An attorney explains why she thinks the students involved in the college admissions scandal probably knew about it

2017 Teen Choice Awards - Arrivals - Los Angeles, California, U.S., 13/08/2017 - Actress Lori Loughlin with daughters Isabella Rose Giannulli (L) and Olivia Jade Giannulli (R). REUTERS/Mike Blake2017 Teen Choice Awards - Arrivals - Los AngelesReuters

  • Thirty-three parents were indicted for paying up to $6.5 million in bribes to get their children admitted into top colleges in the recent college admissions scandal.
  • Rick Singer, the alleged ringleader of the $25 million scam, claims the students involved did not know that their parents were negotiating behind closed doors to secure their admission. 
  • One attorney argues the students likely knew about the fraud, especially when it came to being recruited as an athlete for a sport they may never have even played. 

The wealth and fraud at display in the college-admissions controversy has stirred conversations about privilege and the flaws within the application process. Thirty-three parents have been indicted for paying to fabricate their children's credentials to bypass the college-admissions process. 

The backlash has been widespread, even prompting responses from the White House. Colleges have already started to take action against coaches and administrators. Accused parents have faced professional repercussions

However, aside from Sephora canceling its partnership with Olivia Jade Giannuli, the Instagram-famous daughter of Lori Loughlin - one of the parents accused in the scandal - there have been few updates about the repercussions the involved students have faced.

The accused ringleader of the $25 million scandal, Rick Singer, alleges that many of the students involved in the scandal were not aware of the measures their parents underwent to secure their admission.

Singer organized for students' exams to be corrected afterward or taken for them, court documents saidProsecutors also allege parents worked with Singer to create false, nonexistent athletic profiles, even going so far as to edit their kids' heads onto stock photos of athletes. 

The parents' alleged actions raise the question of whether the students themselves were complicit in the plot.

"The idea that [the students] would sort of miraculously get in and not think that they had some assistance, it just doesn't make any sense," said Midwin Charles, attorney and founder of the law firm Midwin Charles & Associates LLC, on a recent episode of Business Insider Today.

Some cases of the alleged fraud entailed parents or the coach securing students a spot on a sports team they never played. One private equity firm executive agreed to have his son pose as a prominent football player on his USC application, despite his school not having a football team, according to the criminal complaint. 

"If you've never rowed crew and all of a sudden you show up on a college campus and you're part of the crew team, something's up," Charles said. 

The criminal affidavit suggests one student knowingly cheated on the SAT in 2015, and that a proctor who fed exam answers to a student "gloated" with her and her mother, Elizabeth Henriquez, "about the fact that they cheated and gotten away with it."

The argument of whether these involved students deserve their spot at these schools echoes the debate over affirmative action. 

"What people fail to recognize is that affirmative action is an admission policy where they are allowed to consider the race of the person for purposes of diversity. But it doesn't mean that that person isn't also qualified," Charles said. "If you come across a person of color [in] a highly elite school or even job, trust and believe that that person of color is qualified for the job."

The outrage over the scandal can be attributed to the fact that privileged students already have an advantage in the admissions process, Charles said. The practice of legacy admissions has also faced criticism. Because a parent had the means to attend or donate money to a school, some argue legacies could be considered a form of affirmative action.

"People tend to forget there is affirmative action for wealthy students," Charles said. "You cannot get certain jobs without having a higher-education degree. The system is stacked in favor of those who can afford the tutor. Those students [invovled in the scheme] fell within that group, and yet their parents still chose to bypass that hard work and just cut a check."

To hear the full interview with attorney Midwin Charles and her opinion as to why the students in the college scandal probably knew about it, watch the full episode of Business Insider Today below. 


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