Imagine having enough money to send your child to an elite university, but choosing instead to bribe admissions officers to get your child into college illegally? That is the premise of the new Netflix documentary “Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal” which highlights the Varsity Blues scandal that was exposed in 2019.
Varsity Blues involved a guy named Rick Singer who took money from wealthy parents and used it to bribe academic and athletic directors at various schools. Those bribes allowed students from wealthy families to get into top universities on false backgrounds.
One of these students is Olive Jade, the daughter of actress Lori Loughlin, who was made to look like a rowing prospect even though she never rowed in her life. What’s crazier is that neither Jade nor any of the students who got in through Singer’s scams knew that they were entering college on false academic or athletic scholarships.
To fill in the parts of those involved in the scandal, there is a combination of interviews with people involved with the scandal. They include former Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer, along with actors portraying people like Singer.
This combination of storytelling techniques enhances the impact of how wide spread Singer’s operation was. From 2011 to 2018, he was able to get over 50 people involved — one of the largest racketeering operations the FBI has ever handled.
Everything a viewer would need to know about the scandal is covered, from Singer’s background as a basketball coach to the profiles of clients he managed to the schools involved in the scam, including Stanford and Yale.
The most vital piece of information I learned from this documentary was that the word “prestige” is based around the idea of illusion rather than something of quality. So many colleges base their identities not on how good the education or the environments are for students; rather they market themselves on how they are perceived.
What is critical to understand from “Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal” is that families like the ones featured in the movie have the privilege to send their children to elite schools without the need of additional help or corruption and yet they chose corruption.
This documentary exposes the toxic nature that the American elite have over high education and the lengths they will go through to obtain a false sense of royalty.
The phrase “truth is stranger than fiction” could not be better summarized than with this documentary, as it is hard to imagine a plot this complex taking place in real life. As of this writing, Singer has not been sentenced for any of the crimes he committed (although he is awaiting trial).
To the colleges involved in the scandal: I wonder why. Why would you sacrifice your reputation to please the children of wealthy parents who could otherwise get in without illegal bribery?