The court system is ably handling the parents involved in Operation Varsity Blues and the man behind the scam to influence college admissions decisions at some prestigious American universities.
It’s now time to stop talking about those who’ve allegedly committed the crimes and start thinking about all those who’ve been negatively impacted by their actions.
Each day, for weeks, we’ve seen images of celebrities Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman and alleged scheme mastermind William Singer on the news, on their way to the courthouse to be charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Yet, they are just a few of more than 30 parents charged with such a deceptive and dishonest act.
Operation Varsity Blues, according to federal prosecutors, involved bribing university entrance exam administrators to aid in cheating, bribing college coaches to recruit unqualified students in order to move them more quickly through the application process and using a charitable organization to hide the money paid in the bribes.
Some parents allegedly paid money to have their children’s exam results corrected. Some allegedly had their children diagnosed with a learning disability to get additional testing time, a separate testing venue and, of course, a paid-off proctor.
Some allegedly paid to have their children illegitimately recruited for tennis, soccer and basketball teams to increase the odds of, or guarantee, acceptance. Loughlin allegedly went so far as to Photoshop her daughters’ faces on photos of actual female rowers in her quest to have them placed on the crew team and college class rosters.
Many of their children didn’t know these deceptive measures were taking place. At least one has spoken in outrage at having been one of them.
But many of them did know and sadly learned a lesson most parents would frown upon — that you don’t really have to work hard at all to reach your goals; instead, you can let your checkbook handle the hurdles for you.
CNN reported on a husband-and-wife team who allegedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their two daughters into college. Their daughters knew of the plan. The test proctor, who had been paid to participate in the scam and give answers during the exams, “gloated” with the girls and their mother “about the fact that they had cheated and gotten away with it.”
But what exactly did they get away with? What if they truly weren’t qualified to attend that school of their dreams? Wouldn’t that force them to work harder than others who were rightfully accepted? Wouldn’t that extra work make them miserable? Wouldn’t that just be karma?
But how unfair for those children who didn’t know of their parents’ actions, who didn’t know they weren’t qualified but were accepted nonetheless. How unfair that they’d have to work that much harder to stay on track with their peers. How unfair that they’d be miserable at the school of their dreams.
As parents, we tend to underestimate our kids. We often unfairly focus on the aspects of their lives that need some work and are pleasantly surprised, impressed — and proud — when acquaintances tell us of our children’s abilities to be great friends, co-workers and leaders.
Last week, I participated in a career fair at Whitehall High School and was so impressed by the students’ attentiveness, intelligence and respectfulness. And I wondered how they would feel if their parents didn’t believe in their ability and attempted to rig the college system.
The parents involved in Operation Varsity Blues might have believed they were thinking of their children by helping them reach their goals. But really, they weren’t helping them at all. Instead, many of those children now likely believe their parents had little faith in their abilities to achieve their own greatness.