How far would you really go for your child? ‘Full House’s Aunt Becky and a former Desperate Housewife lied and cheated for the sake of their children. It’s all over the news. Hollywood actresses Lori Loughlin (formerly Aunt Becky in sitcom ‘Full House’) and Felicity Huffman of ‘Desperate Housewives’ fame are among at least 50 people charged in a $25 million college entrance cheating scheme. Movie stars and CEOs allegedly paid a college admission consultant to scam SAT and ACT results and bribed coaches to vouch for athletic credentials – in hopes of their students gaining admission to elite universities, regardless of achievement or ability. But while the media is buzzing about the indicted celebrities, the students impacted by the fraud will suffer the most.
Notably absent from media reports is any discussion about what could happen to the students who were admitted to colleges and universities based upon fabricated credentials. Let’s be honest – no one feels sorry for the wealthy celebrities who apparently thought the rules didn’t apply to them. But we need to consider the impact their poor choices could have on their children’s lives. No one is asserting that the students are innocent. After all, these students are old enough to know right from wrong and make independent choices. But we all know teenagers don’t always predict consequences, especially when led by their parents down a deceitful path. As lawyers who defend students nationwide on various misconduct matters, we anticipate that those students are not just collateral damage to this fraud, but that they too will suffer greatly as a result of lies told.
Colleges and universities all have codes of conduct that demand academic integrity—as they should. Given the breadth of most schools’ policies, institutions impacted by this fraud will likely initiate disciplinary proceedings against students admitted based on fabricated credentials. Students may face revocation of their college acceptance or even expulsion.
What does this mean for future academic opportunities? An expulsion is noted on a student’s transcript, and transferring to another institution will be challenging, if not impossible. At a minimum, these students will have to accept the consequences for their part in the fraud sanctioned by their parents. Selective institutions will not be swayed by past pedigree—forcing students to enter an open admissions institution.
These students will not be able to retain any scholarships or other positions of leadership. Indeed, all prior notations of awards or acceptances into scholar’s programs will also be revoked. For those students who are athletes, they will be removed from teams. Further, Greek organizations that accepted these students as pledges or active members of fraternities or sororities may also consider de-pledging or deactivating those students.
The fallout stemming from competitive parents’ desire for their children to attend the best school possible will affect entire futures. Students who could have been on a bright path will have to answer to this fraud for years to come. Even future employers who learn about this public scandal will question the credibility of these students. No doubt, even names will be released on social media and reputations ruined.
And what about legal consequences? “There can be no separate college admission for wealthy,” said U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling in a press conference Tuesday. “And I will add there will not be a separate criminal justice system either.” We don’t foresee there being any objection to those strong words; again, no one feels bad for the parents who allegedly tried to cheat the system with their wealth. However, while the media may be forgetting about their children, we’re certainly not. They could be facing serious legal consequences. Those over 18 could be prosecuted because of their parent’s actions. Sadly, this is a case of the apples rotting with the tree.
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