The Pnyx: On Elite Accountability

Jousha Schuetz
Staff Writer

Recently, 50 people, including a number of celebrities, have been charged or implicated with a multimillion dollar scheme involving fraudulent admissions to elite universities. 

Which ones? Yale and Stanford, two of the most acclaimed elite universities in the country number among them. Wealthy parents conspired to enable their children to cheat on exams, be recruited for sports they never actually played, and acquire admissions to elite schools on a fraudulent basis.

In other news, Paul Manafort, a former campaign official for President Donald Trump, was sentenced to just under four years in prison for eight felony tax and bank fraud charges. 

Manafort’s light sentencing might seem to have little to do with a collegiate cheating scandal, but on closer inspection, they have a great deal in common.

In one case, wealthy elites were able to cheat their children into top colleges, putting to pasture the myth of meritocracy in the American education system. In the other, America’s famously punitive criminal justice system treated a major white-collar crime less severely than it treats various nonviolent drug crimes. In a country where some people are serving life sentences for selling marijuana, Manafort’s conviction comes as a disgusting monument to inequality.

American elites, whether affiliated with government or the private sector, are increasingly under suspicion, and rightly so. Their legitimacy, and by extension the legitimacy of the system they dominate, is not only being called into question, but openly attacked.

The lack of accountability among economic and political elites is dangerous for the country, since it directly contradicts basic decency and core American values. 

To fix that, we need to apply the rule of law equally. Let us hope that those implicated in the collegiate scandal are not dealt with as leniently as Manafort was.

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