UC reevaluates admissions process in aftermath of college admissions scandal

Stephanie Li/File

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After the U.S. Department of Justice filed charges against dozens of people accused of unethical college admissions practices, the UC’s Office of Ethics, Compliance and Audit Services, or ECAS, conducted an audit of all UC campuses’ admissions procedures.  

Earlier this year, 50 individuals were charged across six states in connection to college entry fraud. The scandal implicated various institutions, among them the UC system. Although “only a few cases of fraudulent activity” were detected systemwide, according to the audit summary, the UC is reevaluating its admissions procedures with the results of an audit completed in June.

The first of two planned ECAS audits suggested a series of changes to procedures to ensure the admissions process at UC campuses remains fair and transparent. A summary of the audit findings lists three intended changes to the system that are to be implemented by July: “clearer documentation,” “improved verification protocols” and “stronger procedures.”

UC President Janet Napolitano responded to the audit findings.

“We take our zero tolerance policy extremely seriously — even one instance of admissions fraud is one too many,” Napolitano said in an email from UC Office of the President spokesperson Sarah McBride. “While we believe the UC admissions process works well and has significant and effective controls in place, we accept all of the ECAS recommendations so we can continue to hold ourselves to the highest standards.”

Napolitano previously addressed the allegations of unfair student admissions to UC schools in a March 13 UC Office of the President press release, calling the potential cases of bribery and cheating “antithetical to every aspect of (the UC system’s) mission and values.” In the press release, Napolitano vowed that the UC would investigate individuals implicated in the cases who were part of the UC system and reassess the policies that govern admissions at UC campuses.  

The systemwide audit was conducted to address the current UC framework that exists to prevent unethical admissions practices like those that led to this year’s admissions scandal. After cases such as that of David Sidoo — who was charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud for allegedly hiring someone to take the SAT for his sons, one of whom attended UC Berkeley — and the U.S. Department of Education’s investigation of UCLA amid bribery allegations, the UC administration is cracking down on the admissions processes across UC campuses.

“We are committed to doing all that we can to ensure fairness and integrity in our admissions system,” UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore said in an email regarding the findings of the UC audit.

In response to the audit, one of the measures the UC will take is to more clearly document admissions procedures with a “trail” of the evaluations supporting admissions. This includes improved tracking of decision-making that hinges on special talents or athletics. In addition, the UC will begin monitoring donations to prevent bribes from affecting admission procedures.

The audit also prompted a change to protocol regarding fraud detection. The UC will now improve the process of verifying that application materials are legitimate. Special attention will be given to monitoring admissions for special talents, as this process could be more easily corrupted by third parties, and to monitoring student-athletes’ participation in athletic programs.

The last category of recommendations outlines steps for improved procedures. These include implementing a strategy for detecting conflicts of interest that could affect admissions decisions, making changes to athletics compliance offices across UC campuses, limiting IT system access and training personnel in the new procedures to be developed.

“UC holds itself to the highest standards, and intends for these actions to protect the integrity of admissions at all nine of our undergraduate campuses, now and in the future,” Gilmore said in the email.

Contact Sasha Langholz at [email protected].

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article attributed a quote to Janet Gilmore. In fact, it was from Sarah McBride.
A previous version of this article attributed a quote to Sarah McBride. In fact, it was from Janet Gilmore.

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