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College Cheating Scam and White Privilege

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

Felicity Huffman – Creative Commons

The largest college cheating admissions scam was announced today by the U.S. attorney’s office in Massachusetts with over 50 persons being charged including actress Felicity Huffman, college coaches, SAT administrators, exam proctors and 33 parents.  Parents involved paid upwards of over $6.5 million for their children to be admitted to various elite schools including Yale, Georgetown, Wake Forest and others.  It was the ultimate example of wealth and privilege being used to secure the futures of the teens involved.  The end result is what many minorities and persons of color expected for a long time.  The system is rigged in  terms of wealth and privilege.

Every parent should teach their children to refrain from lying, cheating and stealing. When the parents lie, cheat and steal for their children to gain admission to prestigious U.S. schools with or without the child’s knowledge, it shows what many persons of color have already suspected all along—that some white privileged children gain an undue and undeserved advantage in college admissions.

Many African American students who have attended/graduated from a prestigious college or university, from President Obama down to myself are often faced with the obvious question/sneer or look from many whites that they took the seat of a qualified white student—due to lower admission standards or grades—or through affirmative action. Trump even demanded that Pres. Obama provide his college transcript and test scores to show his worthiness to attend Harvard.  Meanwhile, Trump, a likely mediocre student himself allowed his fixer Michael Cohen to threaten universities from releasing Trump’s grades or scores. The hypocrisy of white privilege often astounds me.

While many minorities have often suspected that some white students with inferior grades or test scores could somehow gain entrance to many prestigious colleges, it was not exactly understood how the process worked—before today’s case.  It is suspected that the rigged system has been going on for at least a decade. That is likely an understatement. Actress Felicity Huffman and these white parents of privilege, access and money had every available means and income to hire the very  best tutors, best study materials and courses and best private middle schools for their children but chose to take the easy way out and buy their child’s way into college—up to $6.5 million a pop.

From the President lying every day for his own advantage to these wealthy white parents lying to advance their child’s education cause, we have to wonder if we as a society have lost our moral compass  and sense of decency. The fact that college personnel, SAT administrators, proctors and college coaches contributed to the scheme is all the more telling that wealth and white privilege works—until you get caught. Everyone was in on the deal at all levels.

No matter what, the hypocrisy of the situation is not lost on minority students and people of color—blaming children of color for taking a white child’s seat due to inferior grades/scores when in this case, it was the mediocre white students who took the seat of a well-deserving student—and perhaps many students of color over a period of years. Those students who knew of the scheme and participated must be charged as well – to right the wrong.  A student who has someone else take  a test on his or her behalf knows they are cheating. A student with no athletic skills knows when a fake profile is used to show his athletic skills.

I suspect this case is just the tipping of the iceberg with others to come and be charged.  Lives have forever been changed in the process. I speak of those deserving students who were denied admission at the colleges of their choice because their parents had no money to pay to play.


Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former prosecutor. She often appears in the media as a legal analyst.





States Seek to Strengthen Rape Reporting on College Campuses

Friday, January 30th, 2015

supcourt_buildingLaws to strengthen reporting of sexual assaults on college campuses are being considered in several states.  So far, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island have introduced bills which would require in some instances that police be notified of campus rapes and sexual assaults. Virginia’s bill HB 1343 would require that once a victim reports a sexual assault to campus or local law enforcement that the local Commonwealth’s Attorney be notified in 48 hours of the incident.  The bill, according to those in support of it, has everything to do with ensuring tighter collaboration between sexual assault victims on colleges, college security, police and prosecutors.


On many college campuses in Virginia and elsewhere in the U.S., often times, sexual assaults are not reported to the police by the victim or campus police. A report by the Department of Justice found that  of  college rape and sexual assault  cases only 20% of students  report rapes and sexual assaults to the police.  Without police intervention, these cases are not properly investigated. More importantly, victims do not often receive the support that a victim /witness unit in the prosecutor’s office can offer with options about going forward with the case, counseling and education about the process.


Morgan Harrington’s parents, founders of Help Save the Next Girl, wrote to the Virginia legislature in support of HB 1343.  Their daughter, Morgan Harrington, a 2009 Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, went to a concert and never came home.  Her remains were found over 3 months later.  VA Chairman Albo has said that this “bill ensures that allegations of sexual assaults on college campuses will receive the same level of attention by police and prosecutors that off campus sexual assaults receive. This bill strengthens our justice system and encourages collaboration between victims, college staff, police and prosecutors.”


In New York, the bill proposes that victims be told by campus police that they have the right to report to police.  But campus police will not be required to report the cases to the police.  Rhode Island’s bill  is like Virginia,  and contemplates  that the local police are better equipped to handle a rape or sexual assault case than campus police. Rhode Island’s bill proposes that any reports of sexual assaults on campus be referred to local police. New Jersey’s law also requires that colleges report to law enforcement.


And like everything in the law, there is a double edged sword or two sided coin. Some victims are saying that the police are not equipped to handle campus sexual assaults.   The other side of the coin is that oftentimes the prosecutors with police investigation do not take rape or sexual assault cases.  And many students may  not want to report a sexual assault knowing that the local police will be involved. Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, a Columbia University senior with the sexual assault activist group No Red Tape,  stated:

“If a survivor comes forward and says, ‘Hey I need help, I want to get this guy out of my classes,’ that’s very different from saying, ‘I want to involve myself in a lengthy arduous legal process'”

Many survivor groups do not want to see police being responsible for handing all campus rapes and sexual assault cases.  And college victims should have a say over whether they want police involved.   The laws  may in reality cause less victims on college campuses to report sexual assaults and rapes—knowing that they might be subjected to the rigors of the criminal justice system.   Those in support of the full reporting bills say that rape is rape regardless of where it takes place.  And rape is a crime that should be prosecuted. If only, it were as easy as it sounds.   While there is no distinction between a rape on college campuses and other locations, the goals should be about how best to help the victim.  And perhaps college victims should be the ones to decide if they want to involve local law enforcement instead of being forced to have their cases reported to police.  Hopefully these states looking to change reporting on college campuses will hear from victims and victim rights groups to weigh both sides of the coin.