The recent college-entry scandal implicating dozens of affluent parents, top league school recruiters and coaches, and educational testing proctors once again shines a light on the unfortunate direction ethics has taken in this country. The apparent ease in which multimillions of dollars were illegally paid by and to individuals who, in many instances, are considered role models makes the academic scandal even more of a concern.
In each case portrayed in the media, the parent or parents who were allegedly involved can be considered a significant success in their fields, ranging from CEO-level businessmen and women, to law firm leaders and nationally recognized actors. Also, the coaches alleged to have been involved are from some of the most prestigious and highly-ranked colleges and sports programs in the country, if not the world.
Some have portrayed the scandal as parents, albeit well-off ones, simply trying to do what is best for their children (let’s hold aside the ‘bragging rights’ for such parents with their peers). In reality, what the whole sordid experience really illustrates is the ‘succeed at any cost’ ethical mentality, which has prevailed all too often, in too many sectors of our lives, and in the lives of our children.
To some degree, it’s no surprise this scandal occurred in the academic setting. Just recently, there have been similar ethical lapses in the political environment, with tax evasion, money laundering and other crimes, and within the entertainment industry with its numerous allegations of abuse of minors and women. Even religious organizations are not unaffected by the taint. Given its financial importance to the future of a child, why should the academic setting remain immune?
At the end of the day, much will be said and done, and punishment will likely be meted out to those who acted unethically. Unfortunately, the key underlying issues will remain. Where will we find the role models to help guide our future business and political leaders? How will we show that ‘succeed at any cost’ is not really succeeding?
Let’s not mince words – in the instance of the academic entry scandal, the alleged participants knew they were acting unethically. Some were even wiretapped, confirming their involvement. Because many students work hard to achieve academic success, we should not let this academic scandal taint the many, hardworking, ethical and sincere students who rightfully earned their way into college the honest way.
Through student chapters at more than 40 colleges around the country, the NASBA Center for the Public Trust (CPT) has been working with college students to help them understand that ethical leadership is sustainable leadership. By embracing and celebrating best ethical business practices and individuals who personify those practices, students find actual, ethical role models they can emulate. The CPT is committed to making a difference for students, our future leaders.