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When the FBI went public with Operation Varsity Blues and exposed a network of wealthy families cheating the college admissions system, many Yale students weren't surprised to discover that their school was among those at the center of the scandal.
A wealthy Yale dad allegedly tipped off investigators. A Yale soccer coach accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from families eager to secure a spot at the Ivy League school, according to prosecutors. The charges confirmed what almost everyone already suspected: Our higher education system is no meritocracy.
VICE News met with Yale undergraduate students from higher and lower income backgrounds as they processed the news during their spring break.
"I think people with a lot of money leveraging that to get into Yale was not surprising at all," said Lily, a Yale senior from California who identifies as lower income. "But the extent of it is shocking. I think at first I was very like 'Oh, I'm so unsurprised.' And then the next day I was like 'No, I'm actually really angry.' I think the anger took a while because it was so funny."
For students from more affluent backgrounds, the scandal made them reflect on the difference, if any, between the alleged fraud in the case and the socially accepted practices wealthy families use — like donating money and buying campus buildings — to boost their children's' chances.
Ethan, a freshman and legacy of Yale, argued that donations have some benefit, at least. "I think there is a moral difference between perhaps donations versus bribery," he said. "The school benefits and for other kids tuition. It might pay for new programs or something that can benefit people. Bribery doesn't go to the school."
This segment originally aired March 22, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.