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State auditor: UC wrongly admitted well-connected students

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A California state audit has found that the University of California wrongly admitted at least 64 wealthy students over the past six years as “favors to donors, family, and friends.”

The California State Auditor also found in the audit released Tuesday that campus staff falsely designated 22 of the applicants as student-athlete recruits because of donations from or as favors to well-connected families. 

One campus, the University of California, Berkeley, admitted 42 applicants through its regular admissions process based on connections to staff, leadership, and donors, but those applicants were not as qualified as others who were denied admission, the audit found.

According to the audit, UC Santa Barbara was found to have improperly admitted four students as student-athletes. The investigation also revealed collusion between two athletics coaches who worked together to admit a student into the university by falsifying the student's athletic achievements.

UCSB officials issued this statement when asked by NewsChannel 3 Sports Director Mike Klan:

"UC Santa Barbara is fully committed to preventing any improper activity that interferes with a fair and level admissions process.

As President Drake stated, the University of California is “committed to a level playing field for every applicant.

Unethical means to gain admission, as rare as they may be, run contrary to our longstanding values of equity and fairness.”

"As noted in the audit report, UC Santa Barbara has implemented new policies that will prevent similar occurrences in the future. These safeguards include a review of every prospective athlete’s academic and athletic history by a faculty committee, verification by a compliance officer of any documentation, and a review of participation after one year. We are working with the UC Office of the President to identify any additional measures that will strengthen our campus policies and processes. "

The audit was conducted in response to the national college admissions scandal last year that embroiled prestigious universities around the country, athletic coaches and dozens of wealthy parents. Those investigations previously identified at least three students at UCLA and UC Berkeley who were improperly admitted. 

UCLA men’s soccer coach Jorge Salcedo was indicted on charges of racketeering conspiracy for allegedly accepting $200,000 in bribes from the scheme’s mastermind, Rick Singer, in exchange for helping two students gain admission to the school as soccer players, though they didn’t play the sport competitively. Salcedo pleaded guilty to one count and is expected to be sentenced next month. 

At UC Berkeley, at least one student was known to have been admitted with fraudulent test scores, prosecutors allege. David Sidoo, a Canadian businessman and former professional football player, pleaded guilty to one charge of mail fraud conspiracy for paying Singer to fix entrance exams for his two sons. The younger of the two, Jordan Sidoo, attended UC Berkeley. David Sidoo was sentenced to three months in prison this summer. 

Then-UC President Janet Napolitano ordered an internal investigation of all UC campuses that resulted in a sweeping list of recommendations aimed at better policing of fraud and conflicts of interest in student admissions. It called for stronger verification of claims on students’ applications, reviews of potential links between donors and applicants and stricter scrutiny of students admitted for special talents, such as athletes and artists.

California State Auditor Elaine Howle found that staff were insufficiently trained and supervised in reviewing applications, “which led to inconsistent reviews, and affected applicants’ chances of admission.”

“The Office of the President has allowed weaknesses to persist for years and has not ensured the admissions policies and processes have been consistently and fairly applied from campus to campus,” the audit said, and the president’s office does not monitor or review admission practices across campuses. 

She also recommended that the president require campuses to verify athletic talent and review donation records before admitting prospective student athletes.

UCSB and UCLA officials say their schools plan to require verification of all student-athletes. UCSB has also updated policies to require a committee to review all talent documentation for prospective student-athletes. The committee will be composed of faculty and admissions staff. UCSB also has implemented a process for checking donation history related to applications who are under consideration for admission.

Article Topic Follows: California

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