Operation Olivia Jade takes accountability
Operation Varsity Blues student opens up about her part in the scandal but admits she still has some learning to do.
Opinion by Savannah Simmons, Managing Editor
Olivia Jade Giannulli took to “Red Table Talk” last Tuesday to publicly apologize for her part in the college bribery scandal that erupted early last year.
Giannulli and her sister, Bella, found themselves at the center of this wrongdoing as their mother and actress Lori Laughlin was the most well known member of the ring while Olivia has a following of her own on social media. Laughlin and her husband, fashion designer Massimo Giannulli, paid $500,000 to get both their daughters into USC as rowing recruits though the girls never took part in the sport.
“I think what was important was for me to come here and say, ‘I’m sorry. I acknowledge what was wrong.’” said Giannulli during the episode. “I wasn’t able to say that for so long. So I think people almost thought, ‘Oh, she must not care.’”
While Giannulli said she realizes the fault in her parents’ actions, something she did not see a problem with initially, she left out the crucial detail that she posed for pictures on a rowing machine to get into USC as an athlete. It is admirable to accept fault in such a public platform, but to not mention the rowing photos seems deceitful.
Giannulli blamed her veil of privilege on why she did not understand that her parents' donation to USC was a problem. She refers to her community of friends and peers as a “bubble” that ultimately clouded her judgement and ability to recognize fault initially.
“A huge part of having privilege is not knowing you have privilege. And so when it was happening it didn’t feel wrong,” admitted Giannulli. “It didn’t feel like ‘That’s not fair, a lot of people don’t have that.’”
Growing up a part of the one percent cannot be something that is passive. To be engulfed in wealth and luxury in Los Angeles is to also be aware of the hardships other people face in the same city. Homelessness in Los Angeles is everywhere and hard to miss. Parents of elite status should make it a point to raise their kids to understand their privilege, if not it is a failure.
“I think that what hasn't been super public is that there is no justifying or excusing what happened because what happened was wrong,” Giannulli explained. “But I think what is so important to me is to learn from that mistake. Not to be shamed and punished.”
Giannulli admits that it took her awhile, but she is now educating herself on matters of social justice issues and now calls herself the “poster child of white privilege.” She does not want to “just throw money at a problem” but wants to instead have a more hands-on approach, and shared that her view shifted after a visit to an after-school program in Watts.
“They were so grateful for that education, that after-school place that they could go, away from their neighborhood,” Giannulli said. “I was watching all of them, and I was thinking about my situation, and that I took all of that for granted.”
This is just the beginning for Giannulli. She must break out of her “bubble”, and use her resources to help students who are less fortunate than her. Education is power, and learning about the struggles of students without her privilege will help Giannulli find a way to help them. Helping those less fortunate than her is a good place to start.