The Los Angeles Times published an editorial Aug. 7 penned by student government leaders at several universities involved in the Operation Varsity Blues admissions scandal uncovered in March.
USC Undergraduate Student Government President Trenton Stone co-authored the piece, which focused on the inequalities within the college admissions process.
The op-ed, titled “Operation Varsity Blues doesn’t end unfair college admissions policies,” was co-authored by Stone; Robert Blake Watson, president of UCLA’s Undergraduate Students Association Council; Erica Scott, president of Stanford University’s Associated Students of Stanford; and Kahlil Greene, president of Yale University’s Yale College Council.
“There is discussion on all of our campuses about the deeper issues, more than just the celebrities that were involved,” Stone told the Daily Trojan. “But, I think [the op-ed was] about bringing a student perspective to a larger national issue.”
The letter came five months after the release of an FBI investigation that found that 33 wealthy parents used a back-door admissions scheme that included bribes and fake athletic profiles to secure their children’s spots at universities like USC, UCLA, Yale and Stanford.
Student leaders from the four schools wrote about economic inequalities within the college admissions process, such as access to preparatory classes for standardized tests and traveling for campus visits. They encouraged college administrators to address these issues alongside the problems on each campus that allowed the bribery scheme to go on.
“The conspiracy received global attention — particularly because of the celebrities involved — and prompted widespread disdain … as some internal campus investigations come to a close and guilty pleas pile up, it’s easy to think that the legal process has addressed the problem. Wrong,” the op-ed read.
Stone suggested penning the letter after giving Watson a tour of the USC campus. The two student body presidents then reached out to Yale and Stanford’s student body presidents to collaborate.
While colleges responded to the scandal, Watson said he and the other student leaders wanted to create a conversation on the role wealth plays in the college admissions process.
On top of having at least two students admitted through the scheme, UCLA also made national headlines when an L.A. Times investigation found the school broke University of California rules by allowing a student athlete in 2014 to be admitted as a track athlete in exchange for a $100,000 donation. While the university investigated the situation and said it punished the coaches involved, the report did not lead to a systematic change in athletic admissions, according to the Times.
At UCLA, Watson said he has worked on various projects to help all students perform well, including distributing free blue books and scantrons to all students. He has spoken with some administrative officials since the scandal broke in March to discuss how income inequality affects students both in the admissions process and throughout their time on campus.
He said he looks forward to working with Stone and other student government leaders throughout the year to share ideas and initiatives. One of the formal meetings is a shared governance symposium between student government leaders at universities in Southern California, which UCLA will host this fall.
“We’ve really had a lot of great, collaborative discussions surrounding what we’re doing at our campuses because our campuses are more similar than not in a lot of ways,” Watson said. “I think we’ve learned quite a bit from each other just in terms of how we’re handling these discussions, how we’re handling these practices at both of our schools.”
Stone said he hopes for more collaboration between the USC student body and University administration to begin addressing wealth inequality in the admissions process and at USC.
“We have had some response from our own administration and it’s definitely been brought up in a couple of my meetings and emails,” he said. “But the main purpose was to create a larger national discussion about the issue from a student perspective.”