March 13, 2019

Statement from Senator Haskell Regarding College Admissions Cheating Scandal

Today, State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport) released the following statement in response to the developing college admissions cheating scandal, in which dozens of people were federally indicted in a scheme designed to help their children gain admission to elite colleges and universities. Sen. Haskell is Chair of the Higher Education & Employment Advancement Committee.

“This week, the federal government brought charges for an extensive bribery scheme designed to allow the mega-rich to illegally pay their children’s way into elite universities. This kind of behavior has rightfully drawn a lot of outrage. But beyond the sheen of celebrity involvement and the aura of a criminal conspiracy, I think we need to ask ourselves what is ultimately outrageous here. Putting aside the more salacious details, the broader contours of the behavior outlined in the FBI’s complaint, the leveraging of money to ensure access to an institution of higher education, is not only completely legal but in many ways inextricable from the college admissions process as it currently stands. Even absent payments that we legally call bribes, the fact is that a monied background paves the way to a college acceptance in numerous, nuanced ways. So, when we talk about this case, we cannot just talk about the utter insanity of paying $500,000 for a spot in a freshman class (though it is so completely, utterly insane), but instead, we need to talk about the fact that our system of higher education, often tauted as an essential juncture of the sort of social mobility that is supposed to define the American experience, is not a meritocracy. It is not a meritocracy because school officials took bribes to sneak wealthy students through back doors, but, more to the point, it is not a meritocracy because socioeconomic status remains an excellent predictor of who will walk in the front door. Let the FBI deal with Felicity Huffman. In Connecticut, let’s talk about the bigger (un-photoshopped) picture.”