Was UC au­dit soiled?

Re­gents to re­lease probe’s find­ings on pos­si­ble in­ter­fer­ence.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Teresa Watan­abe

Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia re­gents, meet­ing in San Fran­cisco this week, will re­lease find­ings of an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether UC Pres­i­dent Janet Napoli­tano’s staff mem­bers im­prop­erly in­ter­fered with a state au­dit of her of­fice’s oper­a­tions.

Re­gents also will dis­cuss a new re­port that took a sys­temwide look at how to avoid the kind of en­roll­ment fi­asco that was set off by UC Irvine last sum­mer when it abruptly re­scinded nearly 500 ad­mis­sion of­fers, mostly for mi­nor ap­pli­ca­tion pa­per­work prob­lems. The cam­pus came down hard on such things as missed dead­lines for ver­i­fi­ca­tion of se­nior

grades af­ter ad­min­is­tra­tors dis­cov­ered that about 850 more stu­dents than ex­pected had ac­cepted their ad­mis­sion of­fers. UC Irvine Chan­cel­lor Howard Gill­man even­tu­ally re­in­stated nearly all the stu­dents and apol­o­gized for caus­ing them “un­ac­cept­able dis­tress.”

The in­terim re­port rec­om­mends that cam­puses be barred from us­ing ver­i­fi­ca­tion of grades as a way of man­ag­ing en­roll­ment and that they in­crease the no­tices to stu­dents about pa­per­work dead­lines. Be­fore with­draw­ing ad­mis­sion of­fers, the re­port sug­gests, ad­min­is­tra­tors should con­sider al­ter­na­tives, and any re­scinded of­fers should ex­plain how to ap­peal. UC Irvine’s ini­tial rescis­sion no­tices told stu­dents de­ci­sions were “fi­nal” and did not men­tion the right to ap­peal.

UC Irvine was roundly crit­i­cized be­cause peo­ple be­lieved that ad­min­is­tra­tors were hold­ing the stu­dents whose of­fers were re­scinded “to a stan­dard that in any other year would not have been ap­plied,” the re­port said. “As a re­sult, UC’s le­git­i­mate need to ver­ify the aca­demic qual­i­fi­ca­tions of new stu­dents was un­der­cut — and UC’s ad­mis­sion process tar­nished.”

To look into pos­si­ble in­ter­fer­ence in the state au­dit, re­gents hired for­mer Cal­i­for­nia Supreme Court Jus­tice Car­los Moreno and the law firm Hue­ston Hen­ni­gan.

State Au­di­tor Elaine Howle sent sur­veys to all 10 UC cam­puses last fall to find out how ef­fec­tive they found Napoli­tano’s of­fice. Au­di­tors ex­plic­itly asked ad­min­is­tra­tors not to share their an­swers with any­one out­side their cam­puses. But they learned later that cen­tral of­fice staff had asked to see the re­sponses.

When Howle pub­licly con­tended that “the Of­fice of the Pres­i­dent in­ten­tion­ally in­ter­fered with our au­dit process,” the re­gents or­reflected dered the in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The Times re­ported in April that Bernie Jones, Napoli­tano’s deputy chief of staff at the time, had worked closely with cam­pus ad­min­is­tra­tors in re­view­ing their sur­vey re­sponses. He told The Times then that he was only re­spond­ing to re­quests for help in fill­ing out the 52page sur­vey and that he had done noth­ing im­proper. He pro­vided emails, along with re­vised and fi­nal copies of some sur­veys, to sup­port his claim that he never or­dered re­vi­sions but only asked cam­pus ad­min­is­tra­tors to con­sider some changes.

UC San Diego ad­min­is­tra­tors, for in­stance, orig­i­nally said in their re­sponse that they were dis­sat­is­fied with the Of­fice of the Pres­i­dent’s trans­parency in de­ter­min­ing how much each cam­pus paid for sys­temwide ser­vices. But in the fi­nal ver­sion, they said they were sat­is­fied. Jones said he flagged the ini­tial an­swer to ask if it Chan­cel­lor Pradeep K. Khosla’s view, and that cam­pus lead­ers changed it, not him.

Both Jones and Seth Gross­man, Napoli­tano’s chief of staff, re­signed last week. Jones de­clined to re­spond to an email ask­ing if he was step­ping down to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for in­ter­fer­ing in the au­dit. Gross­man said through a spokesman that he did noth­ing wrong and was leav­ing to take a job in Washington as chief of staff and coun­selor to Amer­i­can Univer­sity Pres­i­dent Sylvia M. Bur­well.

“His in­volve­ment in the au­dit was min­i­mal, ap­pro­pri­ate and 100% con­sis­tent with di­rec­tives from [UC] in­ter­nal au­dit of­fi­cers and univer­sity at­tor­neys,” said Nathan Bal­lard, Gross­man’s spokesman. “If any UC em­ployee did any­thing wrong, it was with­out Gross­man’s con­sent or ap­proval.”

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