College admissions scandal shows ‘grotesquely misplaced priorities,’ Gallagher says


The college admissions scandal that burst into the news earlier this month has the whole nation talking and many questioning the priorities of wealthy parents who paid big money and allegedly committed fraud or bribery to get their children into elite colleges.

For the latest on the scandal and a good summary of the allegations, check out this story from CNN.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said he feels bad for the students who got displaced by those with fraudulent credentials and for the students whose parents orchestrated their admission without their knowledge.

“I think we all see just how kind of grotesquely misplaced priorities this was,” he said. “I mean, yes, a college education is one of the most profoundly impactful things to do. … But the whole premise behind college admissions is we want to see what the student can do for themselves. … They’re not doing the students any favors by doing that. They’re distorting the enterprise and they’re undermining the trust and integrity that people want to have in this competitive system.”

According to a statement from Marc Harding, vice provost for enrollment, “The University of Pittsburgh undergraduate admissions processes are reviewed and vetted annually by the Office of the Provost and General Counsel prior to the start of each academic year. Holistic, need-blind admissions decisions are based on the best fit for applicants. We carefully coordinate with the Department of Athletics and abide by NCAA, ACC and institutional guidelines in recruiting and admitting student athletes

“Each year, all staff involved in the review of undergraduate admission applications receive training. Additionally, all staff involved in application review have a statement concerning adherence to policies, including the National Association for College Admissions Counseling Code of Ethics and Professional Practices.”

Gallagher said he thinks there’s been a bit of an overreaction to the scandal.

“It’s not the case that six universities in the United States comprise the only kind of opportunity you can get in your life,” Gallagher said. “We have, as a country, still the world’s best system of higher education, and something that every country in the world is trying to copy and emulate. And any one of the AAU public or private universities would be a great place to get an education. … Particularly for the undergraduate experience, there is a plethora of great schools to go to. And I think this idea of kind of ambulance chasing for the ones with the shiniest reputation is kind of a distortion on that experience.”

And while Pitt is not involved in the scandal in any way, Gallagher jokingly said, “The cynical side of me said, ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if somebody was willing to break the law just because they were so desperate to get their child into Pitt.’ ”

Gallagher told WESA-FM this week that after the scandal broke, Pitt “immediately started looking at ‘Do we have any of the structural problems that could lead to this kind of integrity breakdown?’ By and large we think we’re in pretty good shape but there’s always room for improvement,” he said.

Pitt will add independent oversight over some departments, including the athletic department, to safeguard against misconduct, Gallagher told WESA.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 412-648-4294.