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The View from the Pier By Herman Sillas
The View from the Pier By Herman Sillas

By Herman Sillas

In the ’50s, I worked part-time and was enrolled at UCLA. I paid $50 for a semester! USC’s fee was $35 a unit, and I thought that was outrageous. I graduated from UCLA in 1956. I never saw a Mexican American student at UCLA. I’m not saying the school didn’t have some, but I never saw one. I applied to UCLA’s Law School and was accepted. I started in September 1956. There were about 200 first-year law students. There were six women, one African American and two Mexican Americans. I was one.

As I sat in our first classroom, all the students were talking about where they were going to go to work after they graduated. They were talking about their fathers’ or uncles’ offices, judges or large firms where they intended to work. There were only a few Mexican American lawyers in California; I didn’t know any of them. I asked myself, what am I doing here? It is a joke being here. I grabbed my law book and notebook to get out of the classroom. I didn’t belong here. Just then, the professor entered the room to start the class. I stayed and was glad I did. I graduated from the law school and passed the bar in 1960. Years later, three of our daughters went to UCLA. The last one cost us about $7,000 a year for tuition, room and board in 1992. Today, the yearly cost is $33,000.

Minority students sought universities to let them in as students. Affirmative action was taken by universities to let minority students attend. I met with Chicano law students at UCLA in the ’60s. The Mexican American Lawyers Club in Los Angeles raised money for law students.
What has happened since those early days? Today, consultants will “assist” parents to make sure their children will get into the universities they want. These consultants will advise parents what they need to do to assure that their children will get accepted by the universities. These consultants have developed relationships with the universities’ admissions officials. The consultants seek big money from the parents to make sure the decision-makers choose the students whose parents are paying big money, running into the thousands, to consultants and their designees.

Now, federal prosecutors have lowered the boom on this cash-flow business. They have filed criminal actions alleging that wealthy parents paid to help their children on college entrance exams and paid thousands of dollars to falsify athletic records of students to secure admission to schools. These schools included UCLA, USC, Stanford, Yale and Georgetown.

Some of the named defendants have pleaded guilty to committing racketeering conspiracies, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and obstruction of justice. Others conspired to commit wire fraud and dishonestly pay for services. Large monies were sought by the consultants, who secretly paid coaches and members of the universities who helped pick the students of the paying parents. The students, in some instances, were represented as athletes when they were not. Athletes posed as the students in films that were shown to the coaches. Coaches received money to have the students on the team and would never be used. Coaches have now been fired if they received money for these favors.

The money of the parents was used by the consultants to pay those who are assisting in the completion of a fraud. UCLA’s soccer coach got paid to accept a student player who couldn’t play at the collegiate level. The coach has since tendered his resignation. That’s what is needed. Universities need to clean up this mess. Students who have attained positions because their parents illegally influenced decisions are not what our future needs. A good future must be carried by those we can trust. A fair system is needed to assure us that every child will have a chance to participate in the future and not with persons who unfairly obtained his or her position. Our future success demands truth and integrity. That’s the view from the Pier.

Herman Sillas is an author, artist, and poet and served as DMV Director and a former U.S. Attorney. He may be reached at

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