College scandal shows the process still works

I work at an university. Fortunately, it was not part of the FBI investigation into the current college admissions scandal.

Most of us instinctively know that college admission is a wheel of fortune. I know students who went through the process and, at best, it is often a crapshoot with little rhyme or reason to who gets in where and how. Now we know more about the fraudulent and corrupt practices of some wealthy people who federal officials say paid to game the system.

But amid all the negativity around the college admissions scandal are a few silver linings.

Justice and the rule of law. The FBI followed up on a good tip and conducted a solid sting operation to snare the alleged cheaters. At a time of great cynicism on the part of citizens against government, technology giants, Wall Street and even the media, there is still reason to trust in the Justice Department. Now we have to see how the charges unfold in courtrooms around the country.

Many of the parents charged — including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin — have pleaded not guilty, and their children have not been indicted. One hopes there be a high price from judges as the cases are brought forth. We still have good checks and balances.

Investigative reporting. Although the FBI itself stumbled into the cheating and then followed the money to the “side door,” smart reporters will follow up. Investigative reporting is critical to get ahead of the next scandal, and the media remain vigilant on this story. We should learn more about where else educational scams are happening.

Racism and inequality. Slowly the layers of institutional racism in this country are being peeled back, and we can add the economic divide that disadvantages the poor and middle class regardless of race. The gap between the superwealthy in America and the average income earner has underscored a sense of unfairness that hurts us all.

Scandals are never good, but they always teach us. If we pay attention to the lessons of this one, we might not repeat the mistakes in the future.

 Tara D. Sonenshine is a former U.S. undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. She advises students at The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs.

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