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‘Operation Varsity Blues’: Do cheaters ever win?

Why people are still furious with celebrities like Lori Loughlin, Olivia Jade, and Felicity Huffman for their participation in ‘Operation Varsity Blues.’

Netflix/Ringer illustration

Although the college admissions scandal emerged and exploded across our television and iPhone screens back in March of 2019, the latest Netflix documentary “Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal” seems to have picked at old wounds. People are livid, and after a year of such hardship and increasingly apparent inequality and injustice, how could you not be?

The documentary was released to the platform on March 17, and a tidal wave of emotion followed. The film put the scandal in the framework of our reality. It’s not just a headline, it is a real demonstration and exploitation of wealth and privilege in America.

Rick Singer, the mastermind of the scheme, funneled millions of dollars into some of the most competitive schools in America in order to get his clients’ children admitted. Not only did coaches and admissions counselors accept bribes, but they willingly went along with Singer and his wealthy clients in posing their children as athletic recruits. Singer’s clients ranged from lawyers, CEO’s, Wall Street titans, and celebrities—some of the most well-known being Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, and Felicity Huffman. (I know what you’re thinking, what the hell, Aunt Becky?!)

The documentary explains how the college system in American is very much rooted in the notion of ‘prestige’ and exclusivity. There are thousands of colleges and universities you could get a solid education at, but it is the status it grants, that people would do anything for.

A college education is a privilege and an honor for many young adults in America, and this scheme treats it like a hot commodity that you can scheme and cheat to acquire. The admissions process is already laced with inequality, putting wealthier students at an advantage.

WARNING: I’m going to say six letters that may send shivers down your spine, if you are now out of high school—the SAT and the ACT. Students struggle to get a competitive score on these standardized tests that most colleges require in order for admission. There are fees to take the test and have your score sent to schools you are applying to, but another expensive advantage is test preparation. Test-prep companies bank thousands of dollars off students aching to up their score to get into their dream schools.

While there are thousands of students in America who are working to pay for a tutor or test prep books and students from families who cannot afford to spend the extra grand, Singer’s operation allowed his clients to simply buy the score of their liking.

Though the individuals involved in the scandal were played by look-alike actors, most of the conversations in the documentary were pulled from real-life FBI transcripts. The FBI wiretapped Singer and were able to connect the dots between all of the wealthy, well-known individuals he was conspiring with.

Loughlin and Giannulli’s daughter, Olivia Jade, cheated acceptance into University of Southern California and is inarguably the most well-known of the scheme. Prior to the emergence of the scandal, Olivia Jade maintained a strong social media presence and platform. In a handful of her vlogs, she complains about how much she loathes school. And in a clip featured in the documentary, Olivia even shared with a friend, “I told my Mom, I wanted to quit [high school]. She said, ‘that’s not happening.’ And so she made me stick it out, and then my Dad made me go to college.”

While complaining about school and even wanting to give up is not the most outrageous teenage conviction, Olivia’s words came back to bite her in the aftermath of the scandal, and only fanned flames. People felt less sympathy for her because of what little value she seemed to give college and her opportunity.

What seems to anger people the most is these families were all in, and remain in wealthy, privileged positions today. They had the money and the resources to help their children get in on their own, yet they still chose to cheat. The children of these wealthy families most likely do not need a college degree to succeed in life. The degree is more of an accessory than a necessity.

Though the culprits face immense backlash and humiliation, their 2 week sentences and hundred thousand dollar fines will be paid, and they will return to their mansions and cars. The degree now an unachieved accessory and nothing more.

There is no justice, and the institution of higher education is tainted. The scandal gave us a glimpse behind the curtain of the inner workings of the wealthy elite.

The cheaters may not have won, but they most certainly did not lose.


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