Finding the Humor in an Admissions Scandal

At a low point for higher education, humorists find ways to make a point.

March 14, 2019
 
Headline from 'The Onion'

For many in higher education, this week has been a sad one, as 50 people have been indicted on charges related to helping wealthy parents bribe and fake their children's way into elite colleges. The cases have drawn attention to the way some wealthy people believe they can manipulate the admissions process -- in many cases legally. Some in admissions are calling for soul-searching.

Humorists -- both the professionals and amateurs -- are having a field day. Here are some of the highlights, and we'll focus on those that mix their mockery of those accused with raising real issues about equity.

McSweeney's has a new article called "In My Day, All It Took to Get Into Yale Was Gumption, Hard Work and Being a Direct Male-Line Descendent of William Howard Taft." One choice line: "And when it came time to apply for schools, I wasn’t out there asking my parents for a handout! I studied my keister off for the SATs, and it took grit, dedication and perseverance for me to get a perfect 800 on the Regattas/General Boating section."

Stephen Colbert, reviewing the situation, shared the "news" that it was a test prompt on the Common Application that tipped off federal authorities:

The Onion featured two articles. One was "Report: Just Go Ahead and Tell Yourself Bribery Is the Only Reason You Didn’t Get Into Columbia."

The other was a piece in which the University of Southern California defended itself from charges that it admitted the daughter of an actress because of a bribery scheme. “Since our founding in 1880, applicants have been assessed purely on strength of social class, and Olivia’s name jumped right off the page," the article said. "From extracurriculars that are exclusive to the top 1 percent, to college prep classes exclusive to the top 1 percent, to recommendation letters from other members of the top 1 percent, Olivia gained entrance to USC on her economic merit and her economic merit alone. [USC spokesperson] McLaren added that the YouTube personality also appealed to admissions officers by offering a diversity in perspective to her freshman class with her experiences of growing up a celebrity."

Some on Twitter expressed shock that such a bizarre scandal was leading to discussions of important issues:

Many took to analyzing old Full House episodes, such as the one in which the character played by Lori Loughlin, who was charged in this week's case, sees the moral issues raised by being dishonest when applying to get her fictional children into preschool.

McMansion Hell devoted a post to analyzing the homes of key figures in the scandal.

Jimmy Kimmel weighed in, noting the way conservatives are enjoying the involvement of liberals in the scandal, and also referencing Trump University:

Many people chuckled -- and some made fun of Arizona State University -- over a document released Tuesday. An email from Mossimo Giannulli, Loughlin's husband, to one of those involved in the alleged bribery includes the line "I’d like to maybe sit with you after your session with the girls as I have some concerns and want to fully understand the game plan and make sure we have a road map for success as it relates to [our daughter] and getting her into a school other than ASU!"

Arizona State took it in stride, as this tweet shows:

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