Not so much a Desperate House Wife as a desperate mother, a contrite Felicity Huffman, known for playing Lynette Scavo, has been convicted for her role in the university admissions scandal in the United States. The scene is set for another dramatization, though few can go past the sheer levels of tinkering Huffman was engaged in to have her daughter’s entrance exams marked in 2017. Money changed hands – $15,000 – a deed that has cost her 250 hours of community service, a $30,000 fine, and 14 days in prison.
The defence had requested a year of probation in lieu of jail time, with the same number of hours of community service and a more modest fine of $20,000. While not feeling particularly vindictive, the prosecutors suggested that this was just a touch rich, arguing in a memo that “neither probation nor home confinement (in a large home in the Hollywood Hills with an infinity pool) would constitute meaningful punishment or deter others from committing similar crimes.”
Huffman has been the conspicuous face of an admissions furore that should have enticed a yawn rather than any horror. It involved keen parents; it involved weak willed coaches; it involved generally thick children (the latter have been spared indictments) and it had the mandatory mastermind, William Sanger. The actress was gracious in punishment, wanting to“especially apologise to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices supporting their children.” Some fine acting, indeed.
The picture of those 50 or so individuals involved in this rigging matter is not pretty. It is the usual galling picture of failed meritocracy, an incitement to cheat and hustle your way through life. Manuel Henriquez, CEO and founder of a Silicon Valley hedge fund in Palo Alto, was proud about how he and his daughter managed to cheat without detection.
Such scandals are only horrific as brief moments of shock: the ceremonial of it all is how normal it is, the acceptable face of a certain type of corruption. Money speaks garrulously, and university admissions are little different, seduced by the prospect of chocked bank accounts. There are ties to pull, people to bribe.