- A 24-year-old Rhodes Scholar has left the prestigious program after being accused of lying about growing up poor, reports say.
- Mackenzie Fierceton described herself as s a “queer, first-generation, low-income” student, per The Times.
- But according to reports, she attended a $29,875-a-year private school.
A 24-year-old Missouri woman who won a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University has left the program following accusations that she misrepresented her life experience on her application form about being poor, according to The Times.
Mackenzie Fierceton described herself as a “queer, first generation [to go to college], low-income” student at the University of Pennsylvania, The Times reported. She also claimed to have grown up in the foster care system in an interview published by The Philadelphia Inquirer after she was named as a recipient of the scholarship in November 2020.
The prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, which takes on 32 US students a year, is the oldest graduate scholarship in the world. It counts former President Bill Clinton and US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg among its recipients.
But an anonymous tip-off to the University of Pennsylvania in response to that glowing Inquirer article led to questions as to whether she deserved to be listed among the distinguished past scholars.
The tip-off alleged that Fierceton had, in reality, enjoyed a privileged upbringing. According to an investigative report by Tom Bartlett of The Chronicle of Higher Education, the email said that Fierceton used to go by Mackenzie Morrison and had lived in an affluent suburb in St Louis, Missouri while attending the $29,875-a-year Whitfield private school.
It also said that her mother was a college-educated radiologist, per The Chronicle.
A similar email to the Rhodes Trust described Fierceton as being “blatantly dishonest in the representation of her childhood,” and included images of her in the private school’s yearbook of her skydiving and riding a horse, The Chronicle said.
An investigation was launched into her application, led by a Rhodes Trust committee, and found that she had spent less than a year in foster care as a 17-year-old, the newspaper reported.
Fierceton was placed into foster care in 2014 after she accused her mother of pushing her down the stairs in their $750,000 home, The Times said. According to the Chronicle, she also spent time in hospital after the incident. Charges against her mother, who denies this happened, were dropped due to lack of evidence, according to the newspaper.
The committee said that evidence showed that Fierceton had “created and repeatedly shared false narratives about herself” and used these “misrepresentations” to “serve her interests as an applicant for competitive” academic programs, The Chronicle reported. It recommended that her scholarship be rescinded, but Fierceton reportedly withdrew from it herself.
The University of Pennsylvania conducted a follow-up…