Who Deserves a Stanford Education?

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On Wednesday my colleagues Jennifer Medina and Kate Taylor reported that prosecutors are pursuing more parents they believe may have been involved in the sweeping college admissions fraud scheme, setting wealthy parents in Southern California (and their lawyers) on edge.

And later, they reported that the family of Yusi Zhao, a former Stanford student, paid $6.5 million to get her admitted as a recruited athlete. Ms. Zhao was removed from the school in April, though it’s unclear whether prosecutors are investigating Ms. Zhao or her parents.

The school said at the time that it had revoked a student’s admission related to the scandal, but didn’t identify her, and had fired its sailing coach, who was charged in the fraud case.

The news about Ms. Zhao’s identity — first reported by The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday — broke exactly a week after I visited the Stanford campus.

Stanford is one of the most elite institutions in the world. It’s so selective that the school recently stopped publicizing its admission rate, which had dropped to 4.3 percent, in an effort to downplay its exclusivity.

[Read about how more parents might be ensnared in the college admissions scandal.]

So I was curious about how the students there felt about the sprawling scandal that had touched their school. When you have a pool of thousands of eminently qualified applicants, what does it mean to deserve admission to Stanford? And what should happen to students whose families paid to get in?

For Jaymi McNabb, a 20-year-old freshman from Portland, hearing about the scandal was frustrating, although she knows it doesn’t represent the majority of students from wealthy families.

She was raised mostly by her father, who spent her childhood working a variety of construction and other jobs. He didn’t go to college, she said, so it was mostly on her to navigate the application and financial aid process.

Ms. McNabb said she wore her designation as a “FLI” student — or first-generation, low-income — proudly, and that it had been a way of building a community. The university has been supportive.

Nevertheless, she said the contrast between her experiences and those of most of her peers was marked.

“It’s like everything here is on a different scale than the real world,” she said.

David Gonzalez and Tita Chang, both 22-year-old seniors, agreed that not much about the scandal shocked them.

[Here’s a breakdown of Stanford’s undergraduate student body.]

“I wasn’t surprised at all,” Ms. Chang said with a wry laugh. “I was just like, ‘Oh, they’ve finally got evidence.’”

But as they chatted more, the pair came down on different sides of the nuances of the case.

Mr. Gonzalez considered whether admitting applicants whose parents had made significant donations — like building a building or endowing a professorship — was different from bribery.

“I think that if your parents donate a building to the school, you get in and it is also unfair,” he said. “But then it’s different because everyone at the school gets to enjoy the benefits of that bribe.”

Ms. Chang, who said her parents sent her to British international schools in Thailand so she’d have a better shot at college abroad, shook her head.

“That’s only perpetuating even more inequality in the school,” she said.

Mr. Gonzalez’s mother, a psychologist in Miami, also went to Stanford. But he said he hadn’t thought much about himself as a legacy student.

“Maybe I just haven’t interrogated that enough,” he said.

“Because you actually do well,” Ms. Chang chimed in.

Both said that cheating to get in — even if you didn’t know about it — should warrant expulsion.

Later, I asked Stanford about its admission priorities and whether the university was re-evaluating policies like legacy admission preferences in response to the scandal.

“A diverse campus community, including along economic lines, is critical to Stanford not only because we want to expand opportunity, but because we want the best environment for students to learn from each other’s diverse perspectives,” Brad Hayward, a Stanford spokesman, said. “We are continually working to learn from experience.”

(We often link to sites that limit access for nonsubscribers. We appreciate your reading Times stories, but we’d also encourage you to support local news if you can.)

• A woman and her son were sexually assaulted by gang members in El Salvador before seeking refuge in the United States. A man, who is gay and H.I.V. positive, fled Russia, where L.G.B.T. people face discrimination and physical violence. Now he’s living in San Jose. They are among those waiting for their asylum cases to be adjudicated in a byzantine system. [The New York Times]

• Democrats rule the state’s Legislature. But that doesn’t mean they’re unified. And the power of committee chairs to give bills hearings or not is quietly killing legislation. [CALmatters]

• An internal report released under a new police transparency law found that a former BART officer who pulled Oscar Grant from a train lied repeatedly to investigators when he told them he was fighting for his life when a second officer shot Mr. Grant in 2009. [The San Francisco Chronicle]

• Lawyers for the men on trial related to the Ghost Ship warehouse fire are arguing that unknown arsonists started the blaze, which killed 36 people. [The Mercury News]

• Health officials said a woman in her 20s who went to see “Avengers: Endgame” in Fullerton during opening weekend was Orange County’s first confirmed measles case this year. [The Orange County Register]

Tesla was the nation’s leading rooftop solar company until it lost that status last year. Now, the company says it plans to regain its place by slashing prices. But it’s unclear if the plan will work, or if it’s even feasible. [The New York Times]

• Wednesday’s Google Doodle honored Ruth Asawa, a Japanese-American artist who was born in Norwalk and made her career creating delicate but sturdy woven sculptures in the Bay Area. [The New York Times]

• This week was the anniversary of the chaotic violence spurred by the beating of Rodney King. His daughter started a scholarship in hopes of remembering her father as more than a symbol. [The Los Angeles Times]

Hollywood passed on a movie featuring an all-Latino cast. But the movie, “El Chicano,” about a Mexican-American cop who becomes a masked avenger to take on a cartel, is coming. [The New York Times]

Yes, a very wet winter was in large part a result of an increasingly extreme climate. And no, that’s not good.

But bearing those caveats in mind, I think it’s O.K. to feel a little awe-struck by Yosemite’s majestic, thundering waterfalls. And right now is a great time to see many of them, The Fresno Bee reported.

The Bee has a guide to peak viewing times for several of the park’s “star” waterfalls, like Yosemite Falls and Bridalveil Fall, as well as information about tickets and parking.

If you can’t get there in person, the Yosemite Conservancy has this live stream.

California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: [email protected]. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.

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