Operation Varsity Blue

Unless you’ve given up television for Lent, you’ve no doubt heard about the elite parents who allegedly conspired to get their kids into elite universities. Some schools are Ivy League, but not all were. They used a man who ran college prep center to game the college entrance tests and create fraudulent athletic histories to

This story and the one on people who allegedly got international students visas through the fraud of having imposters take the TOEFL English proficiency test. Neither story really surprises me, but nonetheless when corruption is revealed as fact, and your worst fears are exposed, I feel disgust.

When I taught in South Korea, an English professor gave his friend the questions for our school’s entrance exam. After this came to light, both men were arrested and jailed. The Ministry of Education (MOE) had contacted the university president had been told that there was cheating at our school, the president said that was impossible and didn’t help much with the investigation. Because the claim was proved, the president felt guilty for not believing the MOE and he resigned. I didn’t think the president should have resigned, but I was impressed with his sense of honor. I doubt that will happen with this case.

The stars involved are getting a lot of negative attention, which is part of the price for their crime, yet there are other millionaires who did worse. As many as 750 parents and coaches are part of this.

I hope most see the evidence and realize the right thing to do is to plead guilty and hope for mercy. It’s hard to say what a fit punishment should be, but we aspire to compete on a level playing field and these folks sought out an easier route.

It’s a shame. Some kids aren’t suited for a competitive college. If these kids needed to cheat to get in, how would they be able to stay in without cheating? College itself is stressful, so the stress of applying is no excuse to cheat. There is no excuse to cheat. There are other schools that would take these kids based on their own efforts and achievements. There’s no reason to Photoshop an applicant’s face on to the body of an athlete. How low would you go? Did the students see these fraudulent documents upload on their application? To what extent were the kids in on this?

The truth will out and it has. I hope colleges clean house now.

Operation Varsity Blue also reminded me of the discovery of rampant cheating that was reported with the English proficiency test where I worked in China. A couple of us reported the students and the agency they used to get higher scores. One girl took the TOEFL test in July and got an average of 45 (an 80 was needed). She paid a service $3000 in August and got a 98. No one’s English improves that much in a few weeks.

I reported this to the testing company and to my school, but while we were told an investigation was conducted. None of the four students suffered any consequences. We had recordings of students talking to the shady company that procured the high test scores and sent them to various agencies and newspapers. No one was interested. I submitted the information again this morning. I hope this fraudulent service is shut down.

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