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Students At UCLA Weigh In On College Admissions Scandal With 'Daily Bruin' Editorial


The college admissions scandal has been rippling across campuses nationwide, but it cuts most deeply at schools mentioned in the sweeping federal indictment, like UCLA. The men's soccer coach is accused of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to help two wealthy students get admitted. The school has placed him on leave. UCLA student newspaper the Daily Bruin has been covering all of this and weighing in. It published an editorial saying, quote, "this scandal showed us how much of a pay-to-play the system is and how we're all suckers caught in it."

Student Keshav Tadimeti is the opinion editor at the Daily Bruin. Welcome to the program.

KESHAV TADIMETI: Thank you. Thank you for having me on.

CORNISH: So you're joining us between two finals today. You're not getting a lot of sleep. I know you're slammed.

TADIMETI: (Laughter).

CORNISH: But you've still been reporting this story out. And what are you hearing on campus this week?

TADIMETI: This is a rather sort of tense time for students at UCLA, and it also doesn't help that at the time, the University of California Board of Regents are also having a meeting on campus. They have a meeting about once every two months, and they're discussing a tuition hike for non-resident students. So it's sort of the confluence of a lot of coincidental events that all are not really serving to help the students' spirit right now. People are sort of down and a bit upset about - actually quite upset about what's happening on campus and outside as well.

CORNISH: UCLA is a public school. What message do you think does this send that this could happen at a public institution - right? - one that prides itself on ideas of equality?

TADIMETI: I think the biggest thing here is the commonality between all the universities that were implicated in this investigation. Our indictment is that their brand is developed by their athletics departments, and that's really how alumni and people across the nation recognize those universities. And just given that this sort of apparatus is very much filled with money from donors and those who have access to resources, that system really is exploitable. And we saw that at UCLA - that athletics departments are sort of their own thing and that they circumvent that whole ideal of an education that uplifts people. Really it's more of, if you have the influence, if you have the money, you can get your way on these - in these organizations.

CORNISH: I understand that the chancellor sent out a campuswide email in response. What did that say?

TADIMETI: Yeah. So the chancellor's response really was saying, you know, it was the wrongdoing of a couple of employees and how the university prides itself on its integrity and its access that it provides.

CORNISH: You write, you know, UCLA isn't the victim here. Is that how you feel like the school's positioning itself?

TADIMETI: Yeah. So the Daily Bruin editorial board sort of tried to call that out because to downplay this as a couple of employees acting in bad faith really seems to ignore the underlying questions that students have that a men's soccer coach could bring in a recruit who had really no competitive soccer experience onto a Division 1 sports team and that nobody would ask questions. There's really been an attempt to sort of maybe downplay this incident as just being a one-off case when really there might be something a lot more systemic.

CORNISH: You know, at the end of the day, your editorial noted this idea, this idea that you are all, like, in a pay-to-play system and that you're all suckers caught in it. Is that what you think young people, students are feeling as this unfolds?

TADIMETI: Yeah. I do think students do feel that they are suckers in the system. And really what the editorial wanted - what we wanted to underscore in the editorial board was this idea that at private universities, for example, there have been long-documented cases of wealthy donors paying big sums of money, donating buildings and whatnot and getting their children into universities and how now with public universities being implicated in this, too, that really this is a very unfortunately cohesive picture of how the admissions process is sort of stacked against those who don't have resources and those who don't have access to money, influence and whatnot.

CORNISH: Keshav Tadimeti, thank you so much for speaking with us.

TADIMETI: Great, thank you.

CORNISH: He's the opinion editor at the Daily Bruin at UCLA. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.