This White People College Cheating Scam Is the Perfect Example of Why We Need Affirmative Action

Lori Loughlin, left, and actress Felicity Huffman (r) are among at least 40 people indicted in a sweeping college admissions bribery scandal. Both were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud in indictments unsealed Tuesday in federal court in Boston.
Photo: AP Photo

Whenever people try to tell me that affirmative action admissions policies give black people (and by extension other nonblack people of color) an unfair advantage, I always have to remind them that the deck is stacked against us in the first place. White privilege, systemic and institutionalized racism and nepotism are some of the biggest advantages that white students have when applying for college.

And, apparently, when those don’t work, their parents will just spend a lot of money to flat out cheat the system.

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And so it is that actresses Lori Loughlin (Aunt Becky from Full(er) House) and Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives, Transamerica) are among the at least 50 people who have been charged in a college entrance cheating scandal, according to NBC News.

An FBI investigation, code named Operation Varsity Blues, uncovered the $25 million scam involved parents spending thousands of dollars to boost their children’s chances of being accepted into top-tier schools, including Yale and Stanford, by paying people to take college entrance exams on their children’s behalf, bribing exam administrators to allow the cheating to happen, and bribing college administrators and athletic coaches to identify applicants as recruited athletes—despite their (non)athletic abilities.

Both Huffman and Loughlin are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud.

A total of 50 people, including 33 parents and 9 college coaches, are charged in the plot that involves students who were seeking admission to schools such as Georgetown University, Stanford University, UCLA, the University of San Diego, USC, University of Texas, Wake Forest, and Yale.

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William Rick Singer, the founder of a for-profit college preparation business based in Newport Beach, Calif., is said to be the mastermind of the scheme. Parents allegedly paid him between $15,000 and $75,000 per test for someone to either take the SAT or ACT on behalf of their children or to change their child’s incorrect answers after the student had already taken the test.

Additionally, parents reportedly paid Singer to bribe college coaches and administrators to designate their children as student athletes or “other favored admissions categories,” according to court documents.

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The colleges themselves are not targets of the investigation, and aside from the named college coaches, the schools had no part in the scam.

Loughlin allegedly paid $500,000 to have her two daughters designated as recruits for the crew team in order to gain admission to USC, according to MSNBC, while Huffman is alleged to have spent $15,000 to have her daughter’s incorrect answers changed on the SAT. Huffman is on a recording the FBI has with a cooperating witness discussing the alleged scheme.

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“We believe everyone charged here today had a role in fostering a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for students trying to get into these schools the right way through hard work, good grades and community service,” John Bonavolonta, FBI special agent in charge, told NBC News

“Following 10 months of investigation using sophisticated techniques, the FBI uncovered what we believe to be a rigged system,” Bonavolonta said, “robbing students all over the country of their right to a fair shot of getting into some of the most elite universities in this country.”

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And that is the crux of it.

All affirmative action does is level the playing field so everyone has a shot.

What these parents are accused of doing is paying to give their children a leg up above everyone else—a leg up they didn’t deserve—so they could gain admission to the school of their choice.

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Because this is how privilege works. This is how white privilege works.

They see something they want, and they believe that someone else shouldn’t have it, so they do whatever they have to do to make sure they get it—even if that means cheating other more well-deserving candidates out of the way.

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Shame on everyone involved in this.

And shame on anyone who still thinks affirmative action is unnecessary.

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About the author

Monique Judge

News Editor for The Root. I said what I said. Period.