Calling Yale’s admissions process “warped and rigged by fraud,” two students and their parents have filed a class-action lawsuit against Yale and other universities and individuals implicated in the admissions scandal.
Defendants include seven other universities, William “Rick” Singer — the scandal’s ring-leader — and Singer’s for-profit college counseling organization. A previous complaint filed by two Stanford University students was submitted earlier this month and dismissed “without prejudice” — meaning that a new lawsuit can be filed. The new complaint — a full version of which was filed in federal court in California on March 15 — was filed by two college students, Tyler Bendis and Nicholas James Johnson, and their parents.
Earlier this month, the Department of Justice indicted at least 50 individuals, including former women’s soccer coach Rudy Meredith, for cheating the admissions process to gain spots at Yale and other top universities — the largest admissions scandal in recent history.
The class-action lawsuit seeks reimbursement for the application fees paid by applicants who “without any understanding or warning” lacked the knowledge that “unqualified students were slipping in through the back door of the admissions process by committing fraud, bribery, cheating, and dishonesty.” Yale’s application fee is $80 per applicant.
Documents from the lawsuit obtained by the News claim that the universities mentioned in the lawsuit were negligent in their failure to prevent this fraud.
University spokesperson Tom Conroy did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Johnson, who is currently enrolled as a student in the Honors College at Rutgers University, had a 1500 out of 1600 on his SAT and a 4.65 GPA — a weighted score because of Advanced Placement classes. He was rejected from Yale — as well as from University of Texas at Austin and Stanford — despite securing high test scores, playing varsity hockey and being the “star” of the school math team, the lawsuit claims.
Bendis, now a community college student in California, was turned away from Stanford, University of San Diego and University of California, Los Angeles.
According to the lawsuit, had the students known the admissions systems for these universities were as corrupt as the processes allegedly were, they would never have applied in the first place.
David Levine, a professor at University of California Hastings College of the Law told the News that a lawsuit which asked for more damages — like asking for the value of a Yale education in damages — would be “extremely unlikely.” However, Levine, who is an expert in civil procedure and remedies, said that a lawsuit asking for a refund in application fees could be more successful.
“I could see that one winning,” he said.
However, he noted that the plaintiffs will have to prove that knowledge of the scandal’s existence would have changed the applicants’ behavior. He added that it would be likely that students would have to swear “on the penalty of perjury” that they would not have applied had they known about the scandal. This requirement may deter some students from trying to recoup their application fees, he supposed.
University of Notre Dame law professor Jay Tidmarsh told the News that lawsuits following accusations of fraud are “not unusual.”
He said class-action lawsuits especially make sense when the amount of damages is relatively small, but collectively the amount is large. According to the complaint, application fees typically range from $50 to $100, and the schools typically reject tens of thousands of applicants. If the lawsuit is successful, the potential payout for universities could be in the millions.
John Medler, one of the lawyers who filed the lawsuit, told the News that he had “no comment” on the suit’s chances.
The University of Southern California, Stanford, UCLA, University of San Diego, University of Texas at Austin, Wake Forest University and Georgetown University are also named in the lawsuit.
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