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Admissions Scandal Round 2: UCLA Needs A Broader Investigation into Cash-for-Admission

Admissions Scandal Round 2: UCLA Needs A Broader Investigation into Cash-for-Admission


The following is reposted with permission from the Remaking the College weblog.  Christopher Newfield is professor of literature and American Studies at the College of California at Santa Barbara.  To learn his earlier submit on the cash-for-admission scandals see Bleeding Meritocracy: Responding to the Admissions Scandal as Outrage Fades.

The admissions scandal is again–because of this weekend’s reporting within the LA Occasions about UCLA’s beforehand undisclosed evaluation of apparent donation-for-admissions in its athletics program.

Normally, individuals give money to different individuals once they assume they will trust them with it.  There’s a minimum commonplace for public universities that I’d put this manner: are they reliably trustworthy?  If they aren’t going to be fiscally starved and micromanaged by the state, can they be trusted to determine their own issues, disclose them precisely, and fix them in a approach individuals can consider in?

On massive current points–campus responses to Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, graduate mentoring, protecting the liberal arts–the overall answer is not any.  The same has occurred with school admissions: when Operation Varsity Blues hit the information on March 12th, it immediately turned a primal narrative, one which sees an abuse not as an exception but the norm.  “Turns Out There’s a Proper Solution to Buy Your Child a School Slot,” sneered the New York Occasions editorial board. There have been titles like “Larger Schooling and the Phantasm of Meritocracy,” “I Discovered in School that Admission has All the time Been for Sale,” “The Raging Hypocrisy of Greater Ed Gatekeeping,” and a minimum of a dozen other national headlines identical to them.

Now we have now “UCLA knew of a cash-for-admissions deal, years earlier than the scandal.”  First reactions are the same as for OVB.  As sports activities columnist Dylan Hernandez put it, “This isn’t even a case of holding UCLA to a better normal. This is about holding one of the crown jewels of American larger schooling to a primary commonplace.”

Nathan Fenno wrote as follows:

Occasions, exhibits that years earlier than the current school admissions scandal, UCLA knew of allegations that oldsters have been pledging donations to its athletic program in change for his or her youngsters being admitted to the university.

The investigation determined that the timing of the pledge by the mother and father “along with the revelation that she was meant to be solely a manager, in violation of the department recruitment and admission policy, removes any affordable doubt that the contribution from the mother and father was obtained quid professional quo for the daughter’s admission.” William Cormier, then the director of UCLA’s administrative policies and compliance workplace, wrote the report. It’s unclear who acquired it.

The monitor and area director later stated in a letter, additionally reviewed by The Occasions, that he had authorised the admission on the request of a senior athletics official.

Commentary has famous this key difference between OVB and these UCLA instances, in Fenno’s phrases:

The doc didn’t recommend there was proof that coaches acquired monetary advantages in any of the instances. “The conclusion reached … is that the coaches concerned have been motivated principally by the expectation of a financial profit to the College, in violation of Regents coverage,” the report stated.

UCLA issued an 11-paragraph response.  It famous that UC already had a coverage that “expressly prohibits admissions ‘motivated by concern for monetary, political or different such profit to the University.’”   It describes the investigation into potential violations of policy in three sports–monitor & subject, ladies’s water polo, and tennis–by which donations have been solicited or acquired from households with youngsters within the admissions course of.  It notes that at the time,

there was no restriction on when donations could possibly be accepted from families of potential student-athletes. . . . Instantly in the wake of the investigation and its findings, UCLA Athletics carried out a policy that a donation couldn’t be accepted from households of prospects till the student-athlete is enrolled at UCLA. Athletic division employees was educated concerning the coverage, and extra schooling of the teaching and improvement staffs also occurred relating to the prohibition of any dialogue of donations prior to admission.

Other tweaks have been made to coverage to require checks that prospective student-athletes truly played the sports they claimed to play and on the applicable degree. (Scott Jaschik has an summary.)  Finally, the statement notes, “While no coverage violation is suitable, it is very important observe that the current expenses towards UCLA’s former men’s soccer head coach are alleged to have concerned felony activity and personal enrichment that weren’t a element of the 2014 investigation.”  Which I assume is meant to recommend that these 2014 violations have been minor by comparison.

That’s not a lot how this revelation is being read.  The response has been that cash-for-admissions may be more pervasive than beforehand thought since it will probably take other not-illegal varieties.  As sports activities reporter Andrew Bucholtz summed it up:

this nonetheless is a great distance from the varsity’s claims that they have been shocked at what was happening in the current scandal, which included somebody who’d never performed competitive soccer earlier than making UCLA’s 2017 national runner-up staff. And whereas UCLA’s 2014 report declared that this violated their own policy on the time, and whereas the varsity stated that led to “providing employees with coaching relating to, and accountability for following, UC admissions insurance policies,” they stored all of this very quiet till now, and don’t appear to have handed down much punishment for those involved; one of many athletic department officers cited as key to the undeserving monitor athlete’s admission still works there, and continues to be concerned with soliciting donations. And this can be a additional suggestion nonetheless that there may be extra suspicious athletic admissions on the market, at UCLA and past.

The official who continues to be concerned is Josh Rebholz, pictured at prime (photograph from his UCLA Bruins employees page).  He is at present Senior Associate Athletic Director for Exterior Relations.  Fenno’s article has element about Rebholz’s position that the UCLA assertion omits:

[Then track and field director Michael] Maynard despatched a four-page letter to [UCLA Athletics director Dan] Guerrero explaining the admission. Within the letter, Maynard stated Josh Rebholz, now the varsity’s senior affiliate athletic director, had first approached him about admitting the lady.

“Through the dialog Josh asked me if I had any room on my group for a feminine athlete, and in that case would I help together with her admission,” Maynard wrote to Guerrero. “… Josh indicated that he wasn’t positive what events she did in monitor, however that she was the daughter of main donors. … Josh indicated to me once once more that her mother and father have been major donors to UCLA, and it was essential to improvement.

“For my part [the admitted woman] was not athletically up to the efficiency degree to participate in indoor or outside T&F.  Right now I felt that I had been manipulated into coding her beneath false pretenses.”

Maynard’s letter said clearly that Rebholz, in this case, instantly encouraged admission as a quid professional quo for a donation.

The UCLA statement says, “No disciplinary action was deemed needed towards Rebholz.”  Naturally, since UCLA did not investigate him.

An optimistic studying is that Rebholz did supply admission in trade for donations earlier than coverage was clarified, perhaps in block capitals with numerous underlining, and earlier than “athletic department employees was educated concerning the policy,” at which level he stopped doing it.

Circumstantial proof helps a extra pessimistic studying.  The then-assistant tennis coach, Grant Chen (now teaching at SMU), had recognized the applicant and obtained a “verbal pledge” from her family for a donation to this system.

The identical day that Maynard entered her identify into the admissions system, the report stated, Taylor Swearingen, a member of the athletic department’s fundraising employees, emailed Chen pattern donation pledges for the mother and father. One was for $80,000 and the opposite for $100,000.

“That recommended that [the woman] was being admitted as a result of the mother and father had dedicated to creating a donation,” the report stated.

Less than two weeks later, on April 1, the varsity’s eight-person student-athlete admissions committee accepted the lady for freshman admission. Three days later, Chen sent Swearingen an e mail with the header “Monitor Present Agreements.”

“We obtained a deal at $25 x 4 years for monitor,” Chen wrote.

The coach and the event official together set a recommended worth for admission at $25,000 a yr.

The UCLA statement claims that nothing like this ever happened again.  But Rebholz’s UCLA bio notes, “Since his arrival to Westwood, there was an increase in main annual donors who donate $25,000 or more yearly to UCLA from 16 to more than 260 people, and in 2014 UCLA Athletics broke an all-time fundraising report, elevating $80M in just one fiscal yr.”

There’s an apparent risk that Rebholz approached a few of these other 259 donors in the identical means.  And that he was not investigated not because his strategies are so clear however as a result of they are so profitable.

There’s additionally UCLA’s wording of present coverage: “Instantly in the wake of the investigation and its findings, UCLA Athletics carried out a policy that a donation couldn’t be accepted from households of prospects until the student-athlete is enrolled at UCLA.”  A improvement official like Rebholz can’t get the cash or pledge up entrance. However even now, a previous, informal understanding can convey cash in later.  It’s a quid professional quo, on a timer.

If the pessimistic studying is true, then UCLA Athletics improvement is selling UC’s honesty for $25,000 a yr.  Admissions integrity is the flash level for the entire system. Few individuals still assume it’s objective and truthful, for a lot of good causes.  If plenty of individuals determine that it is somewhat often for sale, we’ll see a brand new spherical of collapsing help for public larger ed.

Fundraising and school sports both want a national rethink.  Within the meantime, UC should appoint an outdoor investigator–one with no ties to UCLA, UC, university companies, or school sports activities–to assessment UCLA’s general fundraising operation.