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By Rick Pinon Delgado
Two weeks ago, I received an admission offer to UCLA’s Masters in Student Affairs program to extend my education and obtain a masters. It was emotional because I was able to reflect on how much time and effort I had put towards learning this unfamiliar application process and adjusting my time to fill out these applications while being a full time student, having a part-time job and just being a person. As a first-generation Mexican-American college student, obtaining a bachelors is already an insurmountable feat in my household, so knowing that I would be paving the way for my family history to come was incredible.I worked tirelessly during my undergrad to gain experience in different fields, maintain an appropriate gpa and still check in with myself to ensure I was physically and mentally apt. The accumulated stress throughout the years is now something that I can say was worth it because now I know that it’ll pay off and that the struggle of learning to navigate a higher education institution has paid off.
All of this history made it more difficult to grapple with the idea that there are elite institutions that still accept illegal measures that allow privileged individuals to enter these same spaces with no effort. It compared my all-nighters followed by heavy eyes to dollar figures that I had no possibility of obtaining. It put myself and individuals like myself at an uncompetitive disadvantage because no matter how much we hurt ourselves physically and mentally to perfect our resume and application materials, we would never compete with those individuals with money. Although the situations differ because I was admitted to graduate study, these emotions are applicable towards undergraduate students. Underrepresented students and students who come from struggling communities overcome numerous adversaries that disallow them to prepare properly for the application process for these elite schools. There are students who work incredibly hard to better their chances of being accepted to these universities only to learn that someone sitting next to them in class was accepted solely because their parents could write a check that carried a mountain of influence. This undermines my work, my struggle and my voice at these institutions.
This tells me that no matter how hard I work to impress these already white-dominated institutions, the possibility that someone with money could come in and take my spot is always present. My voice will always be silenced next to high dollar amount. It is unmotivating because I have seen students of color become subjects to mental trauma do to these academic spaces as well as become victims to these structures that lead them to believe they are not worthy of this level of education. Navigating through these spaces has taught me persistence and gave me strength but it has also exposed me to my most fragile state as a person and pushed me to the lowest of bottoms. The ungrounding of this level of corruption proves that these institutions should not have the power to tell us who is worthy and who is not. They are not worthy of measuring our worth as people of color in these academic spaces because if they are so easily ready to erase their morals, then they are not an appropriate judge of my potential. They were never an accurate portrayal of what I can obtain or what individuals from marginalized communities can obtain but now I hold an even stronger belief that these platforms are unreliable and even unsustainable.
There is at least one positive outcome from this type of news and that is that I and other students of color belong in these academic structures and the “you only got accepted because your ____” has been revoked as any type of justification. Knowing that there could be students who sit next to me in these classrooms who got in through a check affirms my hard work. I hope that marginalized students take this news as a form of empowerment and validate their position at these universities. The administration of these institutions needs to do better, not the students of color who reside in them.