The College Admissions Scandal and Felicity Huffman: Why She Needs to Be Held Accountable

Back in March, the biggest college admissions scandal in U.S history broke and Desperate Housewives actress Felicity Huffman, along with nearly three dozen other wealthy parents, were arrested for their involvement.

Huffman pleaded guilty to a fraud conspiracy charge in May and now that it’s time for sentencing, the actress is pointing fingers and shedding her wealthy white woman tears in order to avoid taking full responsibility.

On Friday, Huffman’s attorneys recommended that she be sentenced to a year of probation, a $20,000 fine, and 250 hours of community service because she is “remorseful and deeply ashamed.”

Being able to return to your Hollywood Hills home, paying a fine that is basically pocket change for you, and helping tutor young, low-income students for community service is hardly a punishment. 

Prosecutors agree and have requested that Huffman receive a one-month prison sentence instead. In a court filing, they said that Huffman raised slight objections with prosecutors who “imply that [she] is somehow less guilty — that she participated in fraud only reluctantly, without fully understanding it.”

In a letter to the judge, she justified her poor decisions by saying that her “moral compass” was compromised by the team of doctors and experts she initially hired to help with her daughter’s learning disability and it affected her “maternal instinct.” Translation: “It’s not my fault.”

She also wrote that she was “shocked” when William Singer, the Newport City-based counselor, first suggested rigging her daughter’s SAT scores but ultimately felt like she’d be a bad mother if she didn’t do everything possible to make sure her daughter’s theatre dreams came true, eventually paying Singer $15,000 to change her daughter’s score.

I’m not sure who Huffman thinks she’s fooling in her numerous attempts to deflect and rationalize her poor decision, but there’s absolutely no sympathy over here. It ultimately comes down to a sense of entitlement based on white privilege and wealth. Huffman felt powerless when she was told her daughter’s test scores might be too low to get into a prestigious school. She wasn’t just desperate for her child to get into a good college and achieve her dreams, she felt like her daughter deserved to be at one of the best schools in the nation. And not because she earned that acceptance, but because of who she was and her societal status.

What wealthy parents like Huffman fail to realize is that by unfairly using their privilege to gain a further advantage on low-income, minority students, they’re only contributing to the ridiculous inequity that the U.S college system should be fixing. It’s already difficult enough for minorities to play catch-up to the privilege that those in the upper class are immediately born into. Not too long ago, people of color weren’t even allowed admission to “white colleges” which is why we had to create Historically Black Institutions. 

Scandals like these just give further ammunition as to why programs like affirmative action are so necessary. Arguments that affirmative action is reverse racism literally make my head hurt from the pure ignorance of that idea. Even after decades of affirmative action, black and Hispanic students are even more under-represented now at the nation’s most elite schools than they were 35 years ago, and with the elite using their money to cheat the system, that unfortunate fact might never change. Black students are just 6% of the freshmen at top schools and that has nothing to do with the intelligence of young black people and everything to do with inequity issues that begin as early as elementary schools, such as a lack of experienced teachers, advanced courses, school materials, and adequate facilities.

Executive Director at the National Association for College Admission Counseling explained,

“There’s such a distinct disadvantage to begin with. A cascading set of obstacles all seem to contribute to a diminished representation of minority students in highly selective colleges.”

Minorities who directly benefit from affirmative action go on to lead successful careers and create more wealth for future generations, ultimately closing the economic gap. But unfortunately, people in power have a tendency to want to keep that power, so it’s no surprise that they would unfairly use their privilege (whether consciously or not) to keep themselves on top.

There’s an undeniable power structure in this country and if it were up to most of the people who hold that power, those who don’t benefit wouldn’t ever come close to challenging them. Seeing how our judicial system seems to favor the white and wealthy, come sentencing on Friday we might be seeing a flurry of the powerful people involved, including Huffman, receiving little to no consequences for their actions. But for now, we’ll have to wait and see.


Newsflash: The Whole College Admissions Process is a Scam

Jasmine Hardy
Jasmine Hardy is a writer based in California who is *slightly* obsessed with all things culture and entertainment. She spends an absurd amount of time watching tv shows, but justifies it with the fact that she decides to be productive and write about them. She also got to interview Laverne Cox once (subtle flex). You can read more random and equally cool facts about her on her website