What Will Happen to Aunt Becky? The College Admissions Scandal Continues
It has been one of the biggest shocks of the year: Lori Loughlin, who is affectionately known as Aunt Becky from Full House, may be facing a 20-year jail sentence. According to the Justice Department, Loughlin will have to prove her innocence against the charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, honest services mail and wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. All the charges were due to the Varsity Blues college bribery scandal uncovered by the FBI. The conspiracy consisted of wealthy parents faking their children’s participation in athletic programs, arranging for unwarranted extra time on the SAT, correcting SAT answers, and making “donations” to a fake foundation as payment for the unlawful services. These, and many other outlandish plans, were concocted in an attempt to get their children accepted to top-tier schools such as Stanford, Yale, and the University of Southern California (USC).
While it is technically legal to be admitted to universities as a result of family donations or through familial connections, the mastermind behind everything, William “Rick” Singer, found a loophole within the system to guarantee wealthy children a spot at the best schools in the country. Singer has cooperated with the FBI, leading to the exposure of more participants; 51 indictments were made by federal prosecutors. At this point, 33 people have pled guilty and admitted their wrongdoings.
Well-known actress Lori Loughlin, as well as her husband Mossimo Giannulli of the Mossimo fashion brand, have specifically been charged for falsifying that their two daughters were on the rowing team in high school and claiming that the girls planned to participate in the college’s club once admitted. They submitted fake photos of their children posing on a rowing machine and “donated” over $500,000 to Singer for the admission of their children into USC. Their daughter, Olivia Jade Giannulli, used her status as a college student and influencer to post paid sponsorships from Amazon, Sephora, and TRESemmé on Instagram and Youtube. Sephora and TRESemmé have since dropped their sponsorship of Giannulli.
Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli have both pled not guilty, unlike many other parents who have admitted to their crimes. Loughlin and Giannulli are maintaining their innocence and reportedly plead not guilty in order to save their careers. Their lawyers’ alleged defense of the couple is a case of the “see no evil” tactic. This legal strategy is based on an old Japanese saying “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. The proverb is associated with the qualities of thinking, speaking, and acting in a positive manner. But in this legal case, it is used to imply that because the couple did not see evil, hear evil, nor speak evil in regards to their actions, they are innocent.
Another prominent actress involved in the scandal, Felicity Huffman, plead guilty to fraud charges that were less severe than Loughlin’s. On September 13th, Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison, one year of supervised release, and a fine of $30,000. Similarly, on September 24th, Los Angeles executive Devin Slone, who paid over $250,000 to admit his son to USC, was sentenced to 4 months in prison, 500 hours of community service, and a fine of $95,000.
The scandal and backlash did not seem to stop Loughlin’s children from continuing to attend parties. After all, according to Olivia Giannulli’s YouTube videos, partying was the only thing she was interested in doing at USC. Shortly after the scandal broke, the sisters were seen enjoying themselves in LA and Mykonos with their friends. While they themselves were silent for a while on social media, their famous friends posted photos showing them living it up on their lavish vacation across the Greek Isles. Once they returned to the digital world, the scandal didn’t seem to stop Bella and Olivia Giannulli from posting photos of their, frankly, privileged lives. Olivia Jade even went as far as to flip off news sources such as Daily Mail and People for their reports. The now-deleted photo was captioned, “@dailymail @starmagazine @people @perezhilton @everyothermediaoutlet #close #source #says.” Many of their famous friends from Instagram commented, “Go off queen” and “Yasss” in response to her displeasure towards all of the negative press. Only 3 days later, following news of Felicity Huffman’s conviction, Olivia deleted the Instagram post.
Numerous people have deemed the scandal a case of white privilege and a perfect example of the unjust nature of the modern day college admissions process. Loughlin and Giannulli were some of the defendants named in a class-action suit by Stanford graduate students for lessening the value of their education by the university’s association with the scandal. Overall, it has given many people a chance to reevaluate the college system. While plenty previously considered the system to be skewed and unfair, few would have guessed that it was possible to be accepted to colleges based on false SAT scores and fake athletics program participation.
A poll was conducted that surveyed 46 current college students from USC, Ivy League colleges, state schools, and private schools. 75.1% of participants believed that the parents involved are guilty, and 23.9% said that they could not determine who is guilty with 100% certainty. However, only 50% said that parents should face jail time for their actions; 30.4% said they shouldn’t face jail time and 19.6% said they were not sure if they should be given jail time or not.
After watching a YouTube video in which Olivia Giannulli said that she wouldn’t be attending classes regularly because she doesn’t care about school and can fall back on her career as an influencer, 62.2% of people believed that she is privileged but should not be blamed for her parent’s actions. When asked to give their personal opinions on Olivia Giannulli before watching the video, almost half of those polled had no opinion on the situation, no idea who Giannulli was and no idea what her parents were going to court for.
39.1% of respondents said that they never applied to any “top-tier” schools, 23.9% said that they don’t attend an Ivy League but believe they could have gotten into one, and 19.6% said that they feel indifferent about the scandal.
According to USA Today, Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli are scheduled to appear in court in 2020. There, they will have to convince the judge and jury of their innocence. The trial will show how our justice system views the admissions process—the case will set precedent for future hearings involving collegiate admission and determine whether or not the Giannulli family will face punishment for their actions.
Needless to say, America is eager to see how this case will be closed.
Thumbnail image source: Variety