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Merit itself is rarely defined neutrally or fairly, but rather in the image of those with power. If we don’t interrogate the process of evaluating merit and examine how this system serves elites, we’ll keep seeing versions of this scandal pop up indefinitely.

This past weekend, a group of students and parents filed a federal lawsuit “seeking class-action status against the University of Southern California, UCLA and other colleges named in this week’s sprawling admissions scandal” arguing that the process used to evaluate them was “warped and rigged by fraud.”

While these litigants are surely correct on one level, they are missing something fundamental: that merit itself is rarely defined neutrally or fairly, but rather in the image of those with power. This is not merely because of the specific problems with how merit is defined today, but rather due to structural problems that stem from who defines it. Until this aspect of college admissions is addressed, then we will keep playing whack-a-mole with various “scandals” until kingdom come. …


Lily Lamboy

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