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Lawsuit filed against UT Austin in wake of stunning college cheating scandal

Lawsuit filed against UT Austin in wake of college cheating scandal

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The University of Texas at Austin has been named in multimillion-dollar lawsuit. University of Texas at Austin/Facebook

A college entrance cheating scandal that has embroiled the University of Texas at Austin and nine other universities continues to rage. On March 13, documents filed by two California women named UT as a defendant in a $5 million class action lawsuit citing "negligence" among other accusations.

The lawsuit is the latest in a stunning series of events following the March 12 announcement of an FBI investigation into a nationwide college entrance scandal. According to investigators, 50 people, including Hollywood stars and C-level execs, paid more than $25 million to William Singer to secure placement for their children into elite schools. Singer, prosecutors say, then used the money to bribe coaches, test proctors, and college administrators, including a UT tennis coach.

The lawsuit was filed in California by Kalea Woods and Erica Olsen, both current students at Stanford University. Woods and Olsen claim the schools "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; Georgetown University; Wake Forest University; University of Southern California; University of California, Los Angeles; Yale University; and the University of San Diego are also named as defendants.

The lawsuit also alleges that "each of the universities took the students’ admission application fees while failing to take adequate steps to ensure that their admissions process was fair and free of fraud, bribery, cheating, and dishonesty."

On March 14, UT spokesperson JB Bird issued the following statement in response to the lawsuit: “Like many students and families across the country, we are also outraged that parents, outside actors and university employees may have committed fraud surrounding admissions at universities. The University of Texas has a thorough, holistic admissions process. The actions alleged by federal prosecutors against one UT employee were not in line with that policy and may have been criminal. They do not reflect our admissions process.”

On March 12, Texas tennis coach Michael Center was among those indicted for allegedly taking $100,000 in bribes to recruit a student on the tennis team, thus assuring his entrance into UT. The student, an FBI special agent said, had only played tennis during his high school freshman year, and dropped off UT's team just weeks into his first semester.

Following the FBI's announcement, the school placed Center on administrative leave before ultimately terminating him on March 13, according to a letter from UT President Gregory Fenves.

"I have asked Vice President for Legal Affairs Jim Davis to conduct a thorough review of the alleged 2015 fraud that Mr. Center has been charged with, and to determine whether the university has the necessary rules and procedures in place to prevent violations in the future," Fenves' letter continued.