Operation Varsity Blues: the documentary that tackles the college admissions scandal through the casting and filming of wiretapped phone calls. And yet again, it is highlighted how the wealthy in America can always find ways to cheat the already broken system.
After failing as a basketball coach, Rick Singer shifted careers into college prep coaching for the richest 1 percent. Singer promised a “side-door” entrance into the most prestigious schools, a route that involves parents getting their kids into a university for under $1 million. This technique involved fraud, creating fake backgrounds for applicants, and paying an expert to take standardized tests. These wealthy parents would donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to Singer to bribe university administrators. Between 2011 and 2018, Singer had received more than $25 million from parents. It all comes back to having money in America and access to certain spaces that others don’t.
The points that I loved throughout the documentary were regarding how higher education has changed over the years; as they say, “Something you purchase. A product.” The college you go to has now become a symbol of status. Therefore, when these wealthy families get their kids into prestigious schools, their status increases even more. Ivy Leagues have been considered the “best” based on one category: prestige, not even academics.
Since the 80’s, universities have been given public ranks. The more selective schools get, the higher the rank they receive. The “selectiveness” favors the white and rich. One of the preferences is for students who play niche sports, hence why Singer framed these students to be on teams such as for sailing, water polo, and rowing. But also, these programs needed the influx of cash more than anything else. The only defendant that was willing to speak in the documentary was the rowing coach of USC, John Vandemoer. He was open about funneling Singer’s multiple donations into the program.
The most shocking part is how casual this all was. The conversations that are reenacted take place in the parents’ exotic backgrounds, over the phone, not to mention. It was casual for these parents to donate six figures to a school because they are worth millions of dollars. Furthermore, it was casual to photoshop their own kids into pictures to make them look as if they actually row or play water polo. It was all almost so casual that everyone in this scandal was imprisoned for at most five months and at least 14 days.
After watching it all, I try to put most of the blame on these colleges that have created this system full of loopholes for families of privilege. But this all says a lot about people with wealth: their willingness and ability to go to these lengths and risk everything, just to get their kids into “elite institutions.”