equality.’ But this scandal shows that even with these systems in place, white Americans and even wealthy people in general are able to bypass the government and still get their children into prestigious schools. We are far from racial equality and classism is an ever present thing. If anything, we need to improve affirmative action and put other systems in place to truly make higher education affordable for lower class students who deserve to be there.” -Rebecca Maldonado, Junior and Studio Art major.
As hardworking college students, we can only hope that the collective whistleblowers’ echoes can become loud enough to break down these barriers that rich upper class folks built with their hush money. Charmaine, however, is skeptical, as most of us are, about the state that education system is currently under, stating, “There are many more ‘William Singers’ out there, I believe. Yes he’s going to be sentenced, but someone else is gonna be there to take his place. There has to be a whole systematic change for this to be fixed. There has to be a law to make legacy seats illegal cause at the end of the day, that’s the only way we can prevent stuff like this from happening.”
On a more hopeful note, she also advises that we “don’t want to fall into [the] cynicism of that.” We are the rising youth who have had the world, with all its cracks and imperfections, handed off to us, and it is now our responsibility to recognize the damage, assess it, and do what needs to be done to create the world we all envision in our hearts – that is, one that must be built off resilience and vigilance. As American Abolitionist and liberal activist Wendell Phillips said on January 28, 1852, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”