Stu­dents sue col­leges in bribery scan­dal

Centre Daily Times - - Front Page - BY SUDHIN THANAWALA AND MICHAEL MELIA

In the first law­suit to come out of the col­lege bribery scan­dal, sev­eral stu­dents are su­ing Yale, Ge­orge­town, Stan­ford and other schools in­volved in the case, say­ing they and oth­ers were de­nied a fair shot at ad­mis­sion.

The plain­tiffs brought the class-ac­tion com­plaint Wed­nes­day in fed­eral court in San Fran­cisco on be­half of them­selves and other ap­pli­cants and asked for un­spec­i­fied dam­ages.

They ar­gued that ap­pli­cants who played by the rules were vic­tim­ized when rich and fa­mous par­ents paid bribes that en­abled un­qual­i­fied stu­dents to get into highly se­lec­tive uni­ver­si­ties.

“Each of the uni­ver­si­ties took the stu­dents’ ad­mis­sion ap­pli­ca­tion fees while fail­ing to take ad­e­quate steps to en­sure that their ad­mis­sions process was fair and free of fraud, bribery, cheat­ing and dis­hon­esty,” the

law­suit said.

Le­gal ex­perts, though, said the stu­dents could have dif­fi­culty hold­ing the col­leges re­spon­si­ble.

The scan­dal erupted on Tues­day when fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors an­nounced charges against 50 peo­ple, in­clud­ing coaches and dozens of par­ents, among them TV ac­tresses Fe­lic­ity Huff­man and Lori Lough­lin. Pros­e­cu­tors said par­ents paid to rig stan­dard­ized ex­ams and bribed coaches to get their chil­dren des­ig­nated as re­cruited ath­letes in sports they didn’t even play, thereby boost­ing their chances of get­ting in.

The col­leges have cast them­selves as vic­tims and have moved to dis­tance them­selves from the coaches, fir­ing or sus­pend­ing them.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan with a tip from an ex­ec­u­tive un­der sus­pi­cion in a se­cu­ri­ties fraud probe, ac­cord­ing to a law en­force­ment of­fi­cial who was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the case and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

The ex­ec­u­tive told Bos­ton au­thor­i­ties that the women’s soc­cer coach at Yale of­fered to la­bel the ex­ec­u­tive’s daugh­ter a re­cruited ath­lete in ex­change for cash, the of­fi­cial said.

ALSO THURS­DAY

Phil Mick­el­son: Golfer Phil Mick­el­son says he might be “more shocked than any­one” to learn that a col­lege con­sult­ing com­pany he has used the last three years has been ac­cused of or­ches­trat­ing a mas­sive bribery scheme. He said he never con­trib­uted to Wil­liam “Rick” Singer’s foun­da­tion tied to his Cal­i­for­nia-based com­pany, Edge Col­lege & Ca­reer Net­work, but used the ser­vice to find the right fit for his chil­dren.

His old­est daugh­ter is now a sopho­more at Brown Univer­sity in Prov­i­dence, Rhode Is­land.

“We’re not part of this,” Mick­el­son said. “Most ev­ery fam­ily that has used his com­pany are not a part of it. That’s why I think we’re all so sur­prised.”

The golfer has not been charged with a crime or im­pli­cated in the bribery scan­dal.

A Brown Univer­sity spokesman says the Ivy League school has com­pleted “a case-by-case re­view” of its ath­letes, which “gen­er­ated zero con­cerns” re­lated to the col­lege ad­mis­sions scan­dal. Lough­lin and her daugh­ter: The Hall­mark Chan­nel cut ties with fa­vored star Lori Lough­lin, a day af­ter her ar­rest in a col­lege ad­mis­sions scam put the fam­ily-friendly net­work and ex­tended Hall­mark brand in un­com­fort­able prox­im­ity to a head­line­grab­bing scan­dal.

“We are sad­dened by the re­cent al­le­ga­tions sur­round­ing the col­lege ad­mis­sions process,” Hall­mark Cards Inc., par­ent com­pany of the Crown Me­dia Fam­ily Net­works um­brella group that in­cludes the Hall­mark Chan­nel, said in a state­ment.

Lough­lin’s ca­reer and the Hall­mark Chan­nel were deeply in­ter­twined. She’s been among its so-called “Christ­mas queens” who topline a slate of pop­u­lar hol­i­day movies, and also starred in the on­go­ing “Garage Sale Mys­ter­ies” movies and the se­ries “When Calls the Heart.”

Cos­met­ics com­pany Sephora says it’s drop­ping its so­cial-me­dia re­la­tion­ship with Lough­lin’s daugh­ter af­ter her par­ents were charged in a bribery scheme to get her into col­lege.

Paris-based Sephora says in a state­ment Thurs­day that af­ter re­view­ing the de­vel­op­ments, the com­pany has ended its part­ner­ship with 19-year-old Olivia Jade Gian­nulli “ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately.”

Univer­sity re­ac­tion: One of the in­sti­tu­tions be­ing sued, the Univer­sity of Texas at Austin, is­sued a state­ment say­ing that it is “out­raged” over the bribery scheme and that any wrong­do­ing at the school does not re­flect its ad­mis­sions prac­tices and was car­ried out by “one UT em­ployee.”

Other schools named in the law­suit were the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Los An­ge­les, Wake For­est Univer­sity and the Univer­sity of San Diego.

REED SAXON AP

Prospec­tive stu­dents and par­ents on Tues­day tour the cam­pus of the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia in Los An­ge­les. USC is one of many col­leges and com­pa­nies mov­ing swiftly to dis­tance them­selves from em­ploy­ees swept up in a na­tion­wide col­lege ad­mis­sions scheme.

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