Operation Varsity Blues Fallout: How the College Admissions Scam Will Hurt All Students

Unless you’ve been on vacation or under a rock, you heard the story about a group of wealthy parents who paid a “college consulting service” and individual college representatives to secure spots for their children. Highlighting the absolute worst of “helicopter” and “lawnmowing” parenting, “Operation Varsity Blues” has put an intense scrutiny on how colleges and universities’ admissions offices operate. Unfortunately, this scrutiny will end up hurting all students, and schools, in the long run, and here’s why.

We’re going to use the the social media posts of Dr. Dre in explanation. Dr. Dre’s daughter recently got into USC, and the music mogul took to his Instagram account to post a celebratory picture, with a bit of a jab at fellow celebrity parents like Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.


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Would ya look at that. #CommentsByCelebs

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Tone Deaf Dre

The problem, and the reason he backtracked and deleted this post? In 2013, six years ago, Dr. Dre (real name, Andre Young), and Beats Electronics founder Jimmy Iovine donated $70 million to USC. The money funded the USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation.

According to CBS News, “The academy’s goal is to ‘nurture unbridled creativity’ in undergraduate students interested in the intersection of the arts and design; engineering and computer science; business management; and communication.”

The Academy itself has this to say about its students:

As innovators who are well prepared for an ever-changing global landscape, they are already capturing highly competitive internships, fellowships and full-time positions at a roster of organizations that includes Google, Apple, Intel, Adobe, Facebook, Oculus, Spotify, IDEO, Dreamworks, Sony, Imagine Entertainment, Sundance, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Hulu, NVIDIA, DEKA Research Labs, and Verizon. Academy startups have garnered more than $7 million in funding to date, and a product designed and developed exclusively by Academy students, the Mira Augmented Reality Headset, received the prestigious 2018 Red Dot Product Design Award.

According to the USC Academy’s website, there are currently 273 student enrolled in the program.

Why Dr. Dre Isn’t An Operation Varsity Blues Villain

So Andre “Dr. Dre” Young donated the money to start this program, and then six years later, his daughter got into USC, and he proudly crowed about her accomplishments. The arena of public opinion immediately reminded him of his gift, and bombarded the now-deleted post with comments comparing him to Loughlin and Huffman.

But he’s not an “Operation Varsity Blues” villain.

Did his gift probably give the admissions office another reason to admit his daughter? Absolutely. Would they have turned her away? More than likely not. So what’s the difference?

As we stated in our original article about this topic, “Operation Varsity Blues” parents didn’t work with the colleges and universities. They didn’t endow a chair, start a department, or offer a gift to help facilities or needy students. They gave money to individuals who illegally lied and duped their respective admissions offices to secure acceptances for 33 students. Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine’s gift has helped an estimated 1,000 students at this point get a top-notch education.

The wealthy have always given back to higher education and we hope this scandal doesn’t deter them. We can’t conflate the Operation Varsity Blues parents and parents like Dr. Dre, who used their wealth philanthropically, to help a lot of students. Did his daughter probably gain favor? Does it matter?

The internet critics didn’t discuss her grades or her abilities. They focused instead on her father’s gift.

We don’t want the wealthy to stop the practice of donating money to colleges and universities. It more than likely will. Gifts will come with greater scrutiny and transparency. But perhaps the bigger lesson here is Dr. Dre needs to be a little more cautious when he throws barbs. We’re fairly sure the students in his USC program are thinking the same thing.

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