Massive Scandal Alleged in College Admissions
March 12, 2019 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Racketeering, wire fraud, and more "Federal authorities in Boston on Tuesday announced the indictments of dozens of people on charges related to an alleged scheme to get people into elite colleges and universities through purported, but not necessarily real, athletic talent....Two prominent actresses -- Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin -- are among those charged."
posted by Caxton1476 (259 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
 
This story is both completely bananas and entirely predictable, but goddamn some of the details are just too much. I mean $500,000 in fraud to get your terrible kids in to USC? The mind boggles.
posted by saladin at 9:53 AM on March 12 [26 favorites]


At a briefing on the new indictments Tuesday, Andrew Lelling, a U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, said that some parents paid up to $6.5 million "to guarantee admission" for their children to elite colleges. He said that a total of 33 parents have been charged.

Are there many schools who wouldn't admit your kid directly for $6.5M in endowment donations?
posted by jacquilynne at 9:53 AM on March 12 [81 favorites]


Are there many schools who wouldn't admit your kid directly for $6.5M in endowment donations?

That was my thought - while the prosecution here may be novel, the practice, in one way or another, strikes me as bordering on traditional for elite schools.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:56 AM on March 12 [23 favorites]


In the old days you just put up a new dormitory.
posted by caddis at 9:58 AM on March 12 [32 favorites]


The last thread and this one are the first 2 parts of the next Adam McKay trilogy.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:59 AM on March 12 [6 favorites]


I don't understand what the effing need was to buy spots on elite college sports teams that could have gone to someone who might not have gotten into the school otherwise. This makes me very, very angry. Seriously, think ahead and buy the spots the "traditional" way if you must. Or, you know, help your kid achieve what they can in school, and actually be admitted to some colleges.
posted by wellred at 9:59 AM on March 12 [7 favorites]


Someone called this "nouveau riche," which is cruel and snobbish but telling. Maybe this scam targeted customers who had money but no legacy admissions or knowledge of how these things are done comme il faut. I don't like it any better for that.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:00 AM on March 12 [51 favorites]


That was my thought - while the prosecution here may be novel, the practice, in one way or another, strikes me as bordering on traditional for elite schools.

Harvard explicitly has something called The Dean's Interest List, which has been under review as as a result of another unfair admissions trial unrelated to this one.
posted by vacapinta at 10:03 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]


Not Aunt Becky!
posted by Chrysostom at 10:03 AM on March 12 [16 favorites]


I hope they get someone on the uni admin side above the paygrade of the sailing coach
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 10:04 AM on March 12 [19 favorites]


Well, I'm sure the real criminals and corruption mongers are quite happy to have everyone distracted by this.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:06 AM on March 12 [9 favorites]


Right, and the colleges never admit talented athletes with poor academic skills, either.
posted by Melismata at 10:06 AM on March 12 [5 favorites]


There are huge problems with athletic admissions, for sure. But buying those spots away from kids who actually achieve athletically? and maybe didn't go to a fancy high school with a guidance counselor who was of any help, etc.? eff that.
posted by wellred at 10:08 AM on March 12 [25 favorites]


@erinscafe: How in god’s name did Felicity Huffman get arrested before Donald Trump.
posted by zachlipton at 10:10 AM on March 12 [165 favorites]


Donnie didn't fuck with Big ACT/SAT!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:12 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]






Harvard explicitly has something called The Dean's Interest List, which has been under review as as a result of another unfair admissions trial unrelated to this one.

I grew up in the Maryland suburbs outside DC in the 80s, and there were several expensive private schools that seemed exclusively devoted to sheltering unaccountable, fuck up rich kids while they waited to be ushered seamlessly into college by similar means.

Given that the administration is run by these people, I'm very curious why the feds have picked now to stop the party train.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:15 AM on March 12 [20 favorites]


Given that the administration is run by these people, I'm very curious why the feds have picked now to stop the party train.

I'm reminded of the expression, "Pigs get fat; hogs get slaughtered." Overt grifting, especially by people who aren't in the in-group or fall out of it, can be more easily punished than legal injustice.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:19 AM on March 12 [56 favorites]


I'd like to know more about this story:
One of the cooperating witnesses, according to the court documents, is a former head coach of Yale’s women’s soccer team, who pleaded guilty in the case nearly a year ago and has since been helping FBI agents gather evidence.
posted by doctornemo at 10:23 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]


I mean $500,000 in fraud to get your terrible kids in to USC? The mind boggles.

I went to USC. I was literally wearing a USC jacket when I saw this. I cannot imagine paying anything in six figures to get my kid in there.

I don't understand what the effing need was to buy spots on elite college sports teams that could have gone to someone who might not have gotten into the school otherwise.

From my initial reading, they weren't taking any scholarships (or even places on teams) away from actual athletes. The parent would (via the "counselor") bribe a coach to tell Admissions that they were recruiting Joanne Richkid (who had never participated in that sport). There are a lot of student-athletes who don't get scholarships, but they still get preferential treatment in admissions. So Joanne wouldn't get a scholarship, because the coach knew what was going on, but it would still get in Joanne's file that she was a recruited athlete.
posted by Etrigan at 10:25 AM on March 12 [16 favorites]


For these dollar amounts of bribes you could buddy up with a needy but VALID freshman for entry and all would be good and maybe even admirable.

This all would be in addition to the cost of the school right?

No class privilege here, move along, nuthun' ta see.
posted by Freedomboy at 10:25 AM on March 12


jacquilynne: "Are there many schools who wouldn't admit your kid directly for $6.5M in endowment donations?"

Yeah you wonder. Jared Kushner got into Harvard for $2.5 million in 1998, or $3.9 million in 2019 collars.

But it looks like the $6.5 million is an outlier. The article says one student bought admission through the Stanford sailing team for only $110k. It's possible it really is (as one source in the article claims) 10x cheaper to buy admission through athletics than through the direct "institutional support" route.

That said, in my experience athletics at elite institutions (football & basketball aside) primarily exists for upper class types anyway. Learning to sail for reals ain't cheap either.
posted by crazy with stars at 10:28 AM on March 12 [12 favorites]


I'd like to know more about this story:
One of the cooperating witnesses, according to the court documents, is a former head coach of Yale’s women’s soccer team, who pleaded guilty in the case nearly a year ago and has since been helping FBI agents gather evidence.


It seems like from some of the documents ive seen released that rich kids were ID'd as recruits to get around academic requirements even though they didnt play the sports (one of the juicier details involved actually photoshopping kids faces on sports pics)
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 10:29 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]


It's about the side door.
From this affidavit:
Okay, so, who we are-- what we do is we help the wealthiest families in the U.S.
get their kids into school …. Every year there are-- is a group of families,
especially where I am right now in the Bay Area, Palo Alto, I just flew in. That
they want guarantees, they want this thing done. They don’t want to be messing
around with this thing. And so they want in at certain schools. So I did 761 what I
would call, “side doors.” There is a front door which means you get in on your
own. The back door is through institutional advancement, which is ten times as
much money. And I’ve created this side door in. Because the back door, when
you go through institutional advancement, as you know, everybody’s got a friend
of a friend, who knows somebody who knows somebody but there’s no guarantee,
they’re just gonna give you a second look. My families want a guarantee. So, if
you said to me ‘here’s our grades, here’s our scores, here’s our ability, and we
want to go to X school’ and you give me one or two schools, and then I’ll go after
those schools and try to get a guarantee done. So that, by the time, the summer of
her senior year, before her senior year, hopefully we can have this thing done, so
that in the fall, before December 15th, you already knows she’s in. Done. And
you make a financial commitment. It depends on what school you want, may
determine how much that actually is. But that’s kind of how the the side and back
door work.

posted by doctornemo at 10:31 AM on March 12 [17 favorites]


I wonder how Felicity Huffman's younger daughter feels. "You didn't commit a felony for me!" is going to be really awkward at Thanksgiving.
posted by srboisvert at 10:34 AM on March 12 [59 favorites]


my default mental state is basically "quivering marxist rage," but reading anything at all about how the rich pervert academia to serve their need for insider credentialing and/or babysitting for their failchildren causes that to jump up to the next level. like we're talking galaxy-brain-scale marxist rage. it makes me literally crazy. if I read more about this I'll probably turn into a legit posadist or something.

in a decent society, academia would be that society's crowing jewel. because in a decent society, research and teaching would be the best, most valuable, most important things we could do. but under capitalism, it's just another grotty little scam for the bourgeoisie.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 10:37 AM on March 12 [114 favorites]


I'm reminded of the expression, "Pigs get fat; hogs get slaughtered." Overt grifting, especially by people who aren't in the in-group or fall out of it, can be more easily punished than legal injustice.

I think this is where the “Neuveau Riche” aspect comes into play. These folks didn’t know how the game is played and screwed it up. The DA even said “this isn’t donating a building; this is fraud.”
posted by Navelgazer at 10:37 AM on March 12 [32 favorites]


Someone called this "nouveau riche," which is cruel and snobbish but telling. Maybe this scam targeted customers who had money but no legacy admissions or knowledge of how these things are done comme il faut. I don't like it any better for that.

I work in higher education as an instructor. Although my institution is not one mentioned, this further shakes me to my core.

Part of it is the obvious grift, but there's something deeper here. These parents knew the system wasn't fair, knew that it could be gamed. And instead of making a more fair academy, they just exploited the hell out of it for their own descendants. As mentioned, this was a hammer compared to the velvet glove that normally occurs with bribing colleges to let the children of the rich and famous in. Most times, it's done so subtly as not to be a crime, but legacy admissions and preferential treatment to the relatives of donors all point to the fact that the system is hideously unfair.

Of course, colleges could just say they choose who to admit based upon their own feelings and judgments and nothing else, but they don't say that. They tell the rejected that they didn't make the cut, tell those who didn't get in that there were "better" students. You see, the colleges want the power and riches of catering to the wealthy, but they want the prestige of being a meritocracy, of being seen as fair. It's not enough that the rich cheat; it's that they cheat and have society agree that it was an honest game.

Between the recent posts about scholarship bamboozling and faculty tenure conspiracy, I just don't think academia deserves to be considered good and prestigious. I wish there was a true university system, a people's college, where students hire a faculty that serve the public trust and where there are clear and meaningful rules on admissions, scholarship, hiring, and promotion. But I just don't see it.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 10:39 AM on March 12 [56 favorites]


Harvard explicitly has something called The Dean's Interest List, which has been under review as as a result of another unfair admissions trial unrelated to this one.

Amazingly, Chicago Public Schools have this for high schools. It's called the Principal's List. It is how former Governor Rauner, a billionaire, clouted his daughter in a selective enrollment school (Walter Payton) despite her not making the cut. Her admission was greased by a $250,000 donation.

All perfectly legal and horribly immoral as he could have easily sent her to an exclusive private school, like Rahm Emanuel did with his offspring (University of Chicago Private Schools), and some kid who actually earned admission and potentially needed it would not have been bumped.

Basically, the poors cannot have good things even if they earn them if the rich also want them.
posted by srboisvert at 10:40 AM on March 12 [43 favorites]


I wonder how Felicity Huffman's younger daughter feels. "You didn't commit a felony for me!" is going to be really awkward at Thanksgiving.
Given that she explicitly said that she wasn't going to commit the felony for her younger daughter because she wasn't stupid and would realize what was going on, I think I might be more offended if I were the older daughter.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:42 AM on March 12 [113 favorites]


Academia's at risk of going the way of the monasteries unless it shapes up. Dissolving them was good business for some, too.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 10:44 AM on March 12 [4 favorites]


This is just the beginning. The prosecutor has unsealed indictments on the rest of the ABC TGIF lineup.

You hear that Cousin Balki? You’d better get back to Meepos before the long arm of the law catches up with YOU.
posted by dr_dank at 10:45 AM on March 12 [11 favorites]


purported, but not necessarily real, athletic talent

This describes my actual athletic talent :/
posted by SonInLawOfSam at 10:46 AM on March 12 [16 favorites]


Criminal acts are criminal acts but we have awfully weird priorities in this country when we can't bring polluters, bankers, or cops to justice but we can go after individuals working the academic admissions process.
posted by kokaku at 10:49 AM on March 12 [62 favorites]


It looks like the 'crime' here is that the fixer was paying employees of the university rather than the university. It's still perfectly legal to buy your way in, so that oligarchy gravy train keeps rolling while some outsiders get slapped down. Win/win from the point of view of the insiders.
posted by tavella at 10:50 AM on March 12 [37 favorites]


purported, but not necessarily real, athletic talent

This describes my actual athletic talent :/


Be honest. Has anyone ever actually purported you to have athletic talent?
posted by phearlez at 10:51 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]


For these dollar amounts of bribes you could buddy up with a needy but VALID freshman for entry and all would be good and maybe even admirable.

This sounds like the premise of a made-for-tv buddy movie. I'd be surprised if it hasn't been made already.

we have awfully weird priorities in this country when we can't bring polluters, bankers, or cops to justice but we can go after individuals working the academic admissions process.

It's almost like one of these crimes is more threatening to the status quo than the others. Though I am a bit surprised they bothered to go after USC. Some grasping nouveau riche buying their way into Yale is a scandal; that diploma is a class marker. USC doesn't strike me as having the same cachet. Pour encourager, I suppose.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:59 AM on March 12 [4 favorites]


Given that she explicitly said that she wasn't going to commit the felony for her younger daughter because she wasn't stupid and would realize what was going on, I think I might be more offended if I were the older daughter.

The most interesting part of this for me is definitely the extent to which the parents were trying to pull this off invisibly to the children. One of them had the fixer smuggle out a copy of the ACT which some entirely different person was taking under the kid's name, so the kid could take it themselves and feel like he'd just done way better than expected. Another one got burned when, after dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars getting a guaranteed place at Stanford, the kid decided they didn't really want to go there anyway and didn't even bother applying. A third one was having test results faked just because their kid couldn't quite make a 34 on the ACT but really wanted to and was going to keep trying until they got that score and the parent wanted to put a stop to it all.

I mean, a lot of the kids probably knew or at least should have figured that it doesn't really make sense to get into a selective school as a lacrosse player having only played one semester 3 years ago, especially at a school that doesn't technically offer lacrosse as a sport, but at least some of the parents were trying to keep the kids from knowing as well. Committing fraud on the college admissions system is one thing, but simultaneously tricking your wildly unqualified kid into thinking they earned their way into Stanford increases the difficulty a ton.
posted by Copronymus at 11:07 AM on March 12 [52 favorites]


This isn't a zero-sum game between the "nouveau riche" and insiders jockeying for a fixed number of admission spots.

I understand the disgust with it all, but--if somebody actually donates to the institution (instead of bribing an employee) that can open up new spots for people that otherwise couldn't afford it.
posted by bfields at 11:09 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]


A third one was having test results faked just because their kid couldn't quite make a 34 on the ACT but really wanted to and was going to keep trying until they got that score and the parent wanted to put a stop to it all.

As someone whose toddler has recently started insisting on dressing and undressing herself, this seems totally reasonable to me.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:13 AM on March 12 [63 favorites]


I don't think that Felicity Huffman is nouveau riche, at least by American standards. Her father was a partner at Morgan Stanley, and one of her great-grandfathers went to Yale.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:14 AM on March 12 [10 favorites]


Semi-related: the Romanian film Graduation is about a father tumbling down a slippery slope of corruption in an effort to make sure his daughter gets into Cambridge. It's by Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days.) It's on Netflix in the US and it's extremely good.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:21 AM on March 12 [19 favorites]


Let's not forget that William H. Macy is "SPOUSE" in the Huffman transcripts.
posted by gottabefunky at 11:27 AM on March 12 [37 favorites]


What's even the point of making sure your perfectly average kid gets into an elite school---when you're already independently wealthy and/or influential? They could go to ASU or whatever, or no college, and benefit from the same connections in order to be gainfully employed, assuming that's even necessary, since plenty of these kids are wealthy enough not to have to work at all. If you're the kid of famous industry leader So-and-so, any job you get will be because of that anyway, not because you went to Yale even though you're a dumbass.
posted by Autumnheart at 11:31 AM on March 12 [10 favorites]


To be clear, I'm not underestimating the social status-seeking on behalf of parents, to be able to brag that their kid goes to Elite U. I assume that's a major driver.
posted by Autumnheart at 11:32 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


if somebody actually donates to the institution (instead of bribing an employee) that can open up new spots for people that otherwise couldn't afford it.

Are you...actually under the impression that the schools in question are hurting for funds such that that kind of donation makes a significant difference to their ability to offer scholarship aid?
posted by praemunire at 11:32 AM on March 12 [15 favorites]


Yeah, Stanford has a $26.5 billion endowment. They could admit anyone they liked, for free.
posted by Autumnheart at 11:33 AM on March 12 [32 favorites]


It looks like the 'crime' here is that the fixer was paying employees of the university rather than the university. It's still perfectly legal to buy your way in, so that oligarchy gravy train keeps rolling while some outsiders get slapped down. Win/win from the point of view of the insiders.


Yes, yes, that and, you know, that probably tax fraud since the bribes were being laundered as charitable donations.
posted by MikeKD at 11:34 AM on March 12 [7 favorites]


They could go to ASU or whatever, or no college, and benefit from the same connections in order to be gainfully employed

(a) A lot of the better institutions still do like to tick the boxes; and
(b) You don't meet the same people of your own generation at (e.g.) ASU. For the classic sell-side finance jobs, you want to be able to call up your lax buddy.
posted by praemunire at 11:34 AM on March 12 [11 favorites]


So there's a lot to unpack in that affidavit, but I think my favorite sections so far are the call transcripts from after the guys running the scheme became cooperating witnesses. The government got them to call up the parents, under the pretext of their fake charity being audited by the IRS, in order to get their confessions on tape:
CW-1: And then, the other thing is, they asked a question about [CW-2], who took the test for [your son], and Igor, who was the site coordinator, how come I paid them from the foundation at the same time that [your son] was taking the test--

CHEN: Uh-huh.

CW-1:. --and since you paid the for-profit company the $75,000, there was no payment for the-- as a donation.

CHEN: Uh-huh.

CW-1: And I think that we are past that. So that we both agree that [CW-2] took the test for [your son], right?

CHEN: Yeah.
I mean, come on, that's only a couple of notches below "can you say that again, but this time speak into my lapel?"
posted by teraflop at 11:35 AM on March 12 [57 favorites]


There are two main tiers of inequity; this is the third. It's awful, but it's the icing on the cake: obvious, but not nearly as consequential as the two main layers.

One: As everyone knows, the academic achievement of kids from poor families is way behind that of kids from rich families. It's true, that, to a large extent, the elite-college application system is a meritocracy - it's just that rich parents can make sure that their kids obtain that "merit". (Much of that merit is real: that is, they can make sure their kids learn to read and write and do math and think critically. But plenty of the "merit" is meaningless box-checking.)

Two: Poor kids that beat the odds and are well-prepared for college still apply and attend good colleges at much lower rates than richer kids.

As a result, for example, many top colleges have more students from top 1% families (630K+) than bottom 60% families (<65K). Interestingly, the most elite schools are slightly less inequitable, because they are rich enough to draw lower-income kids with generous scholarships.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:36 AM on March 12 [13 favorites]


Let's not forget that William H. Macy is "SPOUSE" in the Huffman transcripts.

I must have missed a memo, are we no longer calling them Felliam H. Muffman?

you're the kid of famous industry leader So-and-so, any job you get will be because of that anyway, not because you went to Yale even though you're a dumbass.

*cough* Dubya *cough*
posted by lkc at 11:39 AM on March 12 [11 favorites]


Poor kids that beat the odds and are well-prepared for college still apply and attend good colleges at much lower rates than richer kids.

I was under the impression that this is because top colleges want students with status, not Joe Unknown With Good Grades.
posted by Autumnheart at 11:41 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


Oh my Bourdieu. It's a strange state of affairs when the illegality of something maps to its gaucheness.

The genius brain thing is that this reflects the precarious status of the upper-upper-middle-class (as described by Michael Lewis in 'Mansion'): upper-middle-class parents invest in private schools and tutors and prep and extracurriculars; actual upper-class parents donate enough to have their names slapped on a building; the ones in-between want to pass down status to their kids in a way that's relatively affordable with a limited time investment. That their kids are social-media braaaaaaand influencers is the icing on the cake.

The galaxy brain thing is that the journalists yuck-yucking about this who went to top-tier institutions had parents who wanted the same thing.
posted by holgate at 11:41 AM on March 12 [22 favorites]


What's even the point of making sure your perfectly average kid gets into an elite school---when you're already independently wealthy and/or influential? They could go to ASU or whatever, or no college, and benefit from the same connections in order to be gainfully employed, assuming that's even necessary, since plenty of these kids are wealthy enough not to have to work at all. If you're the kid of famous industry leader So-and-so, any job you get will be because of that anyway, not because you went to Yale even though you're a dumbass.

I think it's at heart a status thing. Your peers' kids are going off to Harvard and Yale and, in those circles, talking about Western Michgan or Cal State San Marcos or whatever is felt as a humiliation and an indication that you did a bad job of parenting, no matter how good those schools actually are or how much either experience might benefit your child.
posted by Copronymus at 11:47 AM on March 12 [20 favorites]


actually under the impression that the schools in question are hurting for funds such that that kind of donation makes a significant difference to their ability to offer scholarship aid?

They probably feel piqued that the money going to the side-door companies wasn't going to them. This becomes a social-status question about the function of donations (esp. by non-alumni) and why institutions with multi-billion endowments have extremely well-staffed offices for soliciting them and organising shows of gratitude (i.e. networking events) to donors.
posted by holgate at 11:48 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


Amazingly, Chicago Public Schools have this for high schools. It's called the Principal's List. It is how former Governor Rauner, a billionaire, clouted his daughter in a selective enrollment school (Walter Payton) despite her not making the cut. Her admission was greased by a $250,000 donation.
Almost exactly ten years ago, "Category I" admissions at the University of Illinois led to the resignation of the president, the chancellor, and seven of the nine members of the Board of Trustees. (The preferential admissions category was discovered by a Hail Mary FOIA request from the Chicago Tribune, who were trying to dig up dirt on Governor Rod Blagojevich. You may remember Blagojevich from his number one hit "What'll you give me for Obama's senate seat?")

But okay, CPS, you stay classy.

TIL Stanford has a sailing team. Jesus wept.
posted by erniepan at 11:50 AM on March 12 [6 favorites]


Another one got burned when, after dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars getting a guaranteed place at Stanford, the kid decided they didn't really want to go there anyway and didn't even bother applying.

That had to sting.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:53 AM on March 12 [8 favorites]


lol sick burn by DOJ (Twitter)
posted by dfan at 11:53 AM on March 12 [33 favorites]


I just told my husband about this and he kept saying: "Felicity Huffman did this? Felicity Huffman? Felicity Huffman?"

It reminded me of J.K. Simmons repeating "..The Russians?" in Burn After Reading.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:55 AM on March 12 [8 favorites]


I was under the impression that this is because top colleges want students with status, not Joe Unknown With Good Grades.

Hopefully someone with experience in admissions can chime in, but everything I've read indicates the reverse: The Ivies and similar are full of kids of doctors and lawyers from the suburbs of LA and Boston. Admissions offices would love to admit the farm kid from North Dakota, or the black daughter of the poor single mother from Detroit. But there aren't very many of those kids with the academic credentials those schools want (not getting into the debate about whether those are the credentials they should want), and of the qualified ones, many don't apply.

The good news: Outreach to poorer students does seem to have an effect: "researchers found that after telling high-achieving, low-income students they should apply to the institution, many of them did." Hopefully schools will learn from this.

(This doesn't apply to the super-elite; I'd guess the four daughters of the last two Presidents didn't have much trouble getting in where they wanted.)
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:00 PM on March 12 [9 favorites]


Why aren't we talking about the fact that they code-named this criminal enterprise 'Project Varsity Blues' because of course they did.
posted by Fizz at 12:04 PM on March 12 [10 favorites]


I was under the impression that this is because top colleges want students with status, not Joe Unknown With Good Grades.

Not really. Generally speaking, poorer kids are less well-prepared to be competitive in admissions by their schools; they don't apply to schools for which they are qualified, either because they don't realize that they are qualified, they are afraid they can't afford it, or they're afraid they won't fit in; and they graduate at lower rates because they have less support, both financial and social, when they (or their family) hit the inevitable bumps in life. And that's even before you consider the racial/ethnic overlay.

I graduated summa from my Ivy. I'm pretty sure that if I had stayed at my first, public, terrible high school, I wouldn't even have applied there, and would certainly have had a much lesser chance of getting in. (The lack of money/support would've been the same, though...) Meanwhile, at my second school, admissions was so tight with our college counselors that my college counselor knew I got in before I did.
posted by praemunire at 12:05 PM on March 12 [30 favorites]


"Are you...actually under the impression that the schools in question are hurting for funds such that that kind of donation makes a significant difference to their ability to offer scholarship aid?"

Sure. Donations are a significant source of income, and financial aid is one of the things they're spent on.

And given decreasing federal and state support, various forms of price discrimination (trying to charge people according to what they can afford) are one of the main ways colleges manage to provide some financial aid, as far as I understand it.

I don't particularly like it, but I'd be reluctant to end the practice without some accounting of what's lost, and I don't think that's nothing.

"Yeah, Stanford has a $26.5 billion endowment. They could admit anyone they liked, for free."

I dunno. Assuming you mean they could support a student body at their current size indefinitely on endowment income alone.... Assuming you can spend 4% endowment income a year forever, I think that's 60-70K per year per student? (No idea whether 4% is right--googling around gets some articles reporting 4.5% average endowment returns over the last few years, but I think that's nominal, not inflation adjusted? And cost of education is rising higher than inflation. I wish I understood this better.)
posted by bfields at 12:13 PM on March 12 [6 favorites]


These kids presumably went to very good private high schools, and presumably had the money to have very good tutors in any and every subject, and presumably had the resources to participate in the sort of elite extracurriculars that separate you from the middle class kids (e.g., starting your own foundation, various "leadership" boosting bullshit), and still can't get in?

With this, and the Manaforte sentencing debacle last week, it seems we're getting more and more frequent public reminders that the meritocracy, the rule of law, and all that stuff that's supposed to make moderate inequality tolerable are bullshit. Don't know what else to say about that, just thinking about buying stock in a pitchfork company.
posted by skewed at 12:13 PM on March 12 [16 favorites]


It's bananas the difference between the college counseling at my daughter's prep school and the "counseling"* I got at my public school in post-Prop 13 California.

I can't imagine that I would need to bribe anyone because prep school itself is enough of an advantage.



*The counselor handed me a book with a listing of every college in America in it. That's it. My kid has had a ton of support and guidance.
posted by vespabelle at 12:16 PM on March 12 [8 favorites]


Lori Loughlin's daughter didn't even want to go to USC, but at least her USC dorm room was featured in Teen Vogue in what seems like a thinly veiled advertisement for Amazon Prime.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:17 PM on March 12 [20 favorites]


Let's not forget that William H. Macy is "SPOUSE" in the Huffman transcripts

I'm now picturing a group of be-trenchcoated Feds strenuously grasping to restrain the wriggling body of a screaming Bill Macy as he desperately tries to claw his way out through an open motel room window.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:22 PM on March 12 [35 favorites]


stanford is best understood as a real estate operation with a minor sideline in higher education.

moreover, the pile of money they're sitting on has such a massive gravitational-warping effect that I think it may be literally impossible at this point for them to lose any meaningful part of it. it's such a huge mass of money piled up that it's collapsed in on itself, forming a money singularity. once your organization has a money singularity, there's no way for it to get back across the money event horizon to the part of the universe where humans live.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 12:24 PM on March 12 [54 favorites]


like, remember how back in 2008 capitalism shat the bed so badly that major financial institutions had to go hat-in-hand for bailouts from their pet federal government?

in 2008, stanford's endowment went up.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 12:27 PM on March 12 [34 favorites]


Sure. Donations are a significant source of income, and financial aid is one of the things they're spent on.

And given decreasing federal and state support, various forms of price discrimination (trying to charge people according to what they can afford) are one of the main ways colleges manage to provide some financial aid, as far as I understand it.

I don't particularly like it, but I'd be reluctant to end the practice without some accounting of what's lost, and I don't think that's nothing.


I'm sorry, I don't think you understand the economics here at all.

First, schools at this level are not just "managing to provide some financial aid." A few years ago Harvard and Yale decided to charge students below a surprisingly high level of family income basically nothing to attend. They could do this, essentially, because they felt like it. They could've done it twenty years ago, if they'd wanted to. They are not struggling. When you hear about them having to "cut back on expenditures" in down financial years, it just means they may have to wait five years to build that $300mil new campus across the river.

Second, most major donations are not to the equivalent of the university's general fund, much less specifically earmarked for financial aid. They are specifically directed to a specific purpose; new climbing gym, whatever. This does not free up funds for financial aid. It makes for some nicer institutional asset (and sometimes not even for the general student body--you get separate athlete gyms and dorms, etc.).

Third, my god, I do not understand how people function in this world looking at corruption and thinking, "Oh, yeah, this is probably for Very Good Reasons, we should make sure we don't Lose Anything by cutting it off." I cannot believe how well late capitalism has people trained.
posted by praemunire at 12:29 PM on March 12 [55 favorites]


Admissions offices would love to admit the farm kid from North Dakota....But there aren't very many of those kids with the academic credentials those schools want (not getting into the debate about whether those are the credentials they should want), and of the qualified ones, many don't apply.


Twenty years ago I was applying to schools and due to test scores, grades, and whatnot, I was heavily recruited by many, many schools. I was living in a city in Montana.

When I expressed some interest in the University of Pennsylvania and they found out I had competitive academics and was from Montana, they essentially assigned me a personal admissions officer. She would call every week or two to check up on me, offer assistance with filling out the application and any questions I had, etc. My guidance counselors were well-meaning, but didn't know much beyond the state schools and a few regional schools, and I got the impression that the Penn admissions lady was doing whatever she could to show me the broader world that my high school counselors didn't really know about.

It was pretty interesting to me because I was a white middle-class male and even at the time that never seemed like a category that schools would actively recruit, but I guess just being from Montana made me enough of an outlier to count as diversity for the Penn student body at that time. When I went to the campus to visit during one of the weekends for admitted students who hadn't yet decided, I remember being so confused by one section on the little "get to know you" form that they wanted us to fill out. It asked for my home city and state, but also my high school's city and state. I guess in my own little sheltered life at the time, I'd never considered that people would go somewhere other than the public school a couple of miles from where they lived.

I ended up not going to Penn, but my experience with their admissions office and visiting the campus gave me a glimpse of a world that operated very differently from what I knew in one of the big "cities" in Montana.

In my experience, at least, Penn did a lot to recruit students far from what one would consider the typical Ivy student.
posted by msbrauer at 12:30 PM on March 12 [27 favorites]


Mr. Burns: Something is not right about Larry's upbringing. Send for the boys of Yale at once!
(Burns' office. Two admissions officers from Yale are by his desk)
Mr. Burns: Well, did you meet Larry?
Admissions Officer: Oh yes. He made light of my weight problem, then suggested my motto ought to be "Semper Fudge". After that he told me to "relax".
Mr. Burns: How were his test scores?
Admissions Officer: Let's just say this: he spelled "Yale" with a 6.
(Mr. Burns, in a not-to-subtle moves, opens his checkbook)
Mr. Burns: I see. Well, I- ...Oh, that reminds me, it is time for your annual contribution. How much should I give?
Admissions Officer: Well frankly, test scores like Larry's would merit a very generous donation. A score of 400 would require new football uniforms. 300 would require a new dormitory. And in Larry's case? We'd need an international airport.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:42 PM on March 12 [35 favorites]


"I'm sorry, I don't think you understand the economics here at all."

I'm *sure* I don't!

"They are specifically directed to a specific purpose; new climbing gym, whatever."

Sounds better than lining some random coach's pocket?

Also, there's a range of institutions here--how does USC's budget compare?
posted by bfields at 12:45 PM on March 12 [2 favorites]


There's a small number of schools, including the Ivies, with endowments so massive they don't meaningfully need money, and they could operate off of endowment returns indefinitely.

The majority of colleges and universities have much smaller endowments, and are trying to scrounge up money to claw their way up to that point. From this Inside Higher Ed article:

A total of 104 participants, or 13 percent of the entire pool, counted endowments totaling more than $1 billion. They held a whopping $474.2 billion -- 76.9 percent of all endowed assets covered by the study.
posted by bagel at 12:48 PM on March 12 [13 favorites]


My takeaway:

Athletics departments have always have a coaches "interest" list. It's just one more thing on the Admissions Department holistic process (and who knows how it is weighted).

I had several coaches at my U tell me they'd love to have player x recruited, but they don't recruit because they know they'd never get their grades/scores past admissions.

A few coaches at a few schools were caught taking a bribe/donation/contribution of some sort to place someone on an "interest" list.
posted by CrowGoat at 12:59 PM on March 12


Copronymus: "The most interesting part of this for me is definitely the extent to which the parents were trying to pull this off invisibly to the children. "

Definitely true (the kid who decided not to apply to Stanford is a highlight), but I guess I'm struck by the sheer number of kids who weren't athletes at all, and some of those kids did know. E.g. this kid:

On or about June 27, 2017, SLOANE e-mailed CW-1 a photograph of his son purporting to play water polo, with his right arm and upper torso exposed above the water line. In the e-mail, SLOANE asked, “Does this work??” CW-1 responded: “Yes but a little high out of the water- no one gets that high.”
On or about the following day, June 28, 2017, SLOANE sent CW-1 a photograph in which his son appeared to be lower in the water, with his torso and arm now mostly submerged. SLOANE wrote, “Hope this works . . .” CW-1 replied, “perfect.” In both photographs, SLOANE’s son appears to be using the items SLOANE purchased from Amazon.com a few weeks earlier.


You gotta know what's happening if your parent stages you for sports you don't play with equipment you've never used before.
posted by crazy with stars at 1:01 PM on March 12 [22 favorites]


I don't know what's more offensive, the crime or how crap these people are at committing it.

I mean, emailing the person you are bribing to say 'Hey, if it doesn't work out, can I get my check back".
Yes, check. As in a fully-traceable written record of your felony.
They didn't even bother to come up with a half-ass deniable excuse for the payment.

Frank Gallagher would be mortified.
posted by madajb at 1:04 PM on March 12 [4 favorites]


holgate: "The galaxy brain thing is that the journalists yuck-yucking about this who went to top-tier institutions had parents who wanted the same thing."

E.g. one of the two NYT reporters on this story went to USC herself, as she advertises in her NYT reporter profile.

The other reporter does not mention where she went to college, but her Linkedin reveals "lowly" Bowdoin.
posted by crazy with stars at 1:04 PM on March 12


Lori Loughlin's daughter didn't even want to go to USC, but at least her USC dorm room was featured in Teen Vogue in what seems like a thinly veiled advertisement for Amazon Prime.

Damn, even dorm rooms are Tastefully Minimalist now.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:05 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]


Your peers' kids are going off to Harvard and Yale and, in those circles, talking about Western Michgan or Cal State San Marcos or whatever is felt as a humiliation and an indication that you did a bad job of parenting

I sometimes wonder why rich Americans don't encourage their kids towards Canada or the UK or Australia or the bloody Sorbonne -- somewhere outside the US educational status hierarchy where tuition is not terribly expensive even for international students. Unless it's entirely for the peer network, but that's obtainable in other ways.
posted by holgate at 1:07 PM on March 12 [2 favorites]


Another example of the kid knowing:

On or about October 3, 2015, CW-2 purported to proctor the exam for the HENRIQUEZES’ daughter at her school. According to CW-2, unbeknownst to the school, he sat side-by-side with the daughter during the exam and provided her with answers to the exam questions, and after the exam, he “gloated” with ELIZABETH HENRIQUEZ and her daughter about the fact that they had cheated and gotten away with it.
posted by crazy with stars at 1:14 PM on March 12 [5 favorites]


I remember in college a friend going to a UK university for a semester. He was in a special program for just Americans. "Oh no, I couldn't possibly do the program for UK people, I'd fail," he said. It was probably not just academic rigors but also the fact that all education is culture dependent.
posted by Melismata at 1:16 PM on March 12 [2 favorites]


Most UK universities don't have a semester system, so you kind of have to do a special program if you're only going for a semester. If you want to take classes with UK students, you have to go for a year.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:19 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]


So Joanne wouldn't get a scholarship, because the coach knew what was going on, but it would still get in Joanne's file that she was a recruited athlete.

It's worth pointing out that this works because of King Football. USC, like any Power 5 football powerhouse, has a problem with offsetting their football team for the purposes of Title IX compliance. As such, a recruited female athlete is going to get a lot less scrutiny because they're potentially going to help with the balance issue.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:22 PM on March 12 [9 favorites]


NoxAeternum: "USC, like any Power 5 football powerhouse, has a problem with offsetting their football team for the purposes of Title IX compliance. "

Though the complaint shows that multiple students involved were recruited as male football players at USC.

I wonder in fact whether that's how the scheme was discovered -- football recruitment at USC is going to get lot more internal and external scrutiny than other sports or football at other places. Apparently CW-1 was initially approached in Sept. 2018 and flipped in Oct. 2018, as he was attempting to place McGlashan's son there as a kicker.
posted by crazy with stars at 1:30 PM on March 12 [7 favorites]


I don't want to undermine the seriousness of either the story in the FPP, nor the practice of buying Little Jarded's way into Yale, but would like to point towards a typicaly pathway to college for a middle class American student:

Your parents have thought about college since you were 0. For years you've been urged to spend free time develop extra-curriculars, experiences, and interests that all translate well to applications (both admission and scholarship). The place you live is very likely based on the quality of its school system (at least in part), and your parents have kept up with the a state-of-the-art in shaping a young person into an admissable candidate. You take APs and 1 credits if the local community college offers them. Please note that due to how critical an undergraduate degree is in securing even menial entry level work, that admissions are at an all time high in terms of selectivity and competition. You spend 2 to 3 years of your life preparing for the SAT on afternoons and weekends. You are essentially learning how to take the test, and if you don't get a good score at first your parents pay for you to retake it.

What merit is the SAT assessing? What merit the admissions office? How much money did your parents spend in a slow moving panic with the knowledge that if you don't go to a good school, and if you don't get a good career, then due to the insane cost of higher education (even state schools, which ostensibly have educating residents as their primary mission), and due to the utter lack of a social safety net (where you're probably lucky enough to avoid death and homelessness since your parents can pay for an unpaid intership or community college while you live in your old room and your peers become more competitive on the job market while you become less), that the choices for their child are to succeed or to die.

Our society is sick with money, and nowhere is that more evident than in the false meritocracy of higher education.
posted by codacorolla at 1:36 PM on March 12 [33 favorites]


This makes me so angry. I've taught at public commuter colleges my entire career, and my students work full time and have families and problems, and they struggle to get their degree. I am constantly in awe of them. They're a million times more admirable than these privileged kids who've never had to work for anything. I'm so tired of the greedy, immoral people being in charge of everything.
posted by merrill at 1:38 PM on March 12 [77 favorites]


this is particulalry galling in the US due to the myth of american meritocracy, for anyone who still believes in that drivel, but blaming it on "capitalism" doesnt seem that useful.

like, are there ostensibly non-capitalist countries where bribing officials to get what you want isnt a thing? wasnt official bribery THE thing in soviet bloc countries?
posted by wibari at 1:44 PM on March 12 [2 favorites]


like, are there ostensibly non-capitalist countries where bribing officials to get what you want isnt a thing? wasnt official bribery THE thing in soviet bloc countries?

Two things can have the same problem for different reasons. It's about an imbalance of power, and a disregard for humanity. In the U.S. the name of that evil is neo-liberal capitalism.
posted by codacorolla at 1:50 PM on March 12 [14 favorites]


if somebody actually donates to the institution (instead of bribing an employee) that can open up new spots for people that otherwise couldn't afford it.

Ah yes, trickle down academics.
posted by Reyturner at 1:53 PM on March 12 [60 favorites]


the pile of money they're sitting on has such a massive gravitational-warping effect
There's a section in Piketty's Capital where he ponders if the richest university endowments have exacerbated America's overall inequality.
posted by doctornemo at 1:56 PM on March 12 [9 favorites]


For a primer on the traditional methods of entry to fancy-pants schools utilized by the rich, famous and their kids; athletes; legacies (i.e., alumni spawn); and faculty offspring: The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way Into Elite Colleges -- and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates by Daniel Golden, here on Amazon.

One upshot: fewer than 50% of the seats in the freshman classes of these schools are available to applicants without a finagle available to them.

The book is an interesting but depressing read.
posted by cool breeze at 2:02 PM on March 12 [12 favorites]


From Mike Beauvais via Twitter:

[Ivy League school water polo practice]

COACH: What the hell is going on here?

KID WHO OBTAINED A FRAUDULENT SCHOLARSHIP (attempting to calm down a terrified horse): Everything is fine.

posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:08 PM on March 12 [55 favorites]


Ha, just got the apologetic email from my alma mater. They are! totally! cooperating!

blaming it on "capitalism" doesnt seem that useful.

Late capitalism cloaks its exploitation under a thin veneer of benevolence and freedom of choice, such that people somehow lose track of the fact that the whole operating principle is effectively every man for himself. I think the veneer is particularly thin these days, yet I still keep running into these nice middle-class people who believe in the system and find themselves making up just-so stories for why bribery is necessary to make sure there are resources available for poor people.
posted by praemunire at 2:14 PM on March 12 [34 favorites]


LA Times: USC fires administrator and coach arrested in college admissions fraud scheme
Two USC athletic department employees — a high-ranking administrator and a legendary head coach — were fired Tuesday after being indicted in federal court in Massachusetts for their alleged roles in a racketeering conspiracy that helped students get into elite colleges and universities by falsely designating them as recruited athletes.

A USC official speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed that senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel and men’s and women’s water polo coach Jovan Vavic were fired after allegedly receiving bribes totaling more than $1.3 million and $250,000, respectively, to help parents take advantage of the relaxed admissions standards for athletes at USC even though their children were not legitimately being recruited as athletes.

Former USC women’s soccer coach Ali Khosroshahin, who was fired in 2013, and his former assistant coach, Laura Janke, who left the school in 2014, were also named in the indictment for allegedly fabricating athlete profiles for the prospective students. Khosroshahin and Janke allegedly received payments totaling nearly $350,000 sent to their private soccer club.
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:15 PM on March 12 [3 favorites]


"They are specifically directed to a specific purpose; new climbing gym, whatever."

Sounds better than lining some random coach's pocket?


...?

Sure, it's better in just about every way to have a new dining hall than to have a coach buy himself a Lamborghini, but neither of them actually makes it easier for poor kids to attend the school.
posted by praemunire at 2:17 PM on March 12 [12 favorites]


Most UK universities don't have a semester system, so you kind of have to do a special program if you're only going for a semester. If you want to take classes with UK students, you have to go for a year.

Also, most Oxbridge undergraduate admissions still require rigorous in-person interviews that, in effect if not intent, select not merely for intelligence, but for being the right sort. It's a pain to crack from overseas. (I'm not sure what they do about the GCSEs these days but I know they don't just take your SATs as a straightforward equivalent.)
posted by praemunire at 2:20 PM on March 12 [9 favorites]


@bobvulfov:

ADMISSIONS OFFICE: ur child was not accepted to our college
FELICITY HUFFMAN: then i will have to do a crime
ADMISSIONS OFFICE: u can just donate some money & we'll let em in
FELICITY HUFFMAN: a crime i shall do
ADMISSIONS OFFICE: just make a donation
FELICITY HUFFMAN: crime time
posted by salt grass at 2:20 PM on March 12 [87 favorites]


Same as it ever was.

Years ago quite near Harvard buying a really crappy dresser at a yard sale got into a conversation about class and the postdoc or such (seemed to be a canny observer) noted that there was a triple schism, the poor smart hard worker kids, a bunch of wealthy kids that acted mostly like the worker kids and worked hard but a third quite small group that I'd never see that lived the four years like princes in utter luxury. Well I don't know about that third group, never seen them and it was perhaps just a made up story...

If you can't really afford to buy even a small wing to a lab but your kids hang with that third group, the side door would seem a bargain.
posted by sammyo at 2:20 PM on March 12 [3 favorites]


Sherrilyn Ifill's take has been sobering.

"Layer upon layer of privilege, entitlement and contempt in this scheme."

"Prosecutors say parents were advised to have a therapist diagnose their child with a learning disability. THEN, that would allow kid to get extra time, in private setting, to take exam. That's where the cheating took place."

"For those of us knee deep in the fight to allow colleges to include race among the factors it considers in admissions for the modest purpose of enriching the learning environment with diverse perspectives, this celebrity #collegeexamscam is entirely unsurprising yet infuriating."
posted by feste at 2:25 PM on March 12 [27 favorites]


Just one more reason that private colleges should not be subsidized by allowing them to be tax deductible charities. They aren't charities. They are private institutions for the elite. Let them pay their own way with their own money, not the public's.

Why should the guy in Lordstown working all day tightening lug nuts be subsidizing the Ivies?
posted by JackFlash at 2:27 PM on March 12 [7 favorites]


I'm glad there are two reasonably well known actresses involved so we can focus our mockery, instead of involving the dozens of CEOs and investment bankers also involved who once again avoid any scrutiny.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 2:34 PM on March 12 [88 favorites]


Maybe we can work out a deal where academically-challenged rich kids can be admitted to prestigious schools if the family coughs up full-ride scholarships for 2-3 high-achieving but monetarily deficient kids per rich brat
posted by caution live frogs at 2:37 PM on March 12 [18 favorites]


From p. 14 of the affadavit, CW-1 speaking to CW-3 in May 2018: "You can tell them [other coaches they are attempting to recruit into the scheme] I did 760 of these this year, 96 the year before."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:48 PM on March 12 [2 favorites]


I'm glad there are two reasonably well known actresses involved so we can focus our mockery, instead of involving the dozens of CEOs and investment bankers also involved who once again avoid any scrutiny.

Speaking of which, here's the full list of indicted parents and some background on what they do (only a line or two, so not exactly deep dives, but better than nothing).
posted by Copronymus at 2:48 PM on March 12 [16 favorites]


srboisvert: "I wonder how Felicity Huffman's younger daughter feels. "You didn't commit a felony for me!" is going to be really awkward at Thanksgiving."

Abviously she's the smart one.

ArbitraryAndCapricious: "Felicity Huffman [...] one of her great-grandfathers went to Yale."

That we know this shows the staying power of getting into the right school.

Autumnheart: "What's even the point of making sure your perfectly average kid gets into an elite school---when you're already independently wealthy and/or influential? "

Status seeking for both the parent and the student. Besides graduation from a known institution is something that can't be bankrupted away.

crazy with stars: "Apparently CW-1 was initially approached in Sept. 2018 and flipped in Oct. 2018, as he was attempting to place McGlashan's son there as a kicker."

See this is what I don't get. If you are going to commit a fraud like this wouldn't it be easier to do it with something like softball or whitewater kayak or snowboarding or something. Or is it just that the Football programs are already so corrupt or corrupt adjacent that it is easy to find someone to take the bribe?

Heck for a few million I'm surprised the fixer doesn't just pick some sport the institution doesn't already have and then just fully fund it by packing all his client's onto the team. Like does USC have a Skeleton team?
posted by Mitheral at 2:48 PM on March 12 [5 favorites]


> Maybe we can work out a deal where academically-challenged rich kids can be admitted to prestigious schools if the family coughs up full-ride scholarships for 2-3 high-achieving but monetarily deficient kids per rich brat

I like this but only if then the high-achieving normal kids then organize to seize physical control of their campus and relinquish it only when the rich brats are all expelled.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 2:54 PM on March 12 [10 favorites]


What will the institutions do with the applicants admitted via "the side door"? This scam has been going on long enough where students are in process of their degree or may have completed. What is their fate via the university?
posted by jadepearl at 2:59 PM on March 12 [5 favorites]


Height inflation isn't just for online dating profiles:
P 183
"474. On or about November 27, 2016, CW-1 directed Janke to create a fabricated
basketball profile for MACFARLANE’s son. The basketball profile created by Janke falsely
listed MACFARLANE’s son’s height as 6’1”
and indicated that he played on his high school’s
varsity basketball team from 2014 through 2016. In fact, records from MACFARLANE’s son’s
high school indicate that MACFARLANE’s son did not play on the varsity basketball team until
his senior year. And a personal statement for MACFARLANE’s son, drafted by CW-1 but
ultimately not submitted to USC, described how he knew that his height (5’5”) would be a
detriment to making his high school’s varsity basketball team."

Weird only one half of Filliam H. Muffman was charged -- in the filing, he's in the meetings and conference calls, agreeing to the scheme and the donation.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:01 PM on March 12 [14 favorites]


The use of the first-person plural is the most telling thing here:
"'[H]ere's our grades, here’s our scores, here’s our ability, and we want to go to X school’"

Aside from being creepy af, to me it pretty clearly shows this is way more about the parents' (self-) image than concern for young Braedelen's future finance career or whatever. Graduating from one of these places isn't so much an achievement (the way middle-class-and-lower folk would see it) or even a class marker (as for "legit" rich people) as it is another shiny to add to all the other Instagrammable shinies currently separating them from the unwashed to whom they still feel daaaangerously close...

On an unrelated note, my mind BOGGLES that I and millions of kids like me were permitted (required) to navigate the entirety of AP, SATs, college admissions and subsequent choices entirely on our own (and this barely ten years ago, well after the DIY admissions experience had stopped being the norm), now that I'm coming to realize that THIS sort of thing was happening in the background. I am also belatedly, increasingly pissed off that our deeply overachieving, extracurricular-thumpin asses were told--BY OUR COLLEGE GUIDANCE COUNSELLORS--not even to apply out of state, let alone to anything considered "elite", because "you're already on financial aid at [prep school], peakes, how are you gonna pay to move to Boston?" Meanwhile unbeknownst to me my peers' parents were probably boosting their Vassar apps by having Michel Gondry shoot them pretending to saddle a horse at dawn behind the rec center or God knows what.

If nothing else this story confirms my long-held suspicion that what my public alma mater lacked in "connections" it made up for by being way, way less chock full of these assholes than the Ivies apparently are. What a sad charade.
posted by peakes at 3:04 PM on March 12 [31 favorites]


What do you do with the students who got in this way? Expel, revoke degrees, etc.?

A complication is that some of the kids apparently didn’t know that their parents bribed and cheated on their behalf and are going to find out only through this indictment.
posted by vogon_poet at 3:05 PM on March 12 [3 favorites]


It's nice to see that there are a lot of men on the indictment list. I wouldn't want to think that women were stuck with all of the emotional labor.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 3:06 PM on March 12 [9 favorites]


Weird only one half of Filliam H. Muffman was charged -- in the filing, he's in the meetings and conference calls, agreeing to the scheme and the donation.

Apparently they only had direct evidence of him being involved in the planning for their younger daughter, and after having everything fixed for their older daughter, they decided at the last minute not to actually go through with it for their younger daughter, so while there's no question he is totally complicit in this, he might be able to escape legal punishment.
posted by Copronymus at 3:09 PM on March 12 [8 favorites]


"Prosecutors say parents were advised to have a therapist diagnose their child with a learning disability. THEN, that would allow kid to get extra time, in private setting, to take exam. That's where the cheating took place."

This has been going on for a long time in different forms: I heard stories in the 90s from privately-educated contemporaries about how they could predict which of their peers would get a dyslexia diagnosis just in time for exams.
posted by holgate at 3:11 PM on March 12 [6 favorites]


The “make rich kids pay for 3x scholarships” is a nice idea in theory but at elite institutions, the tuition doesn’t matter, it’s not a constraint at all. They can and do just charge as much or as little as they want.

Like, Harvard gives scholarships to anyone who gets in and isn’t rich. Per their admissions website, for a family making $65k/year, the yearly cost including housing will be about $5k, no loans or anything. Which is supposedly covered by the student working an on-campus job.
posted by vogon_poet at 3:17 PM on March 12 [3 favorites]


I recall a couple of lines from 30 Rock:

Tracy: I have to make enough money so my kids don't have to go to college.

[Tracy grips Jack D's jacket lapels and pleads]

Tracy: Take care of my kids. Make sure that they won't need college!
posted by jadepearl at 3:19 PM on March 12 [5 favorites]


I graduated summa from my Ivy. I'm pretty sure that if I had stayed at my first, public, terrible high school, I wouldn't even have applied there, and would certainly have had a much lesser chance of getting in. (The lack of money/support would've been the same, though...) Meanwhile, at my second school, admissions was so tight with our college counselors that my college counselor knew I got in before I did.

Also, once students from low performing high schools get into prestigious colleges they then have an even harder road to success, because they have less training in the meta-cognitive skills that the American university is designed around, and are more likely to feel socially isolated and out of place in an institution that otherwise actively works to keep people like them out.
posted by codacorolla at 3:26 PM on March 12 [12 favorites]


Buying a building would be a traditional way to ensure your kid gets into a school. But, that would be gross to many people. The child would have an asterisk on their diploma.

This is a way to buy your kid's way in, without being seen as buying your kid's way in.
posted by andreaazure at 3:27 PM on March 12


Does anyone have a list of the colleges involved?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:28 PM on March 12


I met someone who told me about taking a break from school to be on an olympic team.

Not in the olympics, but training with olympians.

Their dad is a very wealthy man.

Kid had an adventure.

Got into an Ivy after that.
posted by zippy at 3:29 PM on March 12 [3 favorites]


I have to admit I’m kind of surprised at the reactions here. Like, is resume faking now just a yawn, rich people can afford resume consultants so the whole process is a farce anyway? Sports cheating, who cares, rich people can afford private coaches?
posted by Ralston McTodd at 3:32 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]


>> Maybe we can work out a deal where academically-challenged rich kids can be admitted to prestigious schools if the family coughs up full-ride scholarships for 2-3 high-achieving but monetarily deficient kids per rich brat

> I like this but only if then the high-achieving normal kids then organize to seize physical control of their campus and relinquish it only when the rich brats are all expelled.


Nah, just make sure all the rich brats go into Culinary Arts.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 3:33 PM on March 12


What do you do with the students who got in this way? Expel, revoke degrees, etc.?

A complication is that some of the kids apparently didn’t know that their parents bribed and cheated on their behalf and are going to find out only through this indictment.


Poor kids are penalized constantly for a situation they did not create for themselves. So yes, expel and revoke degrees.
posted by Uncle Ira at 3:36 PM on March 12 [32 favorites]


I have to admit I’m kind of surprised at the reactions here. Like, is resume faking now just a yawn, rich people can afford resume consultants so the whole process is a farce anyway? Sports cheating, who cares, rich people can afford private coaches?

I can't speak for anyone else but, I mean, the only surprising thing about this particular story is that celebrities were involved. We KNOW, and have known for a really really long time, that the wealthy have been buying their way into power pretty much since money and power were invented. To boot, this not-really-new news is coming to light in 2019. Again, I can't speak for anyone else, but I can't muster up enough juice from my outrage gland to be outwardly expressive of how gross this whole situation is, because my poor "the wealthy are doing that thing again" outrage gland is DEAD. The past 3 years have murdered it.
posted by palomar at 3:48 PM on March 12 [8 favorites]


ArbitraryAndCapricious, from Special Agent Laura Smith's affidavit: "Beginning in or about 2011, and continuing through the present, the defendants— principally individuals whose high-school aged children were applying to college— conspired with others to use bribery and other forms of fraud to facilitate their children’s admission to colleges and universities in the District of Massachusetts and elsewhere, including Yale University, Stanford University, the University of Texas, the University of Southern California, and the University of California – Los Angeles, among others."

Smith is a forensic accountant. The Washington Post repeats her list.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:57 PM on March 12 [3 favorites]


The Cut, I Was a College Admissions Officer. This Is What I Saw.
But the longer I read applications, the more holes I saw in the so-called “holistic” process, and the more I discovered how much it came down to money.

Not infrequently, I would pull up a student’s file, see my “Defer” or “Deny” recommendation, and then a second reviewer recommending the same thing, and then a high-ranking admissions staff member would flip the decision to admit. Usually, the justification would be a brief couple of sentences with purposefully vague language, like “Student has struggled with math sequence but should be fine with on campus tutoring resources, ADMIT.” I saw these decisions flipped frequently for students from affluent backgrounds, and rarely for students who’d applied for financial aid. Once, I saw a student who fell far below our clearly outlined admissions requirements admitted — this student was heir to a popular processed-meat company’s fortune.

Although our school advertised our “holistic” review process, our director typically used test scores to screen applicants. His rationale was that these were “riskier” students. The only time he didn’t? If the student could pay full price to attend our institution, or a “full pay” student. He was not coy about this fact, and would frequently make comments about how students from Silicon Valley could “afford” to come here. When I planned my recruitment trip in California, I was given an Excel spreadsheet that listed high schools by average household income.

There were a variety of ways of gleaning if a student was “full pay” from an application. Firstly, on the Common Application, there is a place where students can indicate if they intend to apply for financial aid or not. My director’s instinct was always to see what we could do to admit the students who checked that they were not intending to file for aid, regardless of the student’s academic achievement. I had one student from Northern California who was, by all metrics, an outright deny. I remember vividly that he had several Cs and Ds on his transcript, plus a test score well below our average range, and an essay that consisted of two sentences (really, just two). He visited campus twice, once before applying, and later once he was admitted. He paid full tuition with no aid for four years.
posted by zachlipton at 4:00 PM on March 12 [31 favorites]


Most UK universities don't have a semester system, so you kind of have to do a special program if you're only going for a semester. If you want to take classes with UK students, you have to go for a year.

My daughter did a semester at U Plymouth a couple of years ago - and definitely was in the regular classes with UK students. She did comment they definitely coddle the kids way less in the UK than they do at State U back home. She also mentioned how her school had gone to pass/fail on study abroad credits because the high achieving 4.0 students were afraid they'd blow their 4.0 overseas and thus wouldn't even consider study abroad to protect the precious GPA.

She did enjoy that 3 week Easter break in the UK though - managed to visit 10 countries in that time. It was a life changing experience for her.
posted by COD at 4:03 PM on March 12 [3 favorites]


Your peers' kids are going off to Harvard and Yale and, in those circles, talking about Western Michgan or Cal State San Marcos or whatever is felt as a humiliation

They're not wrong. Students are not getting the same experience at Cal State San Marcos as they are at Harvard. You simply cannot inculcate class values which don't exist at a state school in suburban SoCal the way they do at a world famous university in tony New England.

I mean, I grew up a freeway exit from CSUSM and have several friends who graduated from there. I also went to a private undergrad and now work in academia. Thus, I have a much more nuanced understanding of what an Ivy education offers--and how little of that world tends to be transferable to poor kids on scholarship--and have a smidge more sympathy for the parents. Of course it's only a smidge because yes, just buy a damn building like everyone else.

Also, there are totally second tier private schools that exist to handle underprepared children of the moderately rich. My undergrad was absolutely one of them (I went to school with the daughter of the Men's Wearhouse founder, for example). It's perfectly acceptable to buy your precious offspring a year at a second tier undergrad and then transfer them into a better school.
posted by librarylis at 4:08 PM on March 12 [11 favorites]




Rushmore:
"For some of you, it doesn't matter. You were born rich, and you're going to stay rich. But here's my advice to the rest of you: Take dead aim on the rich boys. Get them in the crosshairs, and take them down. Just remember: They can buy anything, but they can't buy backbone. Don't let them forget that."
posted by scottjlowe at 4:18 PM on March 12 [15 favorites]


Also, there are totally second tier private schools that exist to handle underprepared children of the moderately rich.

Even into the first tier, there are a lot of tuition-dependent schools that will look very favorably on an applicant who can pay outright for tuition.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:28 PM on March 12 [2 favorites]


The Chronicle covers this from the University side, focusing on firings.
posted by k8t at 4:47 PM on March 12 [2 favorites]


This has been going on for a long time in different forms: I heard stories in the 90s from privately-educated contemporaries about how they could predict which of their peers would get a dyslexia diagnosis just in time for exams

Reading this thread makes me feel painfully naive! When I was in high school, the cheat part of this was kids who did not have learning disabilities getting extra time (or other considerations). Not...getting the proctor to take your test for you, which seems like a whole different level of cheat. I guess that's part of what seems so offensive to me, and why I can't just brush it off. These kids already had every advantage. If they couldn't get into one of their colleges of choice, it's because they didn't especially want to go to college.

(FWIW: I went to the sort of place the DOJ would call selective, instead of highly selective. The school was split between people with high test scores who attended at an absurd discount, like me, and the fail children who basically subsidized us to make the school look better in US News and World Report. My school would not exist if those failkids' parents could've bought their way into Stanford for less than a million. I can live with the failkids getting a fancy education, but it kills me to think some of these kids think they earned it. A kid who has a wish and a dream and magically wakes up with a perfect ACT score does not become a good person, even if the kid never learns about the cheating.)
posted by grandiloquiet at 4:48 PM on March 12 [12 favorites]


I have to admit I’m kind of surprised at the reactions here.
I mean... when was the time that this level of blatant fraud *wasn't* de rigeur? Must've been before my lifetime, at least. I've never known any other world, any other America. Colleges are tools for the wealthy to ensure their wealth and dangle dreams in front of everyone below them, every day at grade school is the question "Will this be the day our school gets picked in the on-average weekly school shooting?", we've always been screaming towards the climate-change cliff with one foot slamming the accelerator to the ground while the other wants to keep it half-way floored because we wouldn't want to make any sudden movements.

The only surprise is when someone's caught, when someone's surprised. Are they going to be meaningfully punished? Is there any indication that this will be anything other than a blip on the radar?
posted by CrystalDave at 5:10 PM on March 12 [5 favorites]


*The counselor handed me a book with a listing of every college in America in it.

I graduated from high school in 1983. I was a National Merit finalist and had the highest ACT score in the history of my high school; I got recruiting materials from a zillion colleges, including Harvard. My high school guidance counselor met with me once, and told me to either be a lawyer or "marry a good man."

I guess in my own little sheltered life at the time, I'd never considered that people would go somewhere other than the public school a couple of miles from where they lived.

I grew up in a small town in Michigan, and I remember also being surprised when I learned that some towns had more than one high school, and that the high schools were not all just named Small Town High School, which you attended after going to Small Town Middle School.
posted by Orlop at 5:11 PM on March 12 [38 favorites]




So, the motivation for parents to do this is because going to university is their child's best chance to break into the middle class or something?
posted by heatherlogan at 5:19 PM on March 12 [3 favorites]


In my experience, at least, Penn did a lot to recruit students far from what one would consider the typical Ivy student.
posted by msbrauer at 12:30 PM on March 12


It's my understanding that in the name of some sort of geographic diversity, very highly selective universities (ivies) have admission criteria that favor applicants from states with relatively few applications compared to other states. This means that if you come from Montana you are more likely to get an admission than if you come from say New York.

Also, universities are corrupt. When I had a small administrative capacity someone from the "Alumni Relations" office called me about the graduate application of a clearly noncompetitive and somewhat confused potential student -- who was the nanny of a very generous donor.
posted by bluesky43 at 6:01 PM on March 12 [5 favorites]


It is about social and cultural capital. Though those families and kids have advantages and belong to the class that a chunk of the populations aspires towards, they do not feel they have enough. University is institutionalized capital and the higher the perceived prestige of the university the more the institutionalized capital accrues. The "right" university gets you better social capital. The education between various schools may be similar but not the relationships/Rolodex.

On to another aspect of why school selection is important, is marriage/reproduction. There is a pretty good chance that the future spouse of someone may derive from their university network and the collective social capital of coming from a specific set of schools. It is a reinforcement and a surety or safeguards that the child does not fall out of the social class completely.

So yeah, it is not about the superior education, which is up for debate but for the intangibles of what entry to those schools represents. In the end, it is an ancient story about production and reproduction.
posted by jadepearl at 6:15 PM on March 12 [13 favorites]


I've read about 90 pages of the 200 page indictment so far. What stood out to me most was that Singer, CW1, in cooperation with the Feds made basically the exact same call to most of the parents after Singer had flipped. Got parent to "uh-uh" to them paying for the fraud and that the parents didn't want Singer to tell the IRS that. Instead the money was to help poor kids. Same damn script and so far they all seem to fall for it. Back to reading instead of cleaning the kitchen.
posted by nestor_makhno at 6:15 PM on March 12 [4 favorites]


I once interviewed at a middle school in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. Almost every teaching job interview will include questions that tell you what the school really struggles with. Maybe it's curriculum. Maybe it's inclusion. Maybe it's discipline (OK, it's always discipline but nobody wants to talk about that). This principal wanted to know how I'd handle pressure from rich parents worried a bad grade from me might jeopardize their kids' chance of getting into Harvard, which was "already arranged."

Me: Wait, seriously?
Him: Yep. Happens.
Me: ...okay but the whole problem at this level is how the system doesn't take middle school seriously. Middle school hardly counts. Do they not know that?
Him: They're rich and they don't care.
Me: OK. Screw 'em, then.
Him: Good answer.

(I did not get the job, but I have to credit him with this: in all the teaching job interviews I ever had, that guy was the only one with the integrity and consideration to call and say he went with another candidate.)
posted by scaryblackdeath at 6:23 PM on March 12 [35 favorites]


"Amazingly, Chicago Public Schools have this for high schools. It's called the Principal's List. It is how former Governor Rauner, a billionaire, clouted his daughter in a selective enrollment school (Walter Payton) despite her not making the cut. Her admission was greased by a $250,000 donation. All perfectly legal and horribly immoral as he could have easily sent her to an exclusive private school, like Rahm Emanuel did with his offspring (University of Chicago Private Schools), and some kid who actually earned admission and potentially needed it would not have been bumped."

You left out the extra-infuriating part, which is that the Rauners actually lived in Winnetka, where their daughter would have attended New Trier, one of the top five public high schools in the entire United States, where everyone graduates and every graduate goes to a 4-year college and disproportionate numbers of them go to Ivy League universities. They bought a condo in Chicago specifically to clout their daughter into Chicago selective admission public high schools so she'd be one of 6 students from her high school applying to Dartmouth (her father's alma mater) instead of 1 of 200 students from her high school applying to Dartmouth, and in either case she had LITERALLY BILLIONS BEHIND HER.

The issue is that Ivy League schools will take 3-4 students, tops, from any particular high school (or sometimes district), so if she'd gone to New Trier, she'd have been competing against 100 credible applicants. Whereas in CPS she could compete against poor kids as that high school's One Admission.

"Athletics departments have always have a coaches "interest" list. It's just one more thing on the Admissions Department holistic process (and who knows how it is weighted). "

This doesn't HAVE to be awful ... I went to college at a "highly-selective" Division I school, where a number of my classmates were scholarship sports recruits because of my major (theology, it was popular), and a fair proportion of those in moneymaking sports (football, and men's and women's basketball). A lot of these students were from lower-income areas and didn't have the academic background to be in the college, but were absolutely smart enough to do the work, and the college had tutoring programs that helped acculturate students from disadvantaged backgrounds (athletes or not) to academic work and its cultural demands. A lot of them asked what one might categorize as "hilariously dumb" questions in their freshman and sophomore years, but in the junior and senior courses had fully acculturated and were totally indistinguishable from students from top private high schools.

Now I have watched MANY college athletic programs admit students who could barely read, and pass them through courses where they clearly couldn't do the work. But athletic scholarships CAN provide a pathway for hardworking students from underprivileged communities to attend highly-selective colleges. Although it'd probably be better if those colleges just offered more academic scholarships for disadvantaged students out of their ABSOLUTELY ENORMOUS endowments. But as it stands in our current world, some colleges that are adequately selective about athletes provide a route for super-smart kids from super-shitty schools who happen to be good at sports to get the credentialling to enter the upper middle class.

It's an indictment of the current state of America, though, that even rich people feel like they HAVE to get their kids into great colleges or doom their kids to poverty and uncertainty. Every parent has to be in this fight, there isn't enough to go around and nobody wants their kids to suffer. Except there IS enough to go around, it's just being hoarded by the Mitt Romneys of the world.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:29 PM on March 12 [33 favorites]


the last part of the baby boom, 1956-62, peaked at 4.3M births per year.
my birth year as a Gen Xer later that decade was just~ 3.5M.

20% off the peak boomer influx had to make admission easier in the mid-80s!

Baby boom echo arrived in 1989 and the births since then has been over 4M/yr since.

What also happened I guess in the 90s was globalization, increasing the influx of international students.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 6:35 PM on March 12 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the thing that makes me angriest is that Abigal Fisher and the racists have gone after affirmative action because "minorities" "stole" her place at Austin... when really she should have been going after Aunt Becky and the kids way richer than her in Texas.
posted by TwoStride at 6:48 PM on March 12 [17 favorites]


In Canada, every provincial university is public and about equally good for undergrad, except McGill has some extra cachet, but less than Americans might think. Is this correct? If so it just generally seems like a much better system.
posted by vogon_poet at 6:49 PM on March 12 [5 favorites]


The first n headlines I saw about this story were all accompanied by pictures of two Hollywood celebs. You know the ones, the uppity women finally getting what's coming to them.

Or even more simply, the attractiveness of women is still the base currency for what's important in the news.

Quickly shifted to the actual issues. But still.

Those poor kids are probably already both screwed, and still financially set, for life.
posted by Dashy at 6:49 PM on March 12 [6 favorites]


I think that the Canadian version of the elite American universities are the elite American universities. Lots of upper-class Canadians come to the US for college. There's a Canadian among the indicted parents.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:59 PM on March 12 [15 favorites]


I'm so confused. I used to work with helping international kids with admissions, and every year, there'd be parents in talks with university development departments. It's actually a little surprising how low some of the prices the schools named were. From some of the sums named here that were paid, the parents could've gotten their kids in legally without going through all the extra work of faking paperwork/documentation.
posted by astapasta24 at 7:01 PM on March 12 [6 favorites]


I don't think it's really about the "uppity women." I think it's a)name recognition + b)particularly ironic given that one was a 'Desperate Housewife' and one was 'Aunt Becky.' That is, things that would conceivably be a storyline on either show (with Full House virtuously promoting a belief in meritocracy and Desperate Housewives going all in on staging the water polo pictures or whatever.)
posted by TwoStride at 7:06 PM on March 12 [5 favorites]


Seems like Stanford and Yale would be recognizable enough? Just without the boobs?
posted by Dashy at 7:18 PM on March 12


And without the "next on Law & Order" vibe.
posted by TwoStride at 7:20 PM on March 12


So, I've read a few versions including nyt, BuzzFeed, and the complaint PDF. I haven't yet seen - how did the DOJ break in? Was it detected internally at one of the schools, or by testing services, or just plain suspicious wire transfers?
posted by Dashy at 7:21 PM on March 12


Buzzfeed or NYT mentioned that someone being investigated for something else gave them the tip.
posted by TwoStride at 7:22 PM on March 12


They say that they learned about the scam when they were investigating a different matter. It sounds like maybe they were investigating something about college athletics, and someone mentioned that coaches were taking bribes to lie about students being recruited athletes.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:22 PM on March 12 [6 favorites]


I imagine a banker type in a police interrogation room, covered in sweat and nervously smoking a cigarette.
Young Brash Cop: "We've got you for twenty to life Jerry. What can you give us?"

Jerry slowly looks up: "ACTs. . . . I paid to cheat on my kids ACTs."

YBC flips table "ARE YOU FUCKING WITH ME JERRY! YOU'RE GONNA FUCKING DIE IN PRIS----"

Old wizened detective in the corner interrupts:"Go on."
posted by nestor_makhno at 7:38 PM on March 12 [16 favorites]


I had the vaguest recollection that Mossimo Giannulli was a USC alum, and thought it was wild that he and Lori Loughlin allegedly spent $500,000 to get their daughters into USC when the school is known for its legacy admissions. (Also, why would you want your daughters anywhere near USC?)

But he's not:
A lot of us go to college without ever going to class, but Mossimo went to USC without being enrolled at all. He not only convinced his dad that he was a student by falsifying report cards, Mossimo got him to fork over fees with fake tuition bills. In fact, Moss used this seed money to initiate his foray into the T-shirt biz. “SC was expensive, so that was how I was starting my company. I used all that cash,” he declares unapologetically. He handled basic screenprinting jobs for campus organizations and then his ambition triggered. “I used to have hundreds of thousands of cash in my top drawer in my fraternity house. And I was like, ‘this is kind of too easy. I need a bigger platform. If I had a bigger account base, I could really kill it…’”
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:14 PM on March 12 [18 favorites]


Variety has Georgetown in the list of colleges.
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:22 PM on March 12


In Canada, every provincial university is public and about equally good for undergrad, except McGill has some extra cachet, but less than Americans might think. Is this correct?

McGill is also public. McGill and UofT are seen as the "best" schools overall (most name recognition) but specific programs at other schools can be higher in prestige (and neither are highly selective in the way US universities are; you can get in with mediocre grades if you pick an unpopular program to apply to)

I don't know about the actual quality of the teaching, but some schools are definitely seen as less good (I can get into some deep cut Ontario trivia here lol). There are also advantages for getting jobs when you're at certain schools for certain programs because prestigious employers like to recruit from them. A network effect results.

But it's definitely less stratified than the US system. In the US, you have A+ schools and F schools. In Canada, they range from about A to B-.
posted by airmail at 8:35 PM on March 12 [9 favorites]


I'm glad there are two reasonably well known actresses involved so we can focus our mockery, instead of involving the dozens of CEOs and investment bankers also involved who once again avoid any scrutiny.

THE CO-CHAIR OF WILLKIE FARR

A DUDE FROM TPG
posted by praemunire at 8:44 PM on March 12 [5 favorites]


Yeah really the pictures with this story shouldn't be Lori Laughlan and Felicity Huffman, who are famous but not all that important, but should be the fuckin' chair of Wilkie Farr and gentlemen who manage MAJOR INVESTMENT FUNDS, who engaged in fraud and will lose their licenses/never be allowed to work in finance or law again in their lives. Like, Hollywood celebs are sexy, but they are not important. The chairman of Wilkie Farr clouting his child into selective schools is FUCKING IMPORTANT, and it's a clear sign he cannot do his fucking job because he is not trustworthy enough to be a lawyer.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:49 PM on March 12 [50 favorites]


I am laughing my head off at this and have been all day. I'm so delighted to see a dumb rich person scandal that doesn't involve the Trump administration, for a change. Every new detail is making me laugh (and everyone else around me) and laugh harder. Photoshop? People being on nonexistent teams and nobody checks? Somehow at least some of the kids had no idea about this? Felicity Huffman's second daughter is presumably too dumb to get into college on her own merits but at least smart enough to figure this out if it happened to her? (What someone said about Thanksgiving, above.) Lori Loughlin has dumb kids (or at least the one dumb kid) that would rather just party and be on Instagram? Meanwhile her dad scammed to pretend he went to USC? WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!?

Also, note that most of the other colleges listed here had like 1-2 scammed students, rather than the tons at USC. Damn.

So yes, expel and revoke degrees.

I wonder on this one. I guess it might depend on how the kid actually did at college. Did the kids manage to actually earn degrees on their own merits once in, or did their parents somehow pay for them to all pass? I dunno if they'd go so far as to revoke degrees over this, but I don't know if they rescind admissions if you've been there and haven't failed out within the last year. Also, how are these scam kids doing in school, anyway? (I assume Olivia Jade isn't doing so hot, at least.)

"That is, things that would conceivably be a storyline on either show (with Full House virtuously promoting a belief in meritocracy and Desperate Housewives going all in on staging the water polo pictures or whatever.)"

I'm calling it now that Lori Loughlin is fired and banned from Hallmark within a week for this, her movies deep sixed even from the Christmas reruns, for not being "on brand."
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:11 PM on March 12 [6 favorites]



Let's not forget that William H. Macy is "SPOUSE" in the Huffman transcripts.

I'm still working on the "Shameless" joke for this.
posted by thivaia at 9:16 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]


Did the kids manage to actually earn degrees on their own merits once in, or did their parents somehow pay for them to all pass?
It is *extremely* hard to flunk out of an elite college. I have been a TA at an elite college, and I was required to pass papers that were essentially gibberish and to give students opportunities to rewrite papers that were plagiarized off the internet. You have to work hard to get As, but it's not tough to coast to a gentleperson's B-.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:24 PM on March 12 [31 favorites]


I was a TA at an elite place and yeah, if you got admitted and were willing to at least mostly show up for class, you were going to pass. You could get a D or F but it took some effort, C or B- was usually the low end of the distribution.

(That was to pass the class; actual graduation rates followed demographics and were just as depressing as you would think.)
posted by Dip Flash at 9:33 PM on March 12 [2 favorites]


This whole college bribery thing is hitting a lot of weird notes for me, especially the part about Olivia Jade not actually wanting to go to university in the first place.

I'm pretty sure my parents didn't bribe anybody to admit me. I wasn't interested in Fancy Ivies (despite my dad being Harvard's biggest fanboy) and honestly I didn't want to go to university at all. I was burnt out and traumatized from primary & secondary school and saw no future in me in formal education. I only went for my Foundation and Bachelors because my parents (both of whom are university educated) bugged me to do it, and I only really did my MFA because it was the easiest way to stay in San Francisco longer than 6 months.

One complicating factor: the public university system in Malaysia runs on a racial quota system, and if you're an Other like us there's no room for you. You could have Straight As like my sister and it wouldn't help. I'm not sure bribes would have helped either, not when we're The Worst Race Alive (the main reason I got burnt out - racism).

The Malaysian college I went to would take pretty much anybody. The upside was that it was a relatively safer space to be openly queer or weird, much more so that literally anywhere else at the time. It was a school made up of popular kids that were really nice. The problem was that it has the WORST ACADEMICS - to the point that in my final semester, I and a bunch of top students got utterly screwed over by a teacher that claimed we did our final essays wrong the week before the next semester started and said if we don't rewrite it we'll be failed. I knew I put my heart and soul into this so I resubmitted it and got a terrible grade when I was meant to have an A and that grade haunts me forever.

(This is also why I hate academic writing.)

This school's founder is a fame hog. Any vaguely famous person that visits the school, they claim as "alumni". I found out when I was there that I was on a VIP Students list, because at the time my dad was head of a State-owned company. Obviously not VIP enough to not get screwed over in the end, and I highly doubt my dad would have bribed them to let me in (again, they'll take whoever) but the existence of the list gave me the creeps.

I would be SUPER PISSED if my parents did this, especially knowing that I did not want to go to uni (as I expected, I had a really bad mental health relapse when I started my Bachelors in Australia but as an international student obligated to do full time hours I couldn't take actual practical steps to manage this beyond getting therapy and medication, such as a break or less hours). I was actually getting further ahead in my career BEFORE uni than after. Hell I probably would have been more successful now without it, though the downside is that I'd likely still be in Malaysia because visas are the worst. At least the Bachelor's in Australia got me out of the country.

(I'd taken a year off to travel and work after Terrible Malaysian Uni but my parents were still pushing me to study. I said fine, as long as I get to pick where, what to study, and as long as I get to go abroad. I've wanted to study abroad for AGES but my parents were always super paranoid that I'd die or something - I think they sabotaged my attempt to apply for United World Colleges by claiming that I was "too old" after I took a gap year post high school. I probably could have saved a lot of grief if I'd just gone abroad from the jump instead of mucking around in the Malaysian Uni - maybe to the US and to a school that would appreciate my style of learning, but I wasn't savvy enough at the time to figure out how to apply as an atypical international student who had no guidance counsellors but wanted to start over instead of transfer.)
posted by divabat at 10:09 PM on March 12 [6 favorites]


Also, one of the replies to @jbenton's twitter thread (where they identified one of the kids as being an Instagram influencer publishing a book soon) was from someone who pointed out that the parents may have manipulated the kids into this situation (likely without their knowledge or consent) and that the kids may have to be dealing with the feeling of their parents not thinking they were capable enough to do this on their own.

I can understand that. I highly doubt many - any - of these kids would have wanted this kind of help. Hell they may be more like Olivia and not wanted to go to university in the first place, and they should be given the freedom to opt out. As I said, if I learned my parents ever did this or anything remotely similar without my knowledge or consent (and I can't really think of any situation where I'd consent unless it was something like advocating for myself in a corrupt bigoted system) I would be very very angry. I'd feel betrayed and won't be able to trust my parents again.

I wonder how the kids are feeling, especially those that had no idea what's going on. I wonder if any of them felt like they wasted so many years following through on a scam when they could have just had their own lives.
posted by divabat at 10:15 PM on March 12 [6 favorites]


"I know that the people involved in this debacle are real people, with real emotions, caught up in a mortifying scandal that has also humiliated their children. But have you scoped the details on this thing??? The FBI called this Operation Varsity Blues because they, too, are apparently ’90s nostalgists. The scheme involved, at some point, photoshopping the prospective students’ heads onto the bodies of other student athletes. Huffman used the phrase “ruh roh” in this context: “Ruh Ro! Looks like [my daughter’s high school] wants to provide own proctor.” At least one of the admitted students is already a paid Instagram influencer.
This is a genuine scandal—a big, messy to-do and a disgrace—but it also, thankfully, euphorically, does not involve the grifts of our commander in chief, nuclear realpolitik, or our dying planet. It is powerfully representative of so much of our national dysfunction, but will not immediately result in the death of democracy or any other human beings. In contemporary America, I believe this is what passes for a lark."

posted by jenfullmoon at 11:10 PM on March 12 [8 favorites]


I don't know about the actual quality of the teaching, but some schools are definitely seen as less good

The ranking of Canadian universities is based on research, not teaching, which can be orthogonal. Similarly, tenure is based on research, not teaching, especially at the 'better' universities.

/Ontario-filter
posted by jb at 11:23 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]



I went to USC. I was literally wearing a USC jacket when I saw this. I cannot imagine paying anything in six figures to get my kid in there.


Oh, hai, hard same. USC provided me with a solid education, for free, in the late 90s when they were trying very hard to rehab their academic reputation by buying up National Merit scholars.* Thanks very much, fight on, please pull your shit together I am tired of getting emails that read, essentially, “US? NAW IT’S COOL WE’RE TOTALLY NOT PANICKING. TRUST US NO SCANDAL HEEEERE WE TRIED OUR BESTEST BUT ¯\_(ツ)_/¯“ from my alma mater.** Get it together, USC. Also pls try harder in the future, would prefer the next disaster be a little less on-brand/stereotype.

*it worked, some, I think
**none yet! I assume one must be in the works.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:33 AM on March 13 [7 favorites]


the parents may have manipulated the kids into this situation (likely without their knowledge or consent)

I skimmed the affadavit and read parts of it in detail. From what I saw, there are several where the parents are adamant that their children should not be aware of what's going on and believe they earned their test scores and admissions legitimately, but there's also at least one where the student was in on it and participated in one of the documented phone calls.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:45 AM on March 13


College admission counseling, lol. I went to $selectiveprepschool and the headmaster met with us at the end of the 5th Form and suggested where we should apply, usually from a list of the usual suspects mentioned above, schools where many prior classes had matriculated. At the high school level, counseling is a joke and selection of college is all about status signaling.

But that’s critical for these parents. I know these parents. Not personally, but my colleagues and partners are all about “my child is going to $IVY.” Pushing the first with the transfer to another high school for her “international baccalaureate” - whatever that means in a central FL HS, the extracurriculars, the political involvement, etc. Some blossom with this. For others, I just see the sad child in her room, sitting on the bed, looking at the books on her desk.

[She asked me one time if I would take her to the beach and teach her how to surf. I said yes and asked her mom if she was a strong swimmer. Apparently, that activity did not make the cut. Associating with the disadvantaged and downtrodden surfers at the beach, while potentially joyful to her, was not on the important extracurriculars list.]

This crap is sad on so many levels, but I’m not surprised to see historically corrupt college sports as a “side door.” I have argued that college sports should be all non-scholarship and talented athletes could enroll in another track, like sports academies in Europe. Although, those have their own flaws and there’s no weaning the schools off the money train now.
posted by sudogeek at 5:13 AM on March 13 [5 favorites]


David Mamet on Felicity Huffman’s arrest:

“The unqualified may be accepted for many reasons, among them, as Legacies, and on account of large donations made by their parents. I do not see the difference between getting a kid into school by bribing the Building Committee, and by bribing someone else. But, apparently, the second is against the Law. So be it.”
posted by sudogeek at 5:45 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


I mean, obviously the kid who's never played water polo before but suddenly poses in Amazon-purchased gear for a photo shoot has to know what's going on. Ditto for the 5'5" kid now listed as a 6'1" basketball recruit, or the daughters who've never rowed getting their "welcome to the crew team here are the NCAA rules" letters...
posted by TwoStride at 5:51 AM on March 13 [4 favorites]


When you start to look at the rates of college attendance by class and race, like in this thread, it quickly becomes one of those things that you can’t stop finding insidious ways the barriers to higher education keep minorities and the poor down.

For anyone who’s up for one more, even if it’s a vanishingly small percentage: essentially all you need to score a job teaching English in Japan, Taiwan, Korea, or China is a four year degree. While the job isn’t as lucrative as it used to be, it used to come with a round trip ticket from and back to your home country, complete with a job that would pay well enough that any fresh out of college kid would have no trouble making ends meet, and usually even be able to pay back their student loans faster than staying home.

All you need is a four year degree. Doesn’t matter what you studied, just show up with a college degree and it’s remarkably easy to get your foot in the door, fuck around for a couple of years and do nothing of any consequence.

On the other hand, I’ve met people who just never managed college, but who got themselves over here, looking for some way that they could manage to get a visa and find work, and more often than not, they can’t and have to go back home.

It’s just another little bit of the world that’s shut to people who couldn’t get into college, or couldn’t afford to stay once they got there, but I know people who graduated with things like a BA in *pre* physical therapy (still needed to do post grad work for that) but got offered a position in the JET program.

And then there’s these assholes, born with a silver spoon in their mouths, but still scamming because they want the knife and fork, too.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:56 AM on March 13 [9 favorites]


> Although, those have their own flaws and there’s no weaning the schools off the money train now.

I vaguely remember hearing a while back that, as a rule:
  1. every college sport except football and basketball loses money.
  2. Except at schools known for football or basketball, even football and basketball lose money.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 6:06 AM on March 13 [6 favorites]


I'm glad there are two reasonably well known actresses involved so we can focus our mockery, instead of involving the dozens of CEOs and investment bankers also involved who once again avoid any scrutiny.

Anand Giridharadas @AnandWrites
The juiciest, most revealing fact in the college-bribery story isn't the Hollywood celebrities. It's a guy named Bill, whose alleged involvement tells us everything we need to know about our age.
...
From the beginning, there are have been skeptics of the impact-investing approach to social change.

Can the architects and operators of the winners-take-all world really be the key to solving inequality?

But impact investors promised us: Yes, they could.

And now one of the absolute deans of the doing-well-by-doing-good industrial complex -- a man who embodied the faith that the meek of the earth could be saved by private-equity barons -- has been indicted for rigging the opportunity structure against the disadvantaged.
(Threadreader)
posted by chappell, ambrose at 6:15 AM on March 13 [25 favorites]


It is *extremely* hard to flunk out of an elite college. I have been a TA at an elite college, and I was required to pass papers that were essentially gibberish and to give students opportunities to rewrite papers that were plagiarized off the internet. You have to work hard to get As, but it's not tough to coast to a gentleperson's B-.

My wife was a visiting professor at Dartmouth for a couple of years. She had a lot of colleagues congratulate her for having the courage to fail a graduating senior who did no work. It required her defending her grading at two different admin levels.
posted by srboisvert at 6:32 AM on March 13 [16 favorites]


I have to admit I’m kind of surprised at the reactions here. Like, is resume faking now just a yawn, rich people can afford resume consultants so the whole process is a farce anyway? Sports cheating, who cares, rich people can afford private coaches?
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows
Cohen wrote that decades ago (though IMNSHO Concrete Blonde sung it best...) so it's not like this sense of the rich and powerful doing what they want is new.

I wonder how much academia stuff John Rogers had notes on for possible LEVERAGE stories.

Those poor kids are probably already both screwed, and still financially set, for life.

They're rich and as far as I know all of them are white. They get to be "kids" into their 30s and folks are gonna fall over themselves to cut them a pass for this. We should start a betting pool on which one will have the first tell-all book about it.

Except at schools known for football or basketball, even football and basketball lose money.

Athletics are often a loss leader for the development office looking to get donations from alumni. Nothing approaches athletics for keeping alumni bonded and involved after graduation.
posted by phearlez at 6:35 AM on March 13 [14 favorites]


I remember in college a friend going to a UK university for a semester. He was in a special program for just Americans. "Oh no, I couldn't possibly do the program for UK people, I'd fail," he said. It was probably not just academic rigors but also the fact that all education is culture dependent.

Anecdata, but in my fourth year of university (decent Russell Group) I got friendly with an exchange student from Berkley. One day we were having coffee and she started laughing about how easy the course was. That was news to me, because I was doing a full 9-5 of lectures and labs at the time and was finding it pretty challenging. Anyway, it turned out that she was doing only three of my nine courses, plus a couple of first year courses and an optional course in the divinity college (we were supposed to be studying a pure natural science). The rest of her schedule was free. So academic rigour is probably at least a part of it?

I tend to think that going to study abroad is almost always going to be easier than studying at home, if you’re fluent in the language of instruction, amd unfortunately that’s another benefit that disproportionately accrues to rich kids with clued-in parents.

I mean, that’s partly for good reasons: education isn’t just be about academics and shouldn’t be, and encouraging exposure to other cultures is a good thing from the perspective of both the student and the host institution, so it’s reasonable to err on the side of generosity when comparing qualifications and standards. That inevitably results in an easier time academically (if not culturally and socially) compared to the very precisely calibrated metrics back home.

It’s also partly for bad reasons: universities in the UK at least get to charge foreign students full, unsubsidised fees, and to keep the money (note: this still looks like a good deal from the perspective of e.g. US students!!) and so are incentivised to wave them in, and wave them through. This particularly happens with Chinese students, who are subject to a de facto dual-track system and can return home with a masters or even a PhD, despite very poor English skills. (Something similar also happens in reverse - it’s incredibly hard for Chinese students to get into their own top schools, like Tsinghua, and much easier for foreigners. Some rich Chinese parents will even send their kid to high school abroad for their final year, to allow them a route in that doesn’t involve the gaokao.)

Anyway, attendance at foreign universities often seems to involve a kind of academic arbitrage.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 6:38 AM on March 13


The ranking of Canadian universities is based on research, not teaching, which can be orthogonal. Similarly, tenure is based on research, not teaching, especially at the 'better' universities.

/Ontario-filter


A significant contributor to the general equality of Canadian universities is the general equality and popularity of the Canadian public school system. There are not the wild disparities in high school quality that you see in the United States and other countries and there are far fewer private schools.
posted by srboisvert at 6:39 AM on March 13 [6 favorites]


Be honest. Has anyone ever actually purported you to have athletic talent?

Let's say, for example, that you once lost a spontaneous foot race to a guy who then remarked, "You ran faster than I thought you would." Hypothetically.
posted by Flexagon at 6:39 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


The real college admissions scandal is what’s legal (Libby Nelson, Vox)
The fraud only worked because the whole system is corrupt.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:59 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


It’s also partly for bad reasons: universities in the UK at least get to charge foreign students full, unsubsidised fees, and to keep the money (note: this still looks like a good deal from the perspective of e.g. US students!!) and so are incentivised to wave them in, and wave them through

FYI, this is also a strong motivator for US public universities that charge lower tuition rates for in-state students. It's not entirely shitty; when the then director of Admissions at [university I used to work at] said something to me about foreign students his comments included mentioning that they brought in full tuition and weren't competing for financial aid with domestic students and spent money on x,y, and z services that also improved the bottom line.

If I can diverge from the cynicism and hopelessness I have been soaking in along with everyone else, I did want to mention, riffing off this:

Even into the first tier, there are a lot of tuition-dependent schools that will look very favorably on an applicant who can pay outright for tuition.

The number of "tuition-dependent schools" is effectively "all of them," with the ones with massive endowments being barely a rounding error. The National Center for Educational Statistics lists the number of US-based post-secondary institutions at just shy of 7,000 but if you limit to degree-granting it's about 4,700. The total of all the institutions' endowments, were you to liquidate them, would cover the annual expenditure of all post-secondary instituions for about a year and a half.

So there's plenty more tuition-dependent institutions out there and they're looking for ways to bring in money from folks who have it in order to provide educations to folks who don't. I'm not excusing the corruption or ignoring the massive inequalities before anyone even thinks about applying at one of these institutions, but plenty of those places are staffed by folks who have very good reasons to look to bringing in some of these rich assholes and soaking them so they can educate other folks who don't have that money. My former employers were all very dependent on what money the State decided to give them and their avenues for getting funding from the haves and transferring it to the have-nots were limited. Bringing in folks who pay the full ride was a big one within their control.
posted by phearlez at 7:26 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


So there's plenty more tuition-dependent institutions out there and they're looking for ways to bring in money from folks who have it in order to provide educations to folks who don't.

I look forward to the inevitable huge scandal involving international students, because lord knows that is going to happen.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:29 AM on March 13 [11 favorites]


There was an international student scandal at Dickinson State a while back that caused a huge kerfuffle in the world of higher ed. It didn't involve celebrities or influencers or anything else that caught national attention though.
posted by tofu_crouton at 7:33 AM on March 13


I look forward to the inevitable huge scandal involving international students, because lord knows that is going to happen.

Probably, though the ädvantäge of sporting programs is that any exceptions they make for foreign students will pale in comparison. My suspicion is that if such a story breaks it'll be more driven by racism and xenophobia and attack research from rightie media than anything else. Look at these folks from Xstan who U of Whatev let in rather than the deserving white girl we found!

As has been said over and over again, the scandal part of this is that the grift ended up in employee pockets rather than the institution's. That's not the case with the international admissions so the System isn't as interested in pointing and shrieking.
posted by phearlez at 7:55 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


I have to admit I’m kind of surprised at the reactions here. Like, is resume faking now just a yawn, rich people can afford resume consultants so the whole process is a farce anyway? Sports cheating, who cares, rich people can afford private coaches?

Part of my reaction to this is that it's about the wealthy cheating their way in past the upper middle class, who are already unfairly advantaged. That is, my understanding of elite college admissions is that being a member of an underrepresented demographic, whether geographic (farm kid from Nebraska), ethnic, or class does help, just not in a way that's sufficient to make admissions just. But a big part of the admissions class is reserved for kids who make it in purely on "merit", which means the sort of heavily groomed and tutored standardized-test-scores/AP classes/athletics or other impressive extracurriculars that's available to the well-off upper middle class but not otherwise.

And this scam is cheating their way into those spots that are available on the basis of that bullshit conception of "merit" -- these kids probably weren't taking spots that would otherwise have gone to a working class student, or a student of color, they were bouncing out Muffy who genuinely was an excellent field-hockey player with good SATs after a lot of tutoring, but who herself wasn't on a level playing field with parents who weren't well-off. At which point, "the scandal is what's legal". This story is amazingly awful, but it's not much of an injustice compared to how college admissions work generally.
posted by LizardBreath at 8:19 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


Speaking of which, here's the full list of indicted parents and some background on what they do (only a line or two, so not exactly deep dives, but better than nothing).

The quoted job titles in this list of indicted parents seem to me to be just dripping with (enjoyable) sarcasm:
- "former executive at a large food manufacturer formerly owned by members of her family"
- "packaged food entrepreneur"
- "privately held provider of outsourced sales teams"
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 8:27 AM on March 13


The coverage in WaPo's Daily tech 202 indicated that McGlashan has been put on indefinite leave at TPG.

There's a WaPo piece from last night with more detail on some of the defendents.
posted by phearlez at 8:40 AM on March 13


Athletics are often a loss leader ...

At my Alma Mater, athletics are a separate legal entity and they get zero from the university budget. In fact, until a couple of years ago the athletic department was giving $10 mill or so back to the school every year. They quit doing that under the theory that a winning football team will pay bigger dividends in the long run.

Some might argue that money donated to State Athletics Inc. might otherwise be donated to the general scholarship fund if the football/basketball team didn't exist, but that seems to me to be like assuming every Napster download was a lost record sale. For better or worse, college sports is a big business, and it's pretty much independent of the actual university.
posted by COD at 8:42 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


Regular reminder that the word “meritocracy” was intended to be pejorative (and the guy that coined the term, Michael Young, was on the one hand a brilliant sociologist and Labour party activist who invented the concept of the Open University and championed the abolition of selective education, and on the other a life peer who blagged his awful failson Toby Young into Oxford despite not meeting the entrance requirements. People contain multitudes!)

Matthew Yglesias lays out why “meritocracy” isn’t much of a system to work towards:
Small brain: US higher education is a meritocratic system.

Medium brain: Actually, there’s a lot of corruption.

Big brain: Actually, there are systemic inequities that transcend corruption.

Galaxy brain: Meritocracy is a bad ideal to work toward.



An incredibly unequal division of material resources in which it happened to be true that the people on the top were all genuinely smarter than the people on the bottom would not really be an improvement.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 8:47 AM on March 13 [18 favorites]


I was going to post the Bill McGlashan twitter thread, but I see somebody beat me to it.

The thing about McGlashan is--look, the Wilkie Farr guy? Lawyers are basically the little bitches of the rich-people world. A handful of plaintiffs' lawyers who own their own firms hover around the lower edges. The rest, even, like top partners at places like Cravath, are effectively, as one once beautifully lamented in a NYT article, "doormen." So why he couldn't be dropping $3-5m willy-nilly on a squash court I understand. But a principal at TPG? What a cheap bastard.
posted by praemunire at 8:48 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


Galaxy brain: Meritocracy is a bad ideal to work toward.

The original meritocracy was guys with the biggest muscles and heaviest clubs. Meritocracy is no better when they are wielding cleverness, IQs or elite university degrees.
posted by JackFlash at 9:00 AM on March 13


The head of Wilkie Farr getting caught up in this has been, uh, a hot topic of discussion in my circles. The per-partner-profits of Wilkie Farr last year were just under $3 million, and a big rainmaker like Gordon Caplan is probably taking home $5 or $6 million a year. Which yes, as praemunire points out, means that he isn't going to be able to pay for that squash court like a principal at TPG.

On the other hand, if you asked a lot of ambitious working class immigrant families whether they'd pay a year's salary to get their kid into Yale or Stanford or Harvard, if they had a year's salary in cash to give, I think just about all of them would.

So Gordon Caplan, poorer than the VC class, and not as willing to sacrifice as the Chinese and Vietnamese and Korean parents working two and three shifts and picking their kid up at SAT cram schools in the outer areas of many major US cities.
posted by joyceanmachine at 9:04 AM on March 13 [9 favorites]


I was a TA at an elite place and yeah, if you got admitted and were willing to at least mostly show up for class, you were going to pass.

Yeah, C for attendance, B for attendance with work done, A for attendance with work done on time. Given the definition of "work done" it was very hard to get a C. Note that nothing is said about the frequency of attendance, either.

In my TA experience-- teaching a semi-hard subject that satisfied a requirement-- there were a huge number of different ways to be told, "you can't expect good performance out of this student because they were admitted on some special basis" and that definitely meant legacy, influence and/or money. And that would be an automatic B unless there was something really, really egregious.

The places granted to people in that way take a huge bite out of places available to everyone else. A friend who taught at a smaller, top of the country liberal arts school showed me the math one time. Granted, it may be more dramatic at smaller schools with the number of parents who really, really want their kids to go to the same school, and during my teaching career they did recognize this and tighten up some. But your chances of getting into one of those places with no special connection were very very small.
posted by BibiRose at 10:17 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


So Gordon Caplan, poorer than the VC class, and not as willing to sacrifice as the Chinese and Vietnamese and Korean parents working two and three shifts and picking their kid up at SAT cram schools in the outer areas of many major US cities.

A lot of BigLaw partners despise their clients. They look at someone who's probably not as smart as they are, and almost certainly not as well-educated as they are (at least on paper, where it counts), yet who's making maybe five times their salaries, or even more than that. That burns them up. Because, yes, they're basically lackeys of the ruling class. And they know it.
posted by holborne at 10:20 AM on March 13 [4 favorites]


BibiRose, approximately what proportion of students were in the "you can't expect good performance" category?
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 10:44 AM on March 13


I have to say, in my TFing experience, I would have had to make a hard push for a sub-B grade (I had to fight hard for any consequences for a student who plagiarized from the professor's own assigned survey text), but you did not get an A grade just for handing in completed work on time. I had very few problems with students not handing in work on time (that were not adequately accounted for otherwise) and I certainly gave out a ton of B-range grades.
posted by praemunire at 10:51 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


I have been moving on to another stage of worry, that if the formal educational system is increasingly converted into a hollow credential for the gentry, who is actually going to learn how to do hard stuff?

Canadians, apparently.
posted by clew at 10:55 AM on March 13 [7 favorites]


Ok, rich kid story time.

Once upon a time, in my first year as faculty, I had a young person in my class in my very highly ranked small private U who got very consistent Bs through the semester. Sounds ... fine? Well, no, they wanted to go to medical school and thought that my class was the only thing between them and DOCTOR. Transcript showed that was not the case, but.

End of semester, young person is unable to keep up, and drops several hints about a Big Decision. I get an email one night informing me that they have decided to withdraw (last week of semester!).

Next day I find that young person has gone to my chair instead of me to get the withdrawal signed. And Daddy (TM) has come. Daddy is an entertainment lawyer from Entertainment City (yes that one), CA, who has flown in on the red-eye to "help" student. Daddy and student consult with chair, Dean, head of pre-Med, another Dean, and are turned down for a meeting with Provost. Hints are dropped about what will sound best in a lawsuit.

As a reminder, I'm first-year faculty. I feel a bit unsure (ahem) at this moment. Something like ... there are rich people circulating campus talking about how they want me fired.

Later in the day, I'm in the seminar room waiting for a talk. Chair comes to sit next to me. I say, 'Chair .... is there something I should know?' Chair says ' .... nope'. (best. answer. ever.) The U had my back, just like they said they would. Young person got the 'W' they wanted instead of the 'B' on the transcript, and that was all.

Last I heard, young person had gotten into DO school. That is why I won't use DOs as my primary care.

But the moral of the story is -- rich kid. Daddy. No dice.

I'm proud of my U, and I know we're not the only ones with a spine.
posted by Dashy at 11:10 AM on March 13 [13 favorites]


For anyone who’s up for one more, even if it’s a vanishingly small percentage: essentially all you need to score a job teaching English in Japan, Taiwan, Korea, or China is a four year degree.

Sadly, being white is an unspoken expectation these situations too. Quite a few parents in those countries who will balk that their kid's school isn't prestigious enough to hire a real white person to teach perfect white people English to their children.

Ask me how I know, being a Chinese-American native English speaker who also speaks Mandarin fluently and taught English to foreign language students for 8 years when I looked into a few of those jobs.

Conspicuous consumption and flaunting through education is a universal disease.
posted by Karaage at 11:20 AM on March 13 [12 favorites]


I can't stop thinking about this. Paying half a million dollars to fraudulently get your loser-ass kids in to the fifth-best college in California, and then going to prison for it, has got to be the ultimate self-own. It will never be topped.
posted by saladin at 11:25 AM on March 13 [11 favorites]


And I say this with all due respect to USC and its grads. It's a great school and one I seriously considered applying to back in the day. It just seems like such a funny place to aim these kinds of resources and legal risk.
posted by saladin at 11:25 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


That burns them up. Because, yes, they're basically lackeys of the ruling class. And they know it.

Chuck from Better Call Saul is the most realistic lawyer on TV for this feeling resentful to everyone 2 inches above or below him on the class hierarchy portrayal.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:36 AM on March 13 [9 favorites]


I have been moving on to another stage of worry, that if the formal educational system is increasingly converted into a hollow credential for the gentry, who is actually going to learn how to do hard stuff?

That's always been the case. I know it's MeFi and we love a decline narrative around here, but come on. Admission to all universities is heavily class dependent:

First, because just wanting to go to any university and having parents, peers, teachers who support that is class dependent.

Second because generating the merit points to prove you should be admitted to a selective university (charitable view: preparing yourself academically to make the best of the opportunity) depends on the quality of your secondary and primary education.

Third because the extracurricular stuff you need on top of that to get into the most elite universities costs money and requires cultural capital. Knowing the exact right thing requires so much fine-grained cultural knowledge - I bet many people here know that playing an instrument is good, that playing an unusual instrument is better than piano or violin. I bet we also know that the viola da gamba is better than the harmonica for admissions - consider who taught you that.

Fourth because the upper middle class knows the open-secret passages into elite institutions. There are loads of places soft-reserved for sailing teams, fencing teams, etc. A crew scholarship at a competitive rowing university is hard to get, getting into the second team with no scholarship at a less competitive institution not so much. You do actually have to competitively row though, unlike these fakers. Also, this is typically only effective for people who are "on-paper" feasible candidates for admission, no-one gets into Harvard with really bad grades because of a nod from the sailing coach. (They might if they're brilliant rowers though).

Fifth because elite universities use legacy preference systems.

Sixth because really wealth alumni can donate and get preference that way.

Seventh - newly discovered! Bribes. That's why for some people this is a bit of a yawn. This is essentially intra-elite cheating. One reasons that this is going to be socially hard for the parents to live down is that they were cheating the children of their peers.

Part of my reaction to this is that it's about the wealthy cheating their way in past the upper middle class, who are already unfairly advantaged.

I think it's more like part of the upper upper middle class, cheating their way between the middle upper middle class who don't have the money for this and the lower upper class who can donate enough to get their kids in anyway.
posted by atrazine at 11:42 AM on March 13 [12 favorites]


if the formal educational system is increasingly converted into a hollow credential for the gentry, who is actually going to learn how to do hard stuff

Setting aside atrazine's very valid points, the top universities have only begun to superficially resemble a meritocracy in the last three decades. Up to that point, they excluded, openly or effectively, in whole or in part, huge portions of the population who might actually have been better-qualified than the admitted students--racial minorities, Jews, women...

It's no mistake that this development has coincided with increasingly virulent conservative attacks on the whole system.
posted by praemunire at 11:49 AM on March 13 [20 favorites]


Or read Stover at Yale to contemplate what Yale students were expected to be like at about the turn of the prior century.
posted by praemunire at 11:50 AM on March 13


if the formal educational system is increasingly converted into a hollow credential for the gentry, who is actually going to learn how to do hard stuff

The bulk of students at selective universities are insanely smart, accomplished, and hard working. They wouldn't get in otherwise. Yes, a chunk of slots are reserved for (on average, less academically qualified) athletes and legacies, and a few for the super rich. But that just means tougher competition for the remaining spots. For example, U Penn and Duke reject three out of five high school valedictorians.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:50 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


One reasons that this is going to be socially hard for the parents to live down is that they were cheating the children of their peers.

Which, of course, is why the FBI finds this particular form of cheating so uniquely problematic. IIRC this same demographic is heavily overrepresented in the FBI's senior echelons. (Can't seem to find numbers, but the FBI's historic fondness for clean-cut Ivy League grads is pretty well-known.)

Listening to Democracy Now! just now, they aired a hilarious excerpt from the FBI press conference about how America would never have "two systems" of college admissions. The only way I can even turn that into a comprehensible statement is to interpret it as meaning that in the FBI's view, there is only one valid exchange rate between US dollars and "merit" (i.e. the rate set by the building committee or whatever), and anyone attempting to arbitrage around that exchange rate will be hunted down.

In the way that contemporaneous posts on MeFi so often do (is there a word for that?), this pairs nicely with the post about the FBI's 20th-century obsession with people who "pirated" 35 mm films that Hollywood had lost interest in.

The occasional serial killer or mafia prosecution is good for the brand, but the FBI's sine qua non is to protect the prerogatives of the wealthy and powerful, no matter how incomprehensibly dumb and pointless those prerogatives may be.
posted by shenderson at 12:12 PM on March 13 [11 favorites]


Yale ‘82 here, from a middle class family without big time legacy cred. I always assumed that my high school grades and test scores weren’t quite up to snuff and that I probably owed my admission to my genuine talent in [redacted activity]. Consequently, I felt really guilty about deciding not to participate in [redacted activity] my senior year, like I had failed to uphold my end of the deal. I’m so naive.
posted by carmicha at 1:28 PM on March 13 [3 favorites]


Re International students:

If you're there for the whole degree, not just a semester arranged by your home institution, you go through the same schedule as the local students. You're generally not allowed to go below full time hours (unless you're in a low-residency program like my MFA), so part-time or even time off is not allowed. Your options for jobs are limited. You're usually forced to pay a lot more than local students, with very little access to scholarships or financial aid. The visa process sometimes requires you to take an additional language test to qualify, and if you're not at the top level of English but still pass you have to take extra English lessons while at uni.

There are already plenty of people who assume international students bought their way in. I was an academic tutor for a while and met many local (usually white) students whose work was way more of a mess than international or ESL students whose work is more thought out or coherent, but because the local white student has somewhat better grammar it's assumed they're the better student.

There's been many reports of international students scammed into registering for universities that turn out to be fake, compromising their visa. ICE set up a fake school specifically to be a honeypot. A lot of international students genuinely want to learn, and yes there are many that sign up mainly to get into the country - some that knowingly go to fake schools, some that were fooled into thinking that the schools were legit, and some (like me!) who went to legit schools in legit ways but for whom uni is more of a means to an end.

This is more an indictment against the Immigration system not providing easy enough pathways to migrate temporarily or permanently than it is about Those Damn Foreigners Stealing My University Spot, an accusation that gets lobbied at us ALL THE TIME.
posted by divabat at 1:32 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


The only way I can even turn that into a comprehensible statement is to interpret it as meaning that in the FBI's view, there is only one valid exchange rate between US dollars and "merit" (i.e. the rate set by the building committee or whatever)

From the NY Times editorial: "What the government actually is defending is private property — the right of the colleges to make their own decisions about admissions, and collect the payments."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:48 PM on March 13 [5 favorites]


Welp. I thought we had hit peak USC but now I’m worried we haven’t and that I might not even know what peak USC is anymore. When this all came out, Loughlin’s daughter was on spring break in the Bahamas on a yacht owned by the chairman of the USC Board of Trustees.
posted by charmedimsure at 4:32 PM on March 13 [8 favorites]


Sadly, being white is an unspoken expectation these situations too. Quite a few parents in those countries who will balk that their kid's school isn't prestigious enough to hire a real white person to teach perfect white people English to their children.

That’s, sadly, definitely a part of it. When I taught in China, the circle of teachers I hung out with included a person at the next university over that had graduated from Princeton, and was really, really good at what we were all doing. However, she was Chinese American, and had students complaining that she couldn’t possibly know real English, and were constantly trying to transfer into other EFL classes taught by much worse, though white, teachers.

Japan is no better, and most non-white people I’ve met teaching English here have dealt with a lot of blatant racism and discrimination in hiring.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:19 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


BibiRose, approximately what proportion of students were in the "you can't expect good performance" category?

I can't think how to come up with a percentage. We're talking legacy students and those who bought their way in like Kushner? There certainly are a lot of students in those groups. At Harvard, the legacy admit rate seems to be about five times that of non-legacy. That article also mentions a "Z-list" of people who are provisionally accepted and are asked to take a gap year before entering. Lots of legacies and donors in that group. How many of those are later identified as subpar students? I'd say if you're as TA teaching gut courses, or courses that are not too hard and fulfill requirements, you would likely meet a couple of students in a typical class of 50 who were described in that way by their instructors. Also, some students are not shy about describing themselves as falling into those categories. But I am sure that there is confirmation bias going on when instructors label students as problematic. There are lots of students having problems at a place like Harvard, or not caring about academics very much.
posted by BibiRose at 7:08 PM on March 13


Matt Levine, Money Stuff: You Have to Pay the Right Person
The numbers in the criminal complaint are way lower than that—generally hundreds of thousands of dollars 2 —and of course they went to corrupt coaches and test proctors and counselors, not to the schools themselves. Also, even when colleges award admissions spots in exchange for cash, they’ll never say they’re doing that; the parent’s generous financial support is one input into a holistic evaluation of etc. etc. etc., not a direct quid pro quo. Like so many things, it is an aristocratic economy of gifts and relationships, not a grubby transaction. The bribery scheme devalued the asset not only by stealing it and re-selling it for less than it was worth, but also by being so explicitly commercial.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:11 PM on March 13 [4 favorites]


Twitter, ItsDanSheehan: The admissions scandal is a sad reminder of class inequality but I love that a bunch of rich kids woke up and found emails from their parents to school administrators like “plz help my child is an absolute dullard, the kid would eat sand straight off the beach if I let them”
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:17 PM on March 13 [10 favorites]


I had assumed that the pretense of the payment being gifts was what Levine said, but per the Washington Post article it is because of tax laws. So in fact, both kinds of bribes are breaking the law, it's just that the kind that goes to the university is one the FBI is happy to overlook because the truly rich and powerful wish to make sure they can keep buying entry for their idiot kids to provide them with the proper connections bundle.

Which makes the FBI press conference and all the shit about there not being two levels of college entry particularly vomitous.
posted by tavella at 11:36 PM on March 13


...the top universities have only begun to superficially resemble a meritocracy in the last three decades. Up to that point, they excluded, openly or effectively, in whole or in part, huge portions of the population who might actually have been better-qualified than the admitted students--racial minorities, Jews, women...

Harvard is not passively waiting for applications to arrive at the doorstep. They, and other top colleges, are already targeting high school juniors or even kids in junior high. I probably popped onto their radar with my PSAT scores in my junior year. They asked my teachers about me. My physics teacher told them I was one of the brightest kids he’d had in decades (he’d sent others to MIT, Harvard, etc)

Soon, a Harvard admissions officer showed up at my high school and specifically asked to speak to me. Later, an admissions volunteer rang me up, gave me his phone number and assured me that I could ask him anything. He checked in with me every couple weeks to see how things were going. The head of the local Harvard club was roped in too and invited me to her beautiful home for drinks and canapés. And gave me her mobile phone number. We want you in our club. That was the clear message.

What makes me so extra special? I assumed that it is because I am the child of Mexican farm-workers. My father is functionally illiterate. And even when, acceptance letter in hand, I told my mother that I was headed to Harvard, she had only the faintest idea of what it was or where it was. I paid for my admissions application from my own pocket-money from delivering pizzas.

I’m not naive. Harvard is still crammed with legacies. I know that giving spots to kids like me enhances their narrative. But that doesn’t mean its not a good thing that it is happening at all.
posted by vacapinta at 4:10 AM on March 14 [32 favorites]


A FB post from a ghostwriter on how the system works, cradle to boardroom.
,
It's public, so I think non-logged in users should be able to see it, but YMMV.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:30 AM on March 14 [6 favorites]




I also read a sadder account of another USC ghostwriter. She did 3 years' worth of coursework for a Walmart heiress. Even with the money she earned from the ghostwriting, she wasn't able to pay her tuition at USC and had to drop out of USC and go to community college. (She continued to do all the heiress' USC homework while at community college.) The rich girl graduated with the USC degree earned off the poor kid's work.

(The degree was rescinded years later, when the ghostwriting was discovered. But this is really very, very common - and often goes undiscovered/unpunished.)
posted by aielen at 7:38 AM on March 14 [17 favorites]


The Baffler: A for Effort
In elite admissions, sunshine is more of a fertilizer than a disinfectant. In the early 2000s, then-Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Golden broke a string of stories chronicling corruption in admissions, from politicians pulling strings to billionaires like Charles Kushner bribing their kids through the storied gates of the Ivy League. Then he started getting calls. “Some of the Journal’s wealthier subscribers regarded my series not as investigative journalism but as a how-to guide,” Golden wrote in his 2006 book The Price of Admission (a point he returned to on Tuesday for ProPublica). One “high-tech tycoon” asked Golden for help getting his academically undistinguished daughter into an Ivy. Others offered him large sums to serve as an advisor.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 8:49 AM on March 14 [3 favorites]


College cheating scandal: First lawsuits filed by students at elite schools (David K. Li, NBC News)
The first lawsuits targeting elite universities and individuals charged by federal prosecutors in a sweeping college admissions scandal were filed by students and a parent on Wednesday in California.

The parent, Jennifer Kay Toy, claimed in a state court that her son — with a 4.2 grade-point average — was not admitted to some schools because parents implicated in the scandal thought it was "OK to lie, cheat, steal and bribe their children's way into a good college." […]

In addition to Toy's civil complaint, two Stanford students filed a class-action lawsuit against the school and all the other implicated universities, claiming their degrees will not be "worth as much as" before.

Lawyers for Erica Olsen and Kalea Woods are also suing Singer, Stanford, the University of Southern California, UCLA, the University of San Diego, the University of Texas, Wake Forest, Yale and Georgetown.
I'd say filing such a lawsuit also diminishes the value of a degree.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:56 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


The lawsuits about the value of the degree are a game-theory lagniappe. (I mean, I would say so, I've had more or less that conversation with failing students who were trying the ``Who would it hurt to just pass me?'' line of reasoning. Part of their problem was that they didn't get either the game theory or the discount-rate parts of the subject, so this did not go very well.)

Between that and the growing hassle with commercial publishers of academic journals, I increasingly daydream about the functions of the US university being disaggregated. Professional societies control entry to themselves and do the grading both of classwork and `bubbled-up' journals; students run student life and hire teachers; everybody chips in per megabyte to pay the arXivs for author authentication and server management; the (mostly) government funds research labs with extra for outreach and education. And sports get to be local club teams. This would annoy everyone so that means I'm right, right? Plus there are ponies.
posted by clew at 10:57 AM on March 14 [3 favorites]


In addition to Toy's civil complaint, two Stanford students filed a class-action lawsuit against the school and all the other implicated universities, claiming their degrees will not be "worth as much as" before.

It's an interesting claim in that it goes right to the heart of the perceived utility of a college degree (job/prestige value) rather than the alleged purpose behind one (education itself).

Back in the early 2000s some friends and I mooted the idea of suing a university for failing to provide the latter benefit as one would expect as contract from the money payed to the college. Arbitrary and unrepresentative grading, professors and TAs giving outdated or simply false information, and lack of focus on the educational aspects themselves was the debated hook, but of course the thought wasn't followed to any action.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:14 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]




Called it!
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:06 PM on March 14 [4 favorites]


WSJ says that a Yale finance guy (crook) was the original tipster. (That's the Twitter link; it doesn't seem to be paywalled.)
posted by grandiloquiet at 3:19 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Colleges react.

Does anyone know at what point someone's admission cannot be rescinded? I thought that was something that could only happen within about a year or so of the student accepting to come.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:57 PM on March 14


Summary: The rich scheme, the wealthy donate while the other 90% struggle.

For those who wonder about legacy admissions: Here is a list of schools in the US and their legacy status. Now the margins of what is classified under "consideration" is pretty damn wide if you compare let's say Georgia Tech vs. Harvard (#1 and 2) or other institutions. I was surprised that there were engineering schools listed where legacy was relevant in the application process.
posted by jadepearl at 5:54 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]


Wait, all of the service academies except West Point take into account legacy status? That doesn't seem right!
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:35 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I was a bit confused by that too, since Congressional Medal of Honor recipients' children have a certain level of preference as is the case with the US Naval Academy: "Children (biological or adopted) of persons who have been awarded the Medal of Honor for acts performed in the armed forces who are fully qualified for admission are automatically appointed." West Point's site is suboptimal for looking things up. But I believe those candidates are considered service nomination.
posted by jadepearl at 7:04 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]




I bet the USC is glad there were celebrities were caught up in the investigation, it's sure taking a lot of focus off them and the bigger issues around college admissions.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:46 PM on March 15 [3 favorites]


I think I disagree - I don't think this story would have gotten any traction if it had just involved anonymous rich people.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:04 PM on March 16 [5 favorites]


I kind of agree. People like to imagine that they have a personal connection with celebrities. Seeing this sort of behaviour from people they "know" helps destroy the illusion that financial corruption is rare and that most people can be trusted to do the right thing.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:20 PM on March 16


It wouldn't have, but the bigger crime remains that zillionaire hedge funders were partaking in this bullshit as well.
posted by rhizome at 3:35 PM on March 16


I think Chrysostom is right that the issue wouldn't have received anything like the same amount of attention, and thus caused USC and other universities the same need to address the story publicly, while also being true that Loughlin and Huffman's involvement shifted the focus of that attention from the university system directly to that of the celebs involved when it would have been better placed on the influence of, well, influence and money on the system as a whole.
posted by gusottertrout at 4:55 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: I think Chrysostom is right
posted by Chrysostom at 9:01 PM on March 16 [11 favorites]


I guess this whole thing is deeply in New York Magazine's wheelhouse, because now they've done a whole rundown of which kids probably knew and which probably didn't.
posted by Copronymus at 11:21 AM on March 19


From the kids' perspective, is it really all that different from knowing you got in because you're a legacy, or because your parents went the traditional route of endowing a building or a department chair or whatever?

I mean, there's a legal difference, which is why people who put their names on buildings get invited to cocktail parties, and people who just offer straight bribes get indicted, but that seems like hairsplitting outside of a courtroom. Either way, you got in because of something besides merit.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:44 AM on March 19


If you're a legacy you don't need to confront the fact that your parents think you're dumb.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:44 PM on March 19 [9 favorites]


U.S.C. Freezes Accounts of Students Connected With Admissions Scandal (NYT)

"The University of Southern California said late Monday it had blocked students who may be associated with the college admissions scandal from registering for classes while the school reviews their cases.
“Following the review,” school officials posted on Twitter, “we will take the proper action related to their status, up to revoking admission or expulsion.”
A spokesman for U.S.C., Eddie North-Hager, said he did not know how many students had been blocked from registering for classes pending the review, and did not know how long the process would take."


USC Information on College Admissions Issue
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:53 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]




U.S.C. Freezes Accounts of Students Connected With Admissions Scandal (NYT)

I just want to acknowledge how great a name "Anemona Hartocollis" is.
posted by rhizome at 9:57 PM on March 19 [4 favorites]


No one likes the SAT. It’s still the fairest thing about admissions. In short: standardized tests are the least gameable aspect of the admissions process, which is why parents had to cheat.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:18 AM on March 22 [4 favorites]


When Calls the Heart is my cheesy comfort-viewing, so I continue to be REALLY MAD at Lori Loughlin because they just killed off Mountie Jack and now they have to write off Abigail Stanton too??? C'MON LORI YOU'RE KILLING ME. DO LESS FRAUD.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:16 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


Great piece by Amanda Hess at NYT about this:

The idea of unqualified kids getting into Stanford or Georgetown may rankle us, but this scandal should also call into question the outsize reputations of such schools. They exist partly through a bargain in which wealthy elites commingle with the highest-achieving students of the lower and middle classes. The wealthy launder their privilege by allowing select others to earn their way into its orbit. And the intelligence and success of hardworking peers makes a wealthy wastrel seem qualified by association: Maybe he graduated with straight C’s, a drinking problem and an unearned job at the family business, but he went to Yale — isn’t that where smart people go?
posted by everybody had matching towels at 8:01 AM on March 27 [13 favorites]


Yep, credentialism is pervasive, regardless of how elitist the word sounds. I don't really know what should be done, short of board certifications for degree subjects, but with a little thinking it seems apparent that the US university pecking order is scam upon scam. Doofwad State could pay just as easily as Stanford for Eric Schmidt to teach them business if even just the bribe money was spread around appropriately.
posted by rhizome at 3:16 PM on March 27


They Had It Coming: What The College Admissions Scandal Reveals
Much of the discussion of this scandal has centered on the corruption in the college-admissions process. But think about the kinds of jobs that the indicted parents held. Four of them worked in private equity, a fifth in the field of “investments,” others in real-estate development and the most senior management of huge corporations. Together, they have handled billions of dollars’ worth of assets within heavily regulated fields—yet look how easily and how eagerly they allegedly embrace a crooked scheme, as quoted in the court documents.

Here is Bill McGlashan, then a senior executive at a global private-equity fund, reacting to Singer’s plan to get his son (who does not play football) admitted to USC via the football team: “That’s just totally hilarious.”

Here is Robert Zangrillo, the founder and CEO of a private investment firm, talking with one of Singer’s employees who is planning to bring up his daughter’s grades by taking online classes in her name: “Just makes [sic] sure it gets done as quickly as possible.”

Here is John B. Wilson, the founder and CEO of a private-equity and real-estate-development firm, on getting his son into USC using a fake record of playing water polo: “Thanks again for making this happen!” And, “What are the options for the payment? Can we make it for consulting or whatever … so that I can pay it from the corporate account?” He can. “Awesome!”

Here is Douglas Hodge, the former CEO of a large investment-management company, learning from Singer that his son will be admitted to USC via a bribery scheme, and that it’s time to send a check: “Fanstatic [sic]!! Will do.”
posted by Monochrome at 12:32 PM on April 5 [5 favorites]


But think about the kinds of jobs that the indicted parents held. Four of them worked in private equity, a fifth in the field of “investments,” others in real-estate development and the most senior management of huge corporations.
They do seem to have taken the bribery pretty lightly, which makes me wonder what other things are regularly gamed.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:37 AM on April 6 [2 favorites]


Boston Globe: He bought the fencing coach’s house. Then his son got into Harvard

He bought it for a trumped-up price …
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:55 AM on April 6


That story is genuinely perplexing, because it really doesn't sound like the kid needed a bribe to get him into Harvard. He's a multiple legacy with near-perfect grades and near-perfect SAT scores who graduated from St. Alban's, one of the fanciest prep schools in the country and an absolute feeder school for Harvard. He didn't need to be a recruited athlete to get into Harvard. I'm almost wondering if the bribe was to get him on the fencing team, not to get him into the school.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:03 AM on April 6 [4 favorites]


They do seem to have taken the bribery pretty lightly, which makes me wonder what other things are regularly gamed.

All of the things.
posted by amanda at 4:15 PM on April 6 [4 favorites]


from Broken Friendships, Family Fights and Prison Sentence Anguish: How Lori Loughlin Is Coping With Her New Normal (Sarah Grossbart, E News)
[...] Firm in her beliefs that surely she wouldn't see the inside of a prison cell, a source tells E! News, she neglected to join the 13 parents (including fellow actress Felicity Huffman) and one university athletic coach who agreed to plead guilty to the charges of mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

"She has been in complete denial and thought maybe she could skate by," the source explains. "She refused to accept any jail time and thought the DA was bluffing. She was adamant she wouldn't do any jail time."

[...] "Lori is finally realizing just how serious this is," says the source, noting the former child model is beating herself up for not accepting the initial deal. "She is seeing the light that she will do jail time and is freaking out."
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:57 PM on April 10


I wonder how much the hedgies and real estate tycoons are paying to keep the journalistic focus on the Hollywood perps. I can't imagine all of the stories are organic.
posted by rhizome at 6:37 PM on April 11 [6 favorites]


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