When is a loophole not a loophole

13 Feb

In this morning's Kaimin (UM's student newspaper), there is a story entitled "Loophole found on student aid application" that examines the loss of eligibility for federal student aide for people convicted for using drugs.  The story claims that the lack of verification by the Department of Education of student's self-reported answers to a question on the FAFSA is a "loophole."  I took considerable offense to this and emailed the editors:

Dear Kaimin Editor,

I was very annoyed by your inaccurate headline for the story "Loophole found on student aid application."  According to my dictionary, a loophole is "an ambiguity (especially one in the text of a law or contract) that makes it possible to evade a difficulty or obligation."  Lying on your FAFSA about past drug convictions is not a "loophole," it is in fact lying.  If a murderer were to avoid punishment by lying to the police, would you consider that a loophole in the statute against murder?  I am pretty confident that most people wouldn't.  Breaking the law to avoid the consequences of a law is not a loophole.  It is breaking the law.  The law may be unjust and/or stupid, and breaking it may be an act of civil disobedience, but you're still breaking the law not exploiting a "loophole."  Thus, a better headline would have been "Lying about drug use on FAFSA rarely caught."  It's only one character longer and much more accurate.

By the way, your story also failed to mention that lying on the FAFSA for any reason is a federal crime punishable by jail time, a fine of $20000, or both.

Eric Hines

The main reason this headline and the story itself bothered me is that is a reflection of a growing sense of entitlement among members of our society that fundamentally threatens our civilization. That is not hyperbole.  The same process of rationalization that justifies calling the act of lying on the FAFSA about a drug conviction a "loophole" because you probably won't get caught is the same  process of rationalization that holds that the President is above the law because Congress won't hold him accountable.   If we stop following the rule of law to follow the rule of men (i.e., the law is what we say the law is no matter what the law actually says), we are no longer a democratic society.

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