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New revelations emerge about attempts to get students into Berkeley.

Dave_BerryDave_Berry CC Admissions Expert 511 replies3189 threads CC Admissions Expert
"The scandal involving admissions at the University of California has gotten worse since Tuesday, when the state auditor released a report that was harshly critical of UC -- and in particular its Berkeley campus -- for 'improper influence in admissions decisions.' The report says the university system "has not treated applicants fairly or consistently." And the report made clear that the scandal was not just about Varsity Blues.

The audit is based on a review of the university's campuses at Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Barbara from 2013-14 through 2018-19. In that time those campuses admitted 22 applicants as athletes 'even though the students did not have the athletic qualifications to compete at the university,' the audit stated. Berkeley was found to have admitted 42 students, 'most of whom were referred to the admissions office because of their families’ histories as donors or because they were related or connected to university staff, even though their records did not demonstrate competitive qualifications for admission.'" ...

https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2020/09/28/university-california-admissions-scandal-worsens
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Replies to: New revelations emerge about attempts to get students into Berkeley.

  • PublisherPublisher 12149 replies164 threads Senior Member
    Hopefully, this will teach Mr. Blum to keep his $15 million to himself. How dare he think that he has the right to write a letter of support for an applicant.

    Of course, I expect that UCal-Berkeley will be returning the $15 million in donations. After all, what school wants to accept money--especially large sums of money--from one who thinks that he or she can offer a written opinion as to the character and suitability of an applicant ?

    On a more serious note, things have gone too far, in my opinion, regarding propriety in the admissions process. A letter of support was a decent gesture after having donated $15 million and, therefore, not a bribe or a gift with strings attached.

    Is this really a win for the taxpayers of California ?
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 85067 replies758 threads Senior Member
    Publisher wrote: »
    On a more serious note, things have gone too far, in my opinion, regarding propriety in the admissions process. A letter of support was a decent gesture after having donated $15 million and, therefore, not a bribe or a gift with strings attached.

    Is this really a win for the taxpayers of California ?

    It is only an issue because there is existing UC policy against admissions for development reasons: https://regents.universityofcalifornia.edu/governance/policies/2202.html . Yes, there is wiggle room with notice to and approval from the Academic Senate, UC President, and UC Board Chair, but the unlikelihood of such approval from all three presumably means that there are incentives to try to work against the rules when a donor tries to help someone through admission.

    Of course, lots of other universities do not have such policies, so that development admissions are done openly within their rules.
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  • PublisherPublisher 12149 replies164 threads Senior Member
    While I suppose that $15 million just doesn't go as far today as it used to; hopefully, Mr. Blum at least received a thank you note for his generous donation.

    I suspect that there are a few LACs that would be willing to accept and consider Mr. Blum's assessment letters in light of his generosity.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 85067 replies758 threads Senior Member
    If Blum and any administrators involved wanted to help some students get admitted through donations, they should have lobbied the Regents to change the Regents Policy 2202 first, or followed it with full disclosure to the Academic Senate, UC President, and UC Board Chair, rather than trying to cheat their way around the policy.
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  • bluebayoubluebayou 28250 replies212 threads Senior Member
    edited September 28
    Been reading about this for several days and still don't see much of an issue. Holistic admissions takes in all kinds of qualities, including "life experiences" as noted in the link in post #2. You admit 100% on merit or you don't and if you don't, one applicants 'life experiences or talent' is in the eye of the beholder.

    With regards to the Regent in question, he has been donating $$ to UC for years, and he has written numerous letters on behalf of individual applicants.

    OTOH, the students admitted under athletics when they were not is outright fraud and the employees involved should be prosecuted and the students so admitted have their degrees cancelled. (Of course, none of that will ever happen.)
    edited September 28
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  • MWolfMWolf 3077 replies14 threads Senior Member
    I agree with @bluebayou.

    It is also the very limited extent of the issue. In those years, Berkeley and UCLA each admitted at least 61,000 students, UCSB accepted over 130,000, students and UCSD accepted over 150,000,

    So, among more than 400,000 students who were accepted, there were 42 who may have been accepted because of a LoR from somebody who donated a lot of money to the universities.

    This is what, 0.01% of the admissions? At that level, these students definitely did not "take another student's place. These are numbers of students who could have been accepted by mistake.

    I also agree about student athletes. The 42 students who were accepted because of recommendations did not lie or apply with false credentials. The supposed athletes were accepted based on falsified credentials. Moreover, athletes also receive scholarships. I do not know whether these students received such scholarships, but the number of scholarships given to athletes and the number of athletes recruited, suggests that they may have received such scholarships.

    Also, back to Blum. the students they mentioned was a the waitlist, not rejected. And just because the average number of students accepted from the waitlist was 26%, that does not mean that "the students had a 26% chance of being accepted".

    That is not how these things work.

    Moreover, based on that claim, no students should have been accepted to Berkeley that year, since the chance of acceptance for any applicant is 17%, lower than that 26%. So therefore all the students who were accepted to Berkeley and UCLA this year were accepted unfairly.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35953 replies404 threads Senior Member
    Accepting based on "merit" does include more than stats, in holistic. It you mean acceptance based solely on stats, it needs a different term.

    I'm having trouble believeing Blum "inappropriately wrote a letter that helped an unqualified student get into UC Berkeley. We know he wrote a letter, not that it swung this kid in. Not that adcoms jumped up and shouted, OMG! Blum wants this kid, where's the rubber stamp?

    Nor does being on the WL mean this kid was underqualified, only that there was not a prior seat available, but he/she was good enough to keep in play.

    His letter sounds pretty innocuous, to me. Generic.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 85067 replies758 threads Senior Member
    I realize that the predominant opinion on these forums is in favor of development admission (and other means of adding privilege to existing advantage like legacy admission). However, when the university has a rule restricting development admission (Regents Policy 2202), that rule should be followed, or those who oppose the rule should lobby for it to be changed or removed.

    If you favor development admission, is it ok for the rich and powerful to ignore the rules as they exist, or find questionable loopholes around them, rather than obeying the rules as they exist? Should that be applied to any rule that a rich or powerful person feels that they do not want to obey?
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  • amsunshineamsunshine 1315 replies14 threads Senior Member
    ucbalumnus wrote: »
    I realize that the predominant opinion on these forums is in favor of development admission (and other means of adding privilege to existing advantage like legacy admission). However, when the university has a rule restricting development admission (Regents Policy 2202), that rule should be followed, or those who oppose the rule should lobby for it to be changed or removed.

    If you favor development admission, is it ok for the rich and powerful to ignore the rules as they exist, or find questionable loopholes around them, rather than obeying the rules as they exist? Should that be applied to any rule that a rich or powerful person feels that they do not want to obey?

    I'm not in favor of anyone getting around rules and definitely not in favor of "development admission", as you describe it. I think admissions should be based on straight up merit, and I'm not a fan of the wishy washy "holistic" review.

    That said, I am trying to withhold judgment about this particular scenario until more facts come to light to suggest that this letter made any particular difference with regard to the student in question. I guess I also want some more information about the whole incident in general before making a full-on condemnation.
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  • MWolfMWolf 3077 replies14 threads Senior Member
    The wealthy are already getting a huge leg up in admissions, without paying all that much, and without benefitting anybody but the already wealthy.

    So long as the number of developmental admits is small, expensive, and the money goes to benefit all of the students, I'm good with it.

    Kids from the top 5% by income make up almost 1/4 of all students at Berkeley, and over 20% of all of the universities in the audit. They are getting in by spending money on stuff which the low SES students cannot afford.

    They do so by being able to spend about $700,000 on each child, versus the average of about $230,000. So why is that any different from spending $3,00,000 to increase the chances even further?

    So long as admission criteria to college are directly related to the amount of income that a family has, this is nothing more than the same thing. In fact, it's better, since in this case, at least, the money is going directly to benefit all students at the college, rather than to the same set of counselors, programs, wealthy school districts, and wealthy private schools that serve the same set of wealthy kids.

    When we look at the top 5%, we're talking about some at least 10,000 students who were accepted over those years, whose stats and other profile aspects would likely not have been good enough had their parents not bee able to afford all of the extras that money can buy. Compared to that, those 42 are absolutely nothing.
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  • PublisherPublisher 12149 replies164 threads Senior Member
    edited September 29
    And, as a reminder, the subject of the recommendation was qualified to be admitted, but was placed on the waitlist.
    edited September 29
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 85067 replies758 threads Senior Member
    MWolf wrote: »
    So long as the number of developmental admits is small, expensive, and the money goes to benefit all of the students, I'm good with it.

    The Regents of the University of California evidently wanted to greatly limit developmental admissions, as evidenced by Regents Policy 2202, which you presumably would like to see removed. Seems like major donors and the like would have enough lobbying power to try to get it removed so that they would not have try to cheat their way around it.
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  • AboutTheSameAboutTheSame 3198 replies48 threads Senior Member
    Who is actually surprised by this? Money talks. People in power have pull.
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  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk 3124 replies5 threads Senior Member
    "Holistic admissions takes in all kinds"

    the UC's really don't have holistic admissions. They consider 14 factors, of which 10 are grades, rigor, gpa, scores, projects, basically all academic. The next is special skills where athletes come in, then context and location. There are no recommendations, they have a common essay and four smaller essays. UCs can't consider race, first-gen could be considered, I doubt legacy is.


    "Money talks. People in power have pull."

    Agree, I think it's a non-story, especially when it's like 2% of the class.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 85067 replies758 threads Senior Member
    edited September 30
    "Holistic admissions takes in all kinds"

    the UC's really don't have holistic admissions. They consider 14 factors, of which 10 are grades, rigor, gpa, scores, projects, basically all academic. The next is special skills where athletes come in, then context and location. There are no recommendations, they have a common essay and four smaller essays. UCs can't consider race, first-gen could be considered, I doubt legacy is.

    "Holistic" means that the applicant is treated as a whole, rather than evaluated in parts (like a point system). Indeed, UC admissions reading may be more holistic than Harvard, since UC readers assign a single score to each applicant, versus several category scores that Harvard readers assign.

    "Holistic" does not necessarily mean that any arbitrary criteria are (supposed to be) used on a whim. Each college doubtlessly has policies and rules specifying what are and are not (supposed to be) used during admissions reading. A holistic admissions reading can exclude legacy, development, and race/ethnicity from consideration (as at UC), while a non-holistic point system admissions process can use any or all of them.
    "Money talks. People in power have pull."

    Agree, I think it's a non-story, especially when it's like 2% of the class.

    The story is not that people with money influence admissions, but that such influence is specifically limited by existing Regents Policy 2202, so that, in the UC context, it is (or at the very least looks like) cheating, even though it may be above-board at other schools. Big donors who would like to influence admissions with donations should have lobbied the Regents to remove Regents Policy 2202, rather than try to cheat their way around it.
    edited September 30
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35953 replies404 threads Senior Member
    Good read on it, @ucbalumnus.

    Just pointing out that we don't know if Blum had any influence at all. At all. Not even if admissions read his letter.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 85067 replies758 threads Senior Member
    Just pointing out that we don't know if Blum had any influence at all. At all. Not even if admissions read his letter.

    Attempting to cheat or otherwise do something against the rules, even if completely unsuccessful, is still frowned upon and often punished if caught. Also, Blum's attempts to influence the wait list were not the only examples, since there were also "fake athlete" instances (not necessarily related to Blum).
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 35953 replies404 threads Senior Member
    Agree this isn't solely about Blum.

    But CC tends to jump on the smallest pieces of info and treat them like indisputable facts. Or, lol, critical insight.

    Without getting into debate, I'd suggest we wait and learn more.
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  • Data10Data10 3480 replies11 threads Senior Member
    edited September 30
    I'm not sure why the focus is on Blum, but it certainly appears that a small portion of applicants were admitted inappropriately. Skimming through the report, some of the more reliable criticisms are:

    *A few athletes were admitted who did not compete on the team and were soon removed from the roster. After admission, the athlete applicant’s family donated several thousand dollars to the team. In one specific example that was highlighted is quoted below:
    1. The child of a major donor applied to UC Berkeley and received the lowest possible scores on their application.
    2. The associate director of applications contacted a coach about the applicant.
    3. The coach falsely identified the applicant as a qualified athlete and notified the associate director he had done so.
    4. UC Berkeley admitted the applicant as a student athlete.
    5. The applicant's family donated thousands to the team,


    *A few friends and relatives of faculty/staff and donors were admitted in spite of receiving the lowest possible application rating by readers, which "under normal circumstances would have resulted in virtually no chance of admission," without being identified as an athlete. The application readers both marked the applicant as not recommended, with the lowest possible ratings. Yet they were admitted, with no reason given for seemingly ignoring the readers' evaluations and applicant ratings.


    While this is only a few applicants out of tens of thousands, it is still troubling. If a public college says they have particular rules for admission, they should follow those rules. The report also list many other criticisms about the admission system and suggestions for improvement.

    edited September 30
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  • MWolfMWolf 3077 replies14 threads Senior Member
    edited September 30
    I think that everybody here agrees that the fake athletes are not the same as borderline applicants who had LoRs which may have pushed them across the line.

    Fake athletes were accepted fraudulently, and they were admitted based on their identity as an athlete. Their admission itself is invalid.

    At least in the case of Blum, the student was waitlisted, and had chances of admission which were at least as good as most solid RD applicants. The 26% chance of admission that was mentioned in the article is higher than that of most applicants. The applicant did not present any false info, and they had a decent chance of being admitted even without the LoR.
    edited September 30
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