The specific issue in each of the college admissions cheating scandals that have taken place over the past few years, especially the one that is currently unfolding, is a total lack of integrity, honesty and personal responsibility. Wealthy parents, from actresses to business executives to coaches, padded the pockets of universities and colleges to give their kids an upper hand in the admissions process and throughout their schooling. The moral and ethical failings of parents, as well as the institutions that allowed the behavior, do not befall the students, although they directly benefit from it. In a gross display of privilege and wealth, these individuals and families with money gained access to a valuable education for their children in dishonest ways by ignoring the law and breaking the law, especially in ways that are not available to others (Kelly, 2019). Each institution involved in the scandal has publicly stated that this behavior goes against its values, but somewhere along the line, the moral compass failed.
The internal factors that affect this decision are primarily legal and ethical, particularly since bribery and racketeering are serious criminal charges and felonies in the United States. In order to protect institutions’ reputations and not have these things associated with it, it is necessary to uphold the law where it had not been before. Socially, the decision also sends a message that money and power inevitably have influence, especially to the point that it disenfranchises others and posits that for the right price, one can have whatever they desire.
The parties who will be affected by the decision include the university or college at large, the departments and officials directly involved in the scandal, be it as recipients of bribes or as those who allowed it, the parents and their children, as well as the communities in which these institutions operate. As the public relations professional, there is an obligation of a fair and just investigation on behalf of the university and all involved persons and departments, so as to not rush to quick judgment. There is also an obligation to students and communities to be honest and transparent about the happenings and how the investigation will unfold.
The ethical values that will guide this decision making process are that of integrity, honesty and restorative justice in response to the unethical behavior exhibited by parents and these institutions. Ultimately, the best decision to be made would be to rescind the admissions and privileges of students who benefit from their parents’ actions, criminal charges brought against those parents to follow, and the dismissal of institutional officials who willingly accepted payments, donations, etc.
Dear USC Community,
Given the recent allegations, we are working to continue the fair investigative process for a group of students and their parents involved in the situation. Each party involved, including those accused of accepting bribes, are entitled to a fair and impartial process per university policy. All students are protected by federal privacy laws, yet per university codes of conduct, the administrative officials alleged to have been involved have been placed on leave effective immediately.
We appreciate your patience as we investigate the matter. Investigations are ongoing for all potential admissions violations, and on-time updates will continue to be provided after the investigative process has been completed. We understand the passionate response and outrage behind the allegations, especially in today’s sociopolitical climate and the conversation around the cost and expenses of higher education. We are taking all necessary steps to reinforce and maintain the integrity of the university and the admissions process, in a way that is consistent with our university values.
- Anderson, J. (2019, April 24). Harvard EdCast: Putting Ethics First in College Admissions. Retrieved November 21, 2019, from https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/19/04/harvard-edcast-putting-ethics-first-college-admissions.
- Graham, J. (2019, March 21). The college admissions scandal revealed what can happen when a moral compass breaks. How can people fix this? Retrieved November 21, 2019, from https://www.deseret.com/2019/3/21/20668817/the-college-admissions-scandal-revealed-what-can-happen-when-a-moral-compass-breaks-how-can-people-f.
- Jump, J. (2019, September 16). Ethical College Admissions: The Real Victims. Retrieved November 21, 2019, from https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/views/2019/09/16/there-were-real-victims-admissions-scandal-opinion.
- Kelly, M. (2019, March 22). The U.S. College Admissions Scandal: Deeper Lessons for Ethics & Compliance. Retrieved November 21, 2019, from https://www.ganintegrity.com/blog/the-u-s-college-admissions-scandal-deeper-lessons-for-ethics-compliance/.