UCSB among four UC schools that conducted inappropriate admissions
Four University of California schools were found to have unethically admitted 64 students between 2013 and 2019 that favored wealthy or well-connected students over others, according to a state audit released Tuesday.
UCSB is found to have enrolled four students as student-athletes inappropriately after the auditors conducted research into at least six sports teams on the campus.
UCSB did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The report, which was conducted by California State Auditor Elaine Howle, reviewed admissions practices at UCSB, UCLA, UC San Diego and UC Berkeley, finding that the campuses failed to evaluate students fairly and to develop adequate and standardized admissions processes.
Of the total 64 students to be enrolled improperly, UC Berkeley admitted 42 of them, 13 of which as student-athletes.
Additional information also revealed that most of the improperly admitted students were white, and at least half of them came from families who earned at least $150,000 per year.
“By admitting 64 noncompetitive applicants, the university undermined the fairness and integrity of its admissions process and deprived more qualified students of the opportunity for admission,” the report read.
According to the report, UCSB admitted one student-athlete for which there is no evidence that the applicant ever competed for the team.
In this instance, two coaches, each on different teams, and one father worked together to make this happen.
According to the report, “Coach 1” worked with “Coach 2” to try to admit an applicant who had been denied admission during the normal application process. The applicant’s family were donors to Coach 1’s team and also donated to Coach 2’s team at the same time their child applied for admission.
Coach 2 then requested admittance for the student, which the university found odd. This prompted an email chain between Coach 1, Coach 2 and the father. In one email, Coach 1 asked the father if the applicant’s high school coach could “put something together” that would demonstrate the applicant’s talent and referred to the admissions process as a “game.”
The email received by the university from the high school coach included little to no detail about the applicant’s athletic skill, instead focusing on his “personality.”
UCSB then admitted the applicant as an athlete, despite never receiving any additional evidence of their athletic qualifications.
Although UCSB and UC Berkeley are two of the schools which had established policies for reviewing the talent of prospective student-athletes, Ms. Howle said in the report they judgmentally selected 10 athletes at each of the campuses to determine whether the campus had verified talent before admitting the student.
“Neither campus was able to provide evidence proving the campus had actually performed this talent review,” the report read.
In total, 22 of the students improperly enrolled were labeled unfairly as student-athletes. The report did not make any mention that these enrollment practices were connected with the Varsity Blues scandal in 2019.
In that scandal, 53 people were found to have been involved in coercing better test scores, bribing college officials and admitting students who did not meet the university’s requirements.
UCLA was one of the schools caught in the Varsity Blues scandal, prompting the school to make changes to their process.
“However, despite the implementation of these additional safeguards, none of the campuses have fully addressed the gaps in their athletics admissions processes,” the report said.
UCSB has updated its policies to require that a committee composed of faculty and admissions staff review talent documentation for all prospective student-athletes, increasing the independence of the talent verification process.
It has also implemented a process for checking the donation history related to all applicants to whom they are considering offering admission.
Still, the report calls for much more stringent guidelines for all schools.
“However, we observed that donations that were connected to inappropriate admissions also occurred after applicants were admitted. … Until the campuses address this gap, they risk further abuse of their admissions processes, which undermines the credibility of the university and the integrity of the admissions process,” the report said.
“Most troubling is that the Office of the President has not established a minimum set of systemwide protocols and procedures to protect against impropriety, despite having evidence that the campuses’ admissions processes are susceptible to inappropriate activity.”
The UC System responded to the report stating that it is committed to the integrity of the admissions process, saying the report “identified important issues that will help us in addressing any ongoing problems.”
“I have zero tolerance on matters of integrity, and will do everything I can to ensure inappropriate admissions do not happen on any of our campuses. To that end, I appreciate the State Auditor’s assistance in providing the relevant underlying data and information supporting the audit’s conclusions. The University will then be able to take additional appropriate action as necessary and maintain the highest standards in our admissions processes,” said Michael V. Drake, president of UC Regents.