|The good old days when people could|
have an in-person meeting
Audit finds troubling errors in UC admissions, in wake of Varsity Blues scandal
Nanette Asimov, March 18, 2020,
San Francisco Chronicle
At the University of California, one campus admitted an applicant to a coveted slot for top athletes who then never appeared on the team roster after enrolling. Another campus accepted a homespun computer printout as proof of an applicant’s equestrian talents. A third inexplicably let an applicant use his musical track record as proof that he’d won a science award.
These are among the admissions anomalies documented by UC’s latest internal audit* — the second of three reports — presented Wednesday at the university’s first all-virtual regents meeting. The meeting, originally to be at UCLA, came off successfully, complete with impassioned call-in testimony and only the occasional dropped call or small technical glitch, quickly fixed. The regents ordered the audits after last year’s national admissions scandal, Varsity Blues, rocked elite college campuses across the country, including UCLA and UC Berkeley. Celebrities and other wealthy parents of students seeking admission into those schools were among more than 50 people — including 33 parents — charged in the conspiracy. Several have pleaded guilty.
Yet, even the impact of the shocking revelation that parents paid six-figure sums on behalf of their children to cheat their way into the universities pales beside the fallout from this year’s COVID-19 cataclysm. It has forced campuses across the country to go online only, and has shut down everywhere else people congregate. But although one crisis has overtaken another in the news and in the minds of people quarantining around the world, the business of fending off future fraud at UC goes on.
In January, the state auditor began a probe into UC admissions, with results expected in August. Meanwhile, UC is doing its own investigations into the integrity of its admissions, and sharing findings with state Auditor Elaine Howle’s office.
UC’s first report, released in July, examined the design of its undergraduate admissions process. Auditors found 11 areas of vulnerability where UC was open to fraud, and made 34 recommendations that campuses are still trying to implement. The new audit looked at how closely campuses adhered to their admissions rules from 2016 through 2019 — and adds 14 new fixes for UC to do.
“I was quite troubled by what was found in this audit,” Regent Gareth Elliott, chair of the audit committee said after auditors Alexander Bustamante and Matt Hicks presented their findings.
To ensure a fair evaluation process for the more than 840,000 applicants, UC will need to tighten sloppy procedures in seven areas, the audit found. These include improving how employees document admissions decisions and verify applicants’ claims, and ensuring that only people permitted to access admissions information can do so. The new review cited particular problems in UC’s “special talent admissions,” where auditors couldn’t tell how many applicants were admitted for this reason — typically athletes — because campuses “do not systematically identify and track them” in one place. The auditors had expected to look at the ethnic breakdown of this group, but couldn’t because of faulty data.