College Scandal Parents Say ‘VIP List’ Proves Admissions a Game

(Bloomberg) -- An admissions official at the University of Southern California rejected the idea that students can buy their way in but acknowledged that some applicants are “of special interest” to the school.

Testifying at the first trial of parents caught up in the “Varsity Blues” bribery scandal, Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Rebecca Chassin told a jury about a “VIP list” of applicants given special consideration for athletic prowess, their parents’ wealth or their social connections.

“There is a VIP program at USC, correct?” attorney Robert Sheketoff asked Chassin, a witness for the prosecution, during cross-examination on Tuesday. Sheketoff is defending former Wynn Resorts Ltd. executive Gamal Abdelaziz, accused of paying $300,000 in bribes to get his daughter into the university as a basketball player, though a former classmate testified she didn’t even play well enough to qualify for her school’s varsity team.

“There is a process by which students that are of special interest to constituents around campus will receive a look before their decisions are finalized,” Chassin said. “I stated that we do not make offers of admission in exchange for money.”