What’s next for stu­dents in mid­dle of cheat­ing scan­dal?

The Mercury News - - Front Page - By John Wool­folk jwool­[email protected]­yare­anews­group.com

When Marin County in­vestor Todd Blake touted his daugh­ter’s ad­mis­sion to USC on so­cial me­dia a year ago, she ap­parently had no clue he’d al­legedly paid $250,000 to cheat her way into the elite school as a phony vol­ley­ball re­cruit.

So should she and other stu­dents like her caught up in a mas­sive na­tion­wide univer­sity ad­mis­sions cheat­ing scan­dal be pun­ished?

That was among the burn­ing ques­tions Wed­nes­day, a day af­ter bomb­shell news broke of the case that im­pli­cated dozens of wealthy par­ents in the Bay Area and be­yond.

Of­fi­cials at many of the uni­ver­si­ties tar­geted by the fraud said Wed­nes­day they were re­view­ing stu­dents cases in­di­vid­u­ally, and at least one school, USC, said it would deny any cur­rent ap­pli­cants tied to the scheme.

Prose­cu­tors al­lege the par­ents paid an in­ter­me­di­ary, Wil­liam Rick Singer, to fraud­u­lently im­prove their kids’ scores on stan­dard­ized tests and to bribe coaches at elite uni­ver­si­ties to de­clare them as sports re­cruits in ex­change for gen­er­ous do­na­tions to their pro­grams.

For the grownups in­volved, jus­tice came down swiftly. Singer, who co­op­er­ated with in­ves­ti­ga­tors’ ef­forts to im­pli­cate his as­so­ci­ates and clients, pleaded guilty. So did a Stan­ford sail­ing coach who par­tic­i­pated in the scheme. He and other ac­cused coaches also were fired or sus­pended.

Many of the par­ents slapped with fed­eral charges are also suf-

fer­ing the con­se­quences in their pro­fes­sional lives.

Palo Alto hedge fund Her­cules Cap­i­tal an­nounced Wed­nes­day that Manuel Hen­riquez, charged along with his wife, has vol­un­tar­ily stepped aside as Chair­man and Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer. Bill McGlashan, a Bay Area pri­vate eq­uity in­vestor also charged, was put on leave from the TPG Growth fund.

But prose­cu­tors made a point of not charg­ing the kids, most of whom were said to have been un­aware of their par­ents al­leged schem­ing on their be­half.

Hen­riquez’ older daugh­ter, how­ever, al­legedly “gloated” with her mother and the guy ac­cused of help­ing her cheat on a stan­dard­ized test in Oc­to­ber 2015 “about the fact that they had cheated and got­ten away with it.”

She was ad­mit­ted to Ge­orge­town Univer­sity the fol­low­ing spring as a mem­ber of the ten­nis team de­spite unim­pres­sive ath­letic

cre­den­tials, court doc­u­ments said.

Uni­ver­si­ties now face hard choices in how to deal with stu­dents ad­mit­ted through the cheat­ing scheme Singer called a “side door” amid na­tional out­rage from par­ents and stu­dents fret­ting over their chances of le­git­i­mately get­ting ac­cepted through a top school’s “front door.”

At Ge­orge­town Univer­sity, me­dia re­la­tions man­ager Matt Hill would only say Wed­nes­day that “we’re re­view­ing the de­tails of the in­dict­ment and will be tak­ing ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion.”

Don Hei­der, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Markkula Cen­ter for Ap­plied Ethics at Santa Clara Univer­sity, which was not im­pli­cated in the scan­dal, said Wed­nes­day that uni­ver­si­ties would likely ex­pel a stu­dent who know­ingly par­tic­i­pated. But it would be a tough call for those who were un­aware.

“If you have cred­i­ble ev­i­dence she had knowl­edge, you have to se­ri­ously think about ‘you fin­ish the year and that’s it, you need to

trans­fer to an­other univer­sity,’” Hei­der said. “If you don’t have cred­i­ble ev­i­dence, I’m not sure it’s eth­i­cal to pun­ish the stu­dent.”

It wasn’t clear if any stu­dents with bo­gus ap­pli­ca­tions de­tailed in the court doc­u­ments ended up at Bay Area schools.

While Stan­ford sail­ing coach John Van­de­moer pled guilty to promis­ing cov­eted ad­mis­sions spots to two stu­dents in ex­change for more than $200,000 in pay­ments to the sail­ing pro­gram, the stu­dents at­tended other schools. Stan­ford pledged to re-di­rect the money it re­ceived in the scheme to an “en­tity un­af­fil­i­ated with Stan­ford,” but would not an­swer ques­tions Wed­nes­day about its plans.

At Wake For­est Univer­sity, a highly se­lec­tive pri­vate univer­sity in Win­ston-Salem, North Carolina, Pres­i­dent Nathan O. Hatch ad­dressed the is­sue in a note Wed­nes­day to stu­dents, fac­ulty and staff.

Hatch ac­knowl­edged that the daugh­ter of one of Singer’s clients who al­legedly paid a bribe to Wake For­est’s vol­ley­ball coach

“was ad­mit­ted and is cur­rently en­rolled,” but added that “we have no rea­son to believe the stu­dent was aware of the al­leged fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tion.”

Hatch said vol­ley­ball coach Bill Fer­gu­son has been placed on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave and an in­terim re­place­ment ap­pointed.

“Wake For­est is re­view­ing our prac­tices re­lated to ad­mis­sions and ath­let­ics to en­sure that we are in com­plete align­ment with our val­ues,” he wrote.

At UCLA, court doc­u­ments al­lege Singer ar­ranged for soc­cer coach Jorge Sal­cedo to re­cruit one of Singer’s clients in ex­change for a $100,000 con­tri­bu­tion to Sal­cedo’s sports market­ing com­pany.

UCLA said in a state­ment Wed­nes­day that Sal­cedo has been placed on leave and that the univer­sity “is not aware of any cur­rent stu­dent-ath­letes who are un­der sus­pi­cion.” But it also said that “all stu­dents ap­ply­ing to a UC cam­pus must sign a state­ment cer­ti­fy­ing the va­lid­ity and ac­cu­racy of all in­for­ma­tion re­lated to their ap­pli­ca­tion.”

“If UCLA dis­cov­ers that

any prospec­tive, ad­mit­ted or en­rolled stu­dent has mis­rep­re­sented any as­pect of his/her ap­pli­ca­tion, or that in­for­ma­tion about the ap­pli­cant has been with­held, UCLA may take a num­ber of dis­ci­plinary ac­tions, up to and in­clud­ing can­cel­la­tion of ad­mis­sion,” spokesman Ri­cardo Vazquez said Wed­nes­day.

Court pa­pers al­lege two USC soc­cer coaches des­ig­nated four Singer clients as team re­cruits in ex­change for a $350,000 pay­ment to their pri­vate soc­cer club, and a water polo coach named an­other client a re­cruit in ex­change for pri­vate school tu­ition pay­ments for the coach’s chil­dren. In ad­di­tion, a USC ad­min­is­tra­tor al­legedly re­ceived $20,000 a month to “fa­cil­i­tate the ad­mis­sion of sev­eral dozen stu­dents to USC as re­cruited ath­letes, even though many of those stu­dents had fab­ri­cated ath­letic cre­den­tials and some did not even play the sports.”

USC is where ac­tress Lori Lough­lin and her de­signer hus­band, Mos­simo Gian­nulli, were ac­cused of pay­ing $500,000 in bribes to have their two daugh­ters des­ig­nated crew team re­cruits to fa­cil­i­tate their ad­mis­sion, though they don’t par­tic­i­pate in the sport.

It’s not clear whether the sis­ters, Is­abella and Olivia Jade, were aware of the al­leged scam, though the younger daugh­ter was pho­tographed in an “ac­tion pic­ture” meant to bol­ster her cred­i­bil­ity as a crew coxswain.

“We will make in­formed, ap­pro­pri­ate de­ci­sions once those re­views have been com­pleted,” USC said in a state­ment Wed­nes­day.

Hei­der found it hard to believe the stu­dents wouldn’t know about their par­ents’ ef­forts on their be­half.

“I find it mind-bog­gling the stu­dents did not know more,” Hei­der said. “Maybe it’s pos­si­ble, but it seems like a very odd process where the stu­dent is not in­volved. What does that say about the stu­dents them­selves and how much re­spon­si­bil­ity they take for their ed­u­ca­tion?”

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