UT issues statement on college bribery lawsuit

Image 1 of 2

(Courtesy: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The University of Texas at Austin has responded to the recent lawsuit over the college admissions bribery scandal.

UT spokesperson JB Bird issued this statement March 14:

The University of Texas at Austin was named in a class action suit by two Stanford University students filed March 14 in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

MORE: 2 Stanford students allege universities did not maintain 'sanctity' of admissions process in lawsuit

Erica Olsen and Kalea Woods filed suit against William "Rick" Singer, the Key WorldWide Foundation, the Edge College and Career Network, Stanford University, Yale University, the University of Southern California, UCLA, the University of San Diego, the University of Texas at Austin, Wake Forest University and Georgetown University.

While they are now attending a prestigious school, Olsen and Woods said they had nearly perfect test scores and had plenty of athletic skills. When they applied to Yale and USC, respectively, for example, the application fees were $80 and $85, only to be rejected. Their suit alleges they were not given a fair chance at admission because of the alleged bribes.

Olsen, from Henderson, Nevada, and Woods of San Diego, both attend Stanford. Neither woman could be immediately reached for comment. A Stanford spokesperson said the "suit is under review." 

This appears to be the first lawsuit filed following federal prosecutors' announcement on Tuesday unraveling a nationwide admissions scandal where parents would pay Singer, an admissions consultant, millions of dollars to bribe their children's way into college.

MORE: IMG Academy administrator accused of taking, faking college entrance exams

Some of the payouts went to coaches and administrators to falsely make their children look like star athletes, and Singer also hired ringers to take college entrance exams for students and paid off insiders at testing centers to correct students' answers, authorities said. Singer began cooperating with authorities in September 2018 and he pleaded guilty Tuesday.

"Each of the qualified, rejected students was damaged by the fraudulent and negligent conduct of the defendants, in that, at a minimum, each class member paid college admission application fees to the defendant universities without any understanding or warning that unqualified students were slipping in through the back door of the admissions process by committing fraud, bribery, cheating and dishonesty," the suit contends.

MORE: Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin indicted in college admissions bribery case

The suit alleges that as a result of the fraudulent bribery schemes, unqualified students got into these highly selective universities while "those students who played by the rules and did not have college-bribing parents were denied admission."

The universities, the suit contends, were "negligent in failing to maintain adequate protocols and security measures in place to guarantee the sanctity of the college admissions process and to ensure that their own employees were not engaged in these type of bribery schemes."

Stanford University was specifically caught up in the scandal after the school's now-fired sailing coach John Vandemoer pleaded guilty on Tuesday to accepting bribes.

MORE: UT Austin dismisses head men’s tennis coach amid widespread admissions bribery scandal

According to a federal complaint announced on Tuesday, the 41-year-old coach agreed to hold open coveted admission spots at the highly competitive university for two applicants falsely portrayed as competitive sailors in exchange for payments to the sailing program. The students ultimately declined to enroll at Stanford, but the indictment alleges the sailing program received payments totaling $270,000 to fraudulently admit an unworthy applicant.

Stanford was not charged in the case, being prosecuted out of Boston, and neither were any of the schools or students where the alleged bribes took place. 

In a statement on Tuesday, President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell, wrote: "Let us be clear: The conduct reported in this case is absolutely contrary to Stanford's values, and to the norms this university has lived by for decades. Today's news is a shock exactly because it so clearly violates our institutional expectations for ethical conduct.''

KTVU contributed to this report.