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Stanford students file first lawsuit against colleges implicated in admissions scandal

Stanford and seven other schools named in class action suit

COURTNEY DOUGLAS / The Stanford Daily

Update: Erica Olsen will drop out of the suit, her lawyer told The Daily.

Two Stanford students have filed a federal class action lawsuit against Stanford and seven other universities implicated in the admissions bribery scandal, claiming that they and others did not have a fair chance to apply to these schools.

Erica Olsen ’21 and Kalea Woods ’20 alleged that while they both applied with strong applications, they “did not receive what [they] paid for — a fair admissions consideration process.”

Olsen and Woods further alleged that their Stanford degrees are “now not worth as much as [they were] before, because prospective employers may now question whether [they were] admitted to the university on [their] own merits, versus having parents who were willing to bribe school officials.”

Olsen and Woods declined to comment.

In addition to Stanford, Yale, the University of Southern California (USC), UCLA, the University of San Diego, UT Austin, Wake Forest University, and Georgetown University were named in the lawsuit, whose class includes all students who applied to, paid an application fee and were ultimately rejected from these colleges from 2012 to 2018.

William Singer, the Key and the Key Worldwide Foundation — the drivers behind the multimillion-dollar scheme that saw parents pay to artificially inflate their children’s standardized test scores and in some cases bribe athletic directors to position their children as recruits — are included as defendants in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit contends that as a result of the cheating scheme crafted by Singer, unqualified students slipped through the cracks in admissions to these highly selective schools, taking up spots for deserving students who were ultimately rejected.

It also takes aim at Stanford — among other selective universities such as Yale and Georgetown — for accepting application fees from prospective students while failing to ensure that the admissions process was “free of fraud, bribery, cheating, and dishonesty.”

Among the 50 individuals indicted on Tuesday was former Stanford head sailing coach John Vandemoer, who pleaded guilty to accepting over $100,000 in bribes to fraudulently recruit two students to the sailing team. Shortly after the case became public on Tuesday, Stanford fired Vandemoer from his position.

Four other Stanford affiliates, along with 11 Bay Area parents, were also charged.

“ … [E]ach of the universities were negligent in failing to maintain adequate protocols and  security measures in place to guarantee the sanctity of the college admissions process,” the class action lawsuit reads. “And ensure that their own employers were not engaged in these type of bribery schemes.”

Stanford is currently reviewing the suit, according to University spokesperson E.J. Miranda.

This article has been corrected to reflect that Erica Olsen is a sophomore at Stanford University, not a junior.

Contact Ellie Bowen at ebowen ‘at’ stanford.edu and Erin Woo at erinkwoo ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Ellie Bowen

Ellie Bowen

Ellie Bowen is a junior from Grand Rapids, Michigan, studying Symbolic Systems and English Lit. She works as managing editor of news for Vol. 255. When she’s not spending inordinate amounts of time at the Daily building, Ellie loves to read National Geographic, play the piano, and defiantly use oxford commas.

Erin Woo

Erin Woo

Erin Woo '21 is a senior staff writer. A native of Atlanta, GA, she is currently working her way through Berlin's coffeeshops, museums and bookstores. She served as a Managing Editor of News during The Daily's 254th and 255th volumes, and is excited to return this summer as co-editor in chief of Volume 256a. Contact her at erinkwoo 'at' stanford.edu.