I have been proud to teach journalism courses at Stony Brook University and Hunter College — especially right now. And while we’re on the subject of local diamonds in the rough, good on you, too, to the likes of City College of New York (CCNY), Hunter, Pace, Lehman, LaGuardia, Brooklyn and Queens.
You no doubt heard about the recent scandal, in which crooked, well-heeled parents schemed to get their undeserving children enrolled at such campuses on the hill as Yale, Stanford and the University of Southern California.
Before this debacle, it might have seemed like a bad joke to dare to mention CUNY’s (and by extension, SUNY’S) finest universities in the same breath as the alma maters of the world’s power brokers in finance and politics. There is no question that the Ivy League rules the world.
“Since 1988, every single President (including our next President) has had at least one degree from an Ivy League school. Every President in that span has also had a parent or a child — sometimes both — attend an Ivy League school,” Inc. magazine noted, just before Donald Trump was sworn in as president in 2017.
And as Inc. posited, only semi-tongue-in-cheek in that same December 2016 article: “Harvard MBAs Keep Going to Prison. So Why Do They Still Rule the World?”
I’ve been thinking hard about this scandal — but from a different angle.
Let the Colberts, Noahs and Olivers rightfully pummel the culprits and villains. But what about the students, parents that play by the rules and the modest campuses?
Especially the students.
Because of them I feel like I have some skin in this game and something to say. Many students of mine hail from the neighborhoods that this publication reaches.
It’s hard not to root for them to succeed. Their work ethic, alone, commands respect. Many of them maintain a full course load of 15-to-18 credits per semester while holding down demanding part-time jobs that would strike most of us as being thankless. (How would you like to be a barista at the campus Starbucks, just as a three-hour class is letting out and a horde of ravenous, caffeine-deprived students are bearing down on you? Neither would I.)
They have a lot of common sense. I knew I’d make it when, in my first semester of teaching, an angry student challenged me about the B-minus I had slapped on her homework assignment, following a string of B-pluses. “Professor,” she protested, holding the paper aloft in her hand,“I deserve better!”
Grabbing it, I countered, “So do I.” She smiled, possibly thinking, Hey, not bad, prof.
They don’t complain, either (well, except about their grades).
I wonder about the high school seniors who were rejected by the elite institutions to make room for the children of Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. For the record, my favorite puckish reaction to the scandal came when one of my former students sized up the irony of such rich and famous parents getting caught up in the scandal. In a world-weary commentary, my ex-student declared: “Oh no! Not Aunt Becky!” referring to Lori Loughlin’s popular character on the TV show “Full House.”
I’ll leave it to you to say what does this scandal says about the sad state of the American education system, society and our collective values – that money can buy anything.
Except character. Check out the students at your local CUNY or SUNY.