... as seen through the eyes of a sometime admission officer and minister
by Andrew L. Pate, Jr., formerly director of admissions, Oxford College of Emory, Centenary College of Louisiana and Iowa Wesleyan University; ordained a minister in The United Methodist Church, now serving as a minister of The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
I have lived most of my life in two worlds seriously impacted recently by major scandal, so much so that their status in the global community has been severely diminished, perhaps permanently.
It is not a joyful place to be. I am hurt. I am disappointed. I have no clear-cut solutions that would restore health to either the Church (all churches really) or to our universities and colleges.
The recent revelations concerning the sexual sins of priests and other ministers—Southern Baptist most notably—and concerning the widespread bribery relating to college admissions have both surprised and not surprised me.
Yes, it was a surprise to me to learn that the ministerial scandals are as widespread as they are. Also, I was genuinely surprised with Tuesday's report that "Admissions" deceivers really did get away with their cheating for a long while. Understand, I was not surprised that they tried, I was surprised that they got away with their shenanigans for an extended period, and in a big way.
It is almost unbelievable to me that William Singer, the sick master-mind of the academic deception, was not caught sooner, like immediately after his first bribery attempts.
My experience (1966-1976) with Emory University taught me how carefully and how well applied are the admissions procedures there and in other well-established universities. (I'd still be surprised if Emory was a victim of this particular scam.)
To illustrate, take culprit #2, Mark Riddell, 36, the "test taking whiz" paid by Williams, allegedly, to assist in carrying out his illegal schemes. Riddell, until yesterday, was the director of college entrance examination preparation for his alma mater, IMG academy in Bradenton, Florida. Riddell is also a Harvard graduate, where he was a four-year tennis star.
Assuming they are true, the early reports on Riddell allege that he enlisted SAT and ACT testing proctors to assure that clients scored high enough to guarantee their entrance into the college of their choice, and with Mr. Riddell on occasion even taking the test for the student— every collegiate admissions officer that fell victim to these procedures should be undergoing, I think, a serious self-examination. In my judgment the collegiate educators involved should have caught the scam early, based not only on the unusually high test scores but by relating those scores to the other information they should have had in hand---grades, recommendations, biographical details, etc.
Again, based on my experience, I judge that the high test scores presented would "alone" have set off alarm bells in most well-run admissions offices.
That they didn't suggests to me that admissions procedures have been weakened across the board over the years, particularly over the last 20-30 years.
So, I've asked why?
Well, several factors, among them:
- the automatic admission of legatees (children of alumni) has continued to heighten the competition for the available spaces while magnifying the hypocrisy of the policy itself;
- since our culture increasingly rewards persons with the "right" credentials, the more intense has been the quest by parents and their children to beat the system; thus, bribery, lying, cheating should be the expected outcomes.
- the multiple variations in the manner in which the admission of outstanding athletes are handled—through methods designed to "game" the system—these have added considerable dysfunction to the admissions procedures of our colleges and universities.
In my judgment the best remedies to these admission malfunctions must come from within the universities themselves. For they should know how to fix the problems better than anyone else. If they don't, everybody's in trouble, with no end in sight.
Remedies for the church sex scandals may be yet more difficult to come by. For the enabling factors have been institutionalized (hidden) for years, not just in Roman Catholicism but also among Southern Baptists, the largest body of non-Catholic Christians.
And these two should-be-ashamed branches of Christianity have one striking debilitating practice in common: both are male dominated and neither permits the ordination of women.
Thus, I am led to the obvious: male domination is a root problem for both the Roman Catholic priesthood and the Southern Baptist ministry.
Sadly, I do not see either branch having the will power to face the problem and make it right.
Obviously, I have not touched on the relation of these particular scandals to others that exist so glaringly in our society, like in our politics, in our economics, in our judicial system, and in our healthcare.
What I will say is this: all the scandals are symptoms of a pervasive rottenness in our society.
Can we do better?
We'll see. We'll see.