People have been asking what I think of the latest college admissions scandal, because Yale (my alma mater) had a sports coach who was involved. Of course, I’m saddened (and appalled) that someone in the Yale community devolved into this mess. During my four years in college, I lived and breathed an atmosphere created by faculty who loved to teach and students who loved to learn. My friends and I, together, travelled the path from “mature” adolescents to young adults and many of those friendships are ongoing today. I’m grateful for all of it.
However, I urge everyone to take a step back from the application feeding frenzy. I strongly suggest we plant our feet firmly and realign our perspectives. Yes, I loved my time at Yale and yes, the education was fantastic and yes, my peers inspired me every day. But as any of my fellow Yalies who have an ounce of integrity will tell you: while Yale gives its students many things, the Secret To Life isn’t one of them. Behaving as though a YES from the admissions committee is worth absolutely any cost, no holds barred, even a piece of your soul…well, it isn’t.
Although I take this scandal extremely seriously (as does the university), Yale isn’t my biggest concern here. One misguided person, who accepted a bribe and lied, doesn’t represent either the belief system or the core integrity of the university. My biggest concern is for the applicants who didn’t get a fair shake, for the families who worked (and struggled) to support, with decency and honor, their children’s efforts to go to college.
And I have another biggest concern. I’m worried about the adolescents taking their first steps into adulthood, whose families paid a crap-ton of money to set up lies, fake photos, dishonest test scores, illegal bribes. I wonder if these parents realized the message they conveyed to their young adult children.
You’re not good enough.
I’d rather cheat and lie and bribe than accept you as you are.
Nobody will ever want you unless you cheat on a test, or offer an obscene amount of money, or pretend to be someone you’re not.
We’ve got money to burn and when we want something, we’re entitled to it, whatever the price.
I wonder if these parents realized that in this case, the price was the emotional well-being of their children.
Amy Kaufman Burk, Yale 1980, is a therapist-turned-author in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Amy’s first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, follows Caroline Black through tenth grade, in a school with over forty languages spoken among the students. The story deals with homophobic bullying in high school, racial and economic diversity, and the power of friendship. Amy’s second novel, Tightwire, follows a fictional psychotherapy from three perspectives — the rookie therapist scrambling to build a treatment — the patient struggling to heal — the supervisor guiding the young therapist through the complex emotional terrain of her first case. This novel was written in support of same-sex parents, to fight the stigma of mental issues, and with deep respect for the human capacity to heal.
Amy’s novels are available on Amazon.