In March, federal prosecutors announced criminal charges in connection with the nation’s largest-ever college admissions prosecution. The federal investigation, called “Operation Varsity Blues,” involved 200 agents and resulted in charges against 50 people in six states. Those charged include wealthy parents, athletic directors, college coaches, and test administrators. This investigation and resulting prosecution directly calls into question the integrity of the admission processes at competitive educational institutions, in addition to raising concern about fraudulent test scores and the ability of wealthy parents to use bribes disguised as charitable contributions to secure their child’s acceptance into elite institutions.
Among the allegations are claims that parents conspired to bribe varsity coaches and administrators at elite universities to designate applicants as recruited athletes, thereby facilitating the applicants’ admission to those universities. As part of the scheme, parents assisted in creating fabricated athletic profiles that provided the basis for preferential admission. In other instances, parents worked with an outside consultant to falsify test scores to enhance students’ admission profiles.
In the wake of these criminal charges, two Stanford University students have filed a federal lawsuit in the Northern District of California seeking class-action status against some of the same universities. The students claim that the schools represented that their admission process would be based on the applicants’ merits, when, instead, they received an admissions process that was “warped and rigged by fraud.” The students seek approximately $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Olsen v. Stanford University, et. al., 3:10-cv-01351, see page 16 (N.D. Cal. filed March 13, 2019).
Moving forward, there are a number of proactive steps that colleges and independent schools should consider to safeguard against potential risks or vulnerabilities that have come to light as a result of the Varsity Blues investigation. Continue Reading