Class of 2023 unfazed by admissions scandal

Class of 2023 unfazed by admissions scandal

Published on September 5, 2019

Last March, when federal prosecutors charged nearly 50 people, including former Yale women’s soccer head coach Rudy Meredith, for their involvement in a college admissions scandal, most members of the class of 2023 had yet to receive their acceptance letter to the University.

The March scandal — touted to be the largest admissions fraud ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice — raised questions about the meritocracy of the college admissions process. Yale administrators, including University President Peter Salovey, were quick to label Yale “the victim of crime” and emphasized that no member of the University other than Meredith knew about the conspiracy.

To learn more about where the newest members of Yale College stand on various issues, the News distributed a survey to members of the class of 2023. Of the 1,554 first years, 726 responded to the survey — a 46.7 percent response rate. Survey results were not adjusted for selection bias.

Out of the 719 students who answered a question on Yale’s admissions process, 11 percent said they believed that Yale’s admissions process is “very meritocratic,” while 62 percent said it is “somewhat meritocratic.” On the other hand, 15 percent and 4 percent said the process is “somewhat non meritocratic” and “very not meritocratic,” respectively. The remaining 10 percent of students said that they were not sure how meritocratic the University’s admission practices are.

In addition to most students indicating that they believe Yale’s application process is more meritocratic than not, a little over a majority of respondents said that the recent admissions scandal “didn’t have an impact” on their perception of Yale. Forty percent of the 718 students who answered the question said it had a negative impact, while the remaining 2 percent said the event had a positive effect.

Several students interviewed by the News who said that the scandal did not impact their perception of Yale noted that they did not think it was a Yale-specific problem. While Isabel Shim ’23, who was admitted in early December, said people at her high school joked around with her about it, she was not surprised by it, and her opinion of the school did not shift because “there’s gonna be corruption anywhere.”

“To be completely honest, I think the scam is awful, but I think stuff like this happens at most elite colleges,” said Rosie Rothschild ’23. “I don’t think that Yale is unique in that way. … I was happy to see the University was taking the proper steps to address it. It’s unfortunate that colleges in general have back routes and stuff like that.”

Meanwhile, Mpilo Norris ’23 said that although he does not like the school any less, the admissions scandal negatively impacted his view of Yale because of its potential to impact the perceived value of a Yale education.

“[I] consider Yale to be … a place where those who graduate from the institution have qualifications conferred on them by the mere fact that they went there,” Norris said. “With the scandal, a lot of notions we take for granted were called into question.”

Out of the 704 students who responded to the question, an overwhelming 91 percent of students said their parents have never made a donation to Yale. Only 7 students indicated that their parents had made a donation exceeding $100,000 to the University. Twenty percent of 713 respondents said they received help from a private admissions counselor during the college application process, while the remaining 80 did not.

According to Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan, the class of 2023 is the most diverse Yale class ever, with a record 51 percent of the class identifying as a racial or ethnic minority. It is also the second class in a row to have more than 20 percent of its students qualify for Pell Grants — subsidies the federal government provides to students with high financial need.

When the admissions scandal broke last March, many members of the University community voiced concerns that revelations about the admissions bribery scheme would discourage first-generation low-income students from applying to an elite university like Yale. In an op-ed published by CNN, former Dean of Admissions of the Yale Law School Asha Rangappa wrote that she worried about potential FGLI applicants being dissuaded from applying to colleges like Yale and “believing that the deck is already stacked against them.”

Under the University’s current application process, the admissions office considers certain facets of the student’s application as “plus factors” — such as identifying as a first-generation college student, being a recruited athlete, having legacy status or being a child of past and prospective donors. According to Quinlan, considering the plus factors allows the admissions committee “to build a class that both individually and collectively benefit the most from and give the most back to Yale.”

Among 714 first years who answered the question, 70 percent said that the University should not consider being a child of a current or prospective donor as a “plus factor” in admissions. Sixteen percent said that the University should, and 14 percent had no opinion. When asked if they believed the University should consider “being a legacy student a ‘plus factor’ in the admissions process,” 60 percent of 714 question respondents answered “no,” while 19 percent answered “yes” and 21 percent had “no opinion.” Legacy students are defined as students who have at least one parent who attended Yale.

Meanwhile, of 714 question respondents, 47 percent of students were in favor of having “recruited athlete” status be a “plus factor” in admissions. Thirty-two percent were against the practice and 21 percent had “no opinion.” Of the 60 student athletes surveyed, 93 percent supported admissions using being a recruited athlete as a “plus factor.”

Several first years interviewed by the News said that it makes sense for recruited athletes to receive an edge in admissions because the advantage has to do with their own merits, just in a nonacademic area. Still, many of those same students questioned the validity of giving students an edge for legacy status or family donations.

“One baby has a stronger chance of getting into Yale than another baby whose parents went to a different college,” Miriam Kopyto ’23 — who opposed “plus factors” for legacies and the children of donors and had no opinion on giving an edge to recruited athletes — said. “People who didn’t grow up in more privileged households don’t get as equal of an opportunity. … I don’t think it should be based on birth at all.”

2,269 students were admitted to the class of 2023. 1,554 matriculated to Yale, denoting a 70.1 percent yield rate.

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