Grandiose corruption scandal flared up in the system of secondary and higher education in the United States. As it turned out, several dozen wealthy and famous Americans paid scammers tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy their children a college place. During the operation "Varsity Blues" (borrowed the name from a 1999 student melodrama), investigators, using wiretapping, uncovered a corruption scheme created in 2011 by a certain Rick Singer: he collected money from wealthy parents, some of which he used to bribe, falsify exam results SAT (Standard Test for American College Admissions) and the creation of fake sports profiles that could also secure college admission. Interest in the case was fueled by the participation of Hollywood celebrities, and commentators asked how fair the society is, where privileges are given to wealthy parents and their "spoiled children", some of whom are not even going to study.
Dozens of people are suspected of involvement in the corruption scheme, but the focus of the media covering the scandal was two of the most famous figurants - actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. Huffman, best known for her role in Desperate Housewives, is accused of paying fifteen thousand dollars to rig her eldest daughter's exam results. It is also reported that she and her husband, actor William Macy (nominated for an Oscar for his role in the movie Fargo), were going to send their youngest daughter to college in the same way, but then for some reason abandoned the idea. Macy was not charged - according to one version, precisely because the investigation established his involvement only in the second, failed bribery attempt. Huffman fully admitted her guilt: apparently, she made a deal with the prosecutors to reduce her impending prison term from one and a half to two years to four months. In addition to her, about a dozen more defendants pleaded guilty.
Lori Loughlin (sitcom Full House) and her husband, sportswear designer Mossimo Giannulli, were among those who did not agree to the deal and could now receive up to twenty years in prison. Immediately after the confession made by Huffman, he and fourteen other defendants in the case were additionally charged with money laundering. According to investigators, Laughlin and Giannulli paid a total of half a million dollars to put both of their daughters in college. Remarkably, the eldest of them, Olivia Jade, a nineteen-year-old beauty blogger with almost two million followers on social networks, openly admitted that she had no interest in studying at the college where she was enrolled: “I don’t know how often I will go … I'll talk to my deans and everyone else and try to balance it all somehow. But I want to hang out and have fun … you know I don’t care about school.” (Jade later apologized for the "super-ignorant and stupid" statement.)
Although most of the headlines dealing with the exam scandal are in one way or another devoted to Laughlin, Huffman, their husbands and children, Operation Student Team would surely have resonated without their participation. This is indeed an outstanding case, in which both the details of the organization of the corruption scheme and the reaction that followed after its participants were publicly indicted are of interest.
The current scandal seriously undermines the credibility
as prestigious universities
and colleges, and the education system as a whole
Rick Singer and his unnamed assistants falsified the results of exams in several ways: in some cases they bribed teachers, in others they sent people to write a test posing as schoolchildren, whose parents agreed to pay money for admission guarantees. In some places, it reached the point of absurdity: while creating fake sports portfolios, the scammers photographed the faces of students on the pictures of other athletes, and in at least one case, they asked the mother to provide a sample of her son's handwriting in addition to bribe money (“His handwriting is not good,” the woman said.)
The scheme, created by Singer, operated for several years, and when it finally became known in March of this year, under suspicion of cheating were, in fact, all wealthy people, whose children over the years were enrolled in universities that appear in the case - for example, University of Southern California, where Lori Laughlin's daughters went. Trying to shield his daughter Truly from unfair accusations, hip-hop producer and one of the richest men in American show business Dr. Dre posted on Instagram a photo with the caption “I entered the UYUK itself”. The proud father was immediately reminded that in 2013 he and his business partner Jimmy Iovine made a generous donation to the university ($ 70 million to open an arts academy for gifted students), after which Dre removed his post.
The current scandal is seriously undermining the credibility of both prestigious universities and colleges and the education system as a whole. The fact that, with money and connections, you can “buy a future” for your children was hardly a surprise for Americans - rather, they were outraged by how easy it was to do it. At the same time, along with anger directed against privileged wealthy people, there are also sympathetic reactions from the series "I feel sorry for the children." Some commentators point out that children are not to blame for being born with privileges - and often they are not even in a hurry to use them. The same Felicity Huffman claims that her eldest daughter did not know anything about bribes, and this is probably true of many young people who were involved in a scandal against their will (for example, the son of a mother who borrowed a sample of his handwriting).
One of the most disappointing results of the investigation is how weak immunity to corruption and nepotism turned out to be in the elite education system - in such a situation, even the most honest children and parents are unwittingly under suspicion.