A College Photoshopped A Student Into A Football Game And Got Sued
In one episode of Scrubs, Turk is concerned about the hospital exploiting his image. We flash back to the admissions brochure from his college, which put him on the cover—put him on the cover twice, as two separate people in the same small group of friends.
The joke, viewers assumed, rested on how colleges famously play up diversity in their marketing materials, even when the actual student body falls short in that department. As for the part about colleges outright editing photos to fake diversity, that was just Scrubs absurdity. Except, not long before this episode aired, a college really did shop a Black student onto the cover of their application booklet, and they got caught.
For a few years in the ’90s, the University of Wisconsin featured one photo of their student Diallo Shabazz again and again in promo material. “We do indeed have some Black students,” the photo indicated (it also happened to be a pretty good candid photo regardless). Diallo was fine with this. He found it kind of funny.
In 2000, for once, the upcoming admissions booklet did not include the photo anywhere inside it. But they did put his face on the cover, cropping it out from its original photo and sticking him into the crowd of a football game, a game he never attended. If you know a thing or two about photos, as we all do now compared to 20 years ago, you’ll note that it’s not even a very skilled edit job, when you look at the lighting and proportions.
When confronted, the college apologized (this was different from simply using the same photo repeatedly) and announced plans to recall the booklets—to recall just half the booklets, actually, for unclear reasons. That wasn’t enough. Diallo sued them, and the college finally agreed to a settlement whereby they wouldn’t pay Diallo anything (he didn’t seek anything) but would earmark $10 million for diversity initiatives. These initiatives were reportedly later scrapped once attention moved elsewhere as time passed.
They learned an important lesson through all this. When faking photos, you should go further with your dishonesty and use not real students at all, use stock image models. Make sure the model already signed over all rights and will not sue.
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