What “Operation Varsity Blues” Suggests About Stern Culture

Courtesy of LA Times

Written by Nikita Verma

The foundation of American society and economy are based on meritocratic ideals. The obsession behind fulfilling the American Dream leads people to believe that if they work hard enough, they can work their way up the rungs of society’s ladder to provide an easier life for themselves and their families. However, the purity of this dream is easily corrupted when people at the top take immoral actions to remain successful. Defining this boundary, however, can be tricky and highly controversial as shown in “Operation Varsity Blues”, and even within the realms of Stern culture.

In the recent college admissions scandal, dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues” by the FBI, around 50 high profile celebrities were charged with cheating their kids’ way into elite colleges nationwide. Parents bribed SAT monitors, schemed their way onto sports teams, and much more in order to secure their children’s acceptance into college.  News even broke of NYU’s Athletics department receiving donations from the charity connected with the case. While the scandal is undoubtedly unethical, there are more issues behind the motivations that influenced these actions that impact NYU students.

Discussion of the scandal brings into question how much parents should do to secure their children’s success. While breaking laws and bribery are more obviously wrong, it is important to consider where exactly that line is drawn. Legacy applicants and students that get accepted based on families’ large “donations” to the school are common extensions of the debate behind the scandal. The applications of the arguments used against the scandal can go even further than that.

The idea of networking in itself relates to this controversy. While Stern students work diligently to recruit, the reality of students using their family connections to for career opportunities is definitely prevalent. If parents can use their influence to secure their child’s way into an internship or job without much question, it becomes easier to see how such powerful people involved in the scandal were blinded by wanting to ensure their children’s success and did whatever it took to secure their admission into college.

Many people lashed out at the families involved in the scandal, with the argument that the kids who cheated their way into college took the spots of other students who worked hard, only to get denied admission to their dream schools. However, there are subtle yet evident parallels when parents use connections to help their children recruit.

In these cases, the lines of morality can get fuzzy. After all, if everyone uses his/her leg-up, it could make sense to take advantages of the opportunities you are presented, even if the road to get there isn’t traditional. When asked about the scandal one student stated, “Do what you have to do, but don’t break the law that’s just stupid.” Remaining lawful in these acts of aid, and holding others accountable to do the same is an imperative control on the innate drive to give those close to us the advantages we can.

Even the law, however, allows for unfairness in both college admissions and job placement, which we may have to accept as a reality of our society. Just as legacy students getting an edge in college admissions does not directly break any law, pulling a resume for a job candidate who you may know, isn’t a crime.

There is a fine line between the reality of a network-driven workforce and using resources to cheat and get ahead. Part of America’s capitalistic values will inherently create an imbalance in the opportunities people recieve. It is important to remain critical of such opportunity disparities to ensure that people remain accountable for their inclinations to do what they can to benefit their posterity.

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