Af­ter col­lege ad­mis­sions scan­dal, UC rolls out re­forms to avoid more fraud

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Teresa Watan­abe and Matthew Orm­seth

LOS AN­GE­LES — The Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia on Thurs­day re­leased a sweeping list of rec­om­men­da­tions aimed at bet­ter polic­ing of fraud and con­flicts of in­ter­est in ad­mit­ting stu­dents — a process trig­gered by the na­tional col­lege ad­mis­sions scan­dal.

The rec­om­men­da­tions, which UC Pres­i­dent Janet Napoli­tano now plans to im­ple­ment, in­clude stronger ver­i­fi­ca­tion of claims on stu­dents' ap­pli­ca­tions, reviews of po­ten­tial links be­tween donors and ap­pli­cants, and stricter scru­tiny of those ad­mit­ted for spe­cial ta­lents, such as ath­letes and artists.

Napoli­tano said she or­dered an in­ter­nal au­dit to come up with the rec­om­men­da­tions as a “proac­tive step” to pro­tect the in­tegrity of UC, the na­tion's lead­ing pub­lic re­search univer­sity.

“We have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to make sure we're ad­her­ing to the high­est stan­dards where ad­mis­sions are con­cerned,” she said in an interview with the Los An­ge­les Times. “It seemed, to me, timely and im­por­tant to di­rect that we do our own evaluation of our ad­mis­sions pro­ce­dures to make sure that we are not only turn­ing very square corners with stu­dents and their fam­i­lies, but also that we are bol­ster­ing our de­fenses against any­one who would try to game the ad­mis­sions sys­tem.”

The na­tional ad­mis­sions scan­dal, which erupted in March, has roiled elite in­sti­tu­tions across the na­tion, prompt­ing pledges of re­form amid widespread pub­lic anger and dis­gust.

New­port Beach col­lege con­sul­tant Wil­liam “Rick” Singer has ad­mit­ted to mas­ter­mind­ing a brazen scheme in which he charged af­flu­ent par­ents huge sums to rig their chil­dren's en­trance ex­ams or to out­right buy their en­trance into top-tier col­leges by pay­ing coaches to des­ig­nate stu­dents as re­cruited ath­letes. He has pleaded guilty to sev­eral felonies.

So far, two UC cam­puses — UCLA and UC Berke­ley — have been en­snared in the fall­out.

At UCLA, ac­cord­ing to an in­dict­ment charg­ing the men's soc­cer coach, Jorge Sal­cedo, with rack­e­teer­ing, Singer paid Sal­cedo $200,000 to pass off two chil­dren of his clients as re­cruited soc­cer play­ers. Nine days af­ter the in­dict­ment was un­sealed, he re­signed from the coach­ing post he had held for 15 years. He has pleaded not guilty.

At UC Berke­ley, at least one stu­dent was ad­mit­ted with fraud­u­lent test scores, pros­e­cu­tors al­lege. David Si­doo, a Cana­dian busi­ness­man and former pro­fes­sional foot­ball player, is ac­cused of pay­ing Singer to fix en­trance ex­ams for his two sons. The younger of the two, Jor­dan Si­doo, at­tended UC Berke­ley. David Si­doo, in­dicted on charges of fraud con­spir­acy and money laundering con­spir­acy, has pleaded not guilty.

The sys­temwide in­ter­nal au­dit Napoli­tano or­dered looked at what con­trols cam­puses al­ready had in place to guard against fraud, but not how well they have used them. That ques­tion will be ex­am­ined in a sec­ond au­dit to be com­pleted by the end of this year.

Over­all, Napoli­tano said, UC's ad­mis­sion sys­tem works well in se­lect­ing the most qual­i­fied ap­pli­cants. UC pol­icy pro­hibits con­sid­er­a­tion of do­na­tions or fam­ily alumni — known as legacy ap­pli­cants — in ad­mis­sions de­ci­sions.

To qual­ify for ad­mis­sion, most Cal­i­for­nia fresh­man ap­pli­cants must speak English, com­plete a se­ries of pre­scribed col­lege-prep classes, have a min­i­mum 3.0 GPA and sub­mit SAT or ACT test scores. Sev­eral other fac­tors also are used for evaluation, in­clud­ing spe­cial ta­lents and awards, lo­ca­tion and life ex­pe­ri­ence.

Last year, the sys­tem's nine un­der­grad­u­ate cam­puses at­tracted about 223,500 ap­pli­cants and ad­mit­ted about 136,000 of them. UCLA, the most pop­u­lar cam­pus, ad­mit­ted just 15.6% of 137,513 prospec­tive fresh­men and trans­fer ap­pli­cants for fall 2018.

UC typically can­cels about 100 ap­pli­ca­tions each year be­cause stu­dents don't re­spond to re­quests to ver­ify claimed achievemen­ts. Cam­puses also usu­ally re­voke fewer than half a dozen ad­mis­sion of­fers be­cause of ad­mit­ted fal­si­fi­ca­tion, UC of­fi­cials say.

“We over­all have good stan­dards for ad­mis­sions,” Napoli­tano said. “But one case is too many, and we re­ally want to hold our­selves to a zero tol­er­ance stan­dard.”

She said the area that needs the most scru­tiny is spe­cial ad­mis­sions, where ath­letes, artists and oth­ers re­ceive ex­tra con­sid­er­a­tion for their ta­lents.

The au­dit rec­om­mended stricter con­trols, many for the ad­mis­sion of re­cruited ath­letes who do not re­ceive schol­ar­ships. The risk of fraud in­volv­ing schol­ar­ship ath­letes, the re­view said, is sig­nif­i­cantly lower be­cause NCAA rules “make it dif­fi­cult for coaches to place those who are un­qual­i­fied on a team ros­ter.”

The au­dit pro­poses that the per­son who rec­om­mends the ad­mis­sion should ver­ify the tal­ent, and then a su­per­vi­sor must ap­prove it and send it on for a third-level re­view.

Other rec­om­men­da­tions in­clude a re­quire­ment that all re­cruited non­schol­ar­ship ath­letes be re­quired to par­tic­i­pate in the sport for at least a year — cur­rently only UCLA and UC Berke­ley re­quire this — and be mon­i­tored for com­pli­ance.

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