Emory Univer­sity sends false data for rank­ings

The Covington News - - The Second Front - AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS news@cov­news.com

Pres­ti­gious Emory Univer­sity in­ten­tion­ally mis­re­ported stu­dent data to rank­ings mag­a­zines for more than a decade, the At­lanta school dis­closed Fri­day, adding its high-pro­file name to a grow­ing list of in­sti­tu­tions caught up in scan­dals over rank­ings pres­sure.

As far back as 2000, Emory’s ad­mis­sions and in­sti­tu­tional re­search of­fices over­stated SAT and ACT scores by re­port­ing the higher av­er­age tallies of ad­mit­ted students, rather than those en­rolled, as is re- quired, Pres­i­dent Jim Wag­ner an­nounced in a let­ter to the univer­sity community. Those fig­ures were re­ported to or­ga­ni­za­tions in­clud­ing col­lege rankers, the most prom­i­nent of which is U.S. News & World Re­port.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion also found sim­i­lar mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tions re­lated to students’ class rank. Emory may also have ex­cluded scores from the bot­tom 10 per­cent of students.

“It’s very un­for­tu­nate that lead­ers at ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions have to suc­cumb to these kinds of pres­sures to im­prove rank,” said Lloyd Thacker, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Ed­u­ca­tion Con­ser­vancy, a group that works to re­duce com­pet­i­tive pres­sures in ad­mis­sions. “They don’t need to do this. It baf­fles me. We ex­pect in­tegrity from our higher ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions. If we can’t trust them then who can we trust?”

Wag­ner said two uniden­ti­fied for­mer Emory ad­mis­sions deans and the lead­er­ship of its in­sti­tu­tional re­search of­fice were aware of the prac­tices. The univer­sity be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing in May af­ter John Lat­ting, who was named dean of ad­mis­sion last year af­ter serv­ing at Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity, no­ticed dis­crep­an­cies. None of those in­volved in the mis­re­port­ing still work at Emory, but cit­ing per­son­nel mat­ters, the univer­sity de­clined to name them or say if any had been fired.

The re­port found no in­volve­ment by Wag­ner or other deans. Emory launched an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion with help from an out­side law firm and an­nounced a se­ries of new in­ter­nal con­trols over data re­port­ing.

“Emory has not been well-served by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the univer­sity in this his­tory of mis­re­port­ing,” Wag­ner said. “I am deeply

dis­ap­pointed. In­deed, any­one who cares about Emory’s rep­u­ta­tion for ex­cel­lence in all things must re­gret this news.”

Jean Jor­dan, who served as dean of ad­mis­sions from 2007 to 2011, did not im­me­di­ately re­turn a phone mes­sage seek­ing com­ment. Daniel Walls, whom Jor­dan suc­ceeded in 2007, when he was named as­so­ciate vice provost for en­roll­ment man­age­ment, is listed as a re­tiree in Emory’s phone direc­tory, but the num­ber is dis­con­nected. He is also listed on the coun­sel­ing staff of a lo­cal pri­vate school but could not be reached.

Emory is the lat­est school caught up in what many ed­u­ca­tors con­sider a de­struc­tive race to move up in the U.S. News rank­ings. But this lat­est case is ar­guably the most prom­i­nent yet and will only in­crease spec­u­la­tion that such prac­tices are wide­spread in higher ed­u­ca­tion. Emory was ranked 20th in the lat­est edition of the mag­a­zine’s list of “Amer­ica’s Best Col­leges.”

Ear­lier this year, a se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tor at Clare­mont McKenna Col­lege in Cal­i­for­nia re­signed af­ter ac­knowl­edg­ing he fal­si­fied col­lege en­trance exam scores for years to rank­ings pub­li­ca­tions. How­ever, a re­port re­leased by the col­lege in April found at­tempts to fudge the rank­ings weren’t to blame; rather the re­port con­cluded the prac­tice came be­cause of a dis­agree­ment with the pres­i­dent on ad­mis­sions strat­egy.

Still, the list of schools ap­pear­ing to lose their moral com­pass un­der rank­ings pres­sure is grow­ing. Be­cause the rank­ings rely largely on self-re­ported data, ed­u­ca­tion ex­perts be­lieve many more will even­tu­ally be caught.

Law schools, mean­while, face grow­ing criticism for fudg­ing job place­ment data they re­port to rank­ings mag­a­zines to make it look like their grad­u­ates are do­ing bet­ter in the mar­ket.

Still, the dis­crep­an­cies were not triv­ial. For in­stance, Emory had pre­vi­ously re­ported 87 per­cent of its 2010 co­hort — as mea­sured by the mid­dle 50 per­cent of students — came from the top 10 per­cent of their high school class. In fact, the fig­ure was 75 per­cent. The SAT range for that group was re­ported as be­tween 1310 and 1500; the cor­rectly re­ported scores were be­tween 1270 and 1460.

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