State auditor: UC wrongly admitted well-connected students

“The audit examined admissions policies and practices over the six academic years from 2013-2014 to 2018-2019 at four of the UC’s nine campuses — UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego and UC Santa Barbara.”

“Auditors found that **at least 22 applicants were falsely designated as student-athlete recruits “because of donations from or as favors to well-connected families.” **These students “had little or no athletic skills," Howle said."


I’m sure something in this vein has all been discussed somewhere already on CC, but the false athletic recruits are pretty blatantly an ethical violation. As someone coming from a family that had never donated to any schools, I honestly don’t have a problem with donor’s children receiving admission. Perhaps it does take a spot from another applicant, but if something of great value was added to the campus, it is a nice favor to admit the wealthy parent’s child. At this point, it’s not even a favor, it seems pretty out in the open that big donation = admission. It is unfair to low income applicants, but if I look at it from the school’s perspective, they have a huge incentive to continue these practices and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. It is what it is. Thoughts?

Fact #1: “That number (22) could be a significant undercount and actually exceed 400 students, according to the audit”

In addition, UC Berkeley admitted **42** unqualified students beyond athletics, even though some of them had “the lowest possible scores on their applications.”

Let’s do a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation:
6 academic years; 4 campuses and assuming an extreme scenario: 480 cases instead of 22.

480/(6*4) = 20…average annual number of cases falsely designated “student-athletes “ per campus

Take UC Berkeley for example, since it “had some significant weaknesses in their admissions process” with additional 42 unqualified cases.
So 42/6 = 7…average annual cases of unqualified admitted beyond athletics.

==> 20+7 = 27 (roughly annual cases of wrongly admitted well-connected students) out of around 6300 annual freshmen enrollment. That’s less than 0.5%.


**Fact #2**: A regular feature of state budget cuts.

Well, these facts partially explain SuperfrogFan’s “from the school’s perspective”.

  • **“But it’s not just donors.** Eleven of the 42 students flagged as inappropriate admissions by the audit were tied to university or campus staff.”

“Another problem, according to the audit, is that some campuses place personal data on applications that can lead to bias. At three campuses — UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC San Diego — application readers can see the students’ names and native languages. Berkeley and UCSD let readers see an applicant’s gender; Berkeley and UCLA allow readers to see where applicants were born. Readers could then wrongly make inferences about a student’s race or ethnicity, the audit warned. The audit finds the practice strange because UC guidelines for how students are admitted do not include these details in the 14 factors for admission.”

In sum, I think this is occurring across the country, and UC’s president Drake said he has “zero tolerance in matters of compromised integrity” and that “individuals involved in improper activities will be disciplined appropriately.”

I am sure that those who made donations and had their child subsequently accepted also took a tax donation for their donation. The donation should not be deductible as they received value for the donation. It would be nice to see the government disallow these deductions.

I could live with the great donation being used as a tie-breaker more than allowing in kids that do not have the stats to support admission, although I guess a bigger question is how some of the kids with poor stats are able to make it in these top tier unis.

May make Rick Singer look like an amateur.

May give rise to mitigating defenses at sentencing hearings to some coaches and parents who have yet to be sentenced in the Rick Singer related scandal.

Not surprising at all. It’s not as though Rick Singer was this great genius who discovered a complex loophole which nobody had ever thought of. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were cases such as this at every large popular college with special admission criteria for athletes or similar groups.

US Senator Dianne Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum, a UC regent member and a wealthy investment banker, is named in the UCB admissions scandal.

He wrote a letter of recommendation which helped a student get in. I’m sorry, but , while it may be unsavory, there was no lying and no fraud. The student didn’t pretend to be an athlete or anything that they weren’t. They didn’t fake test scores, nor did they fake GPA or achievements.

“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.”

In 2001, the state of California provided $200 million to the budget of U California. At the same time, donations provided over $900 million.

So, while it is a public university and is beholden to the residents of the state, donors provided 4.5X the amount of money to the university as did the residents of the state.

If the State of California does not want Berkeley to bend the rules in favor of donors, they should start providing a higher proportion of Berkeley’s budget (it is 14% at the moment)

Unlike at many other universities, there is an actual UC policy that “Admissions motivated by concern for financial, political, or other such benefit to the University do not have a place in the admissions process.” The policy does leave some wiggle room for exceptions with notification to various other entities (like the Academic Senate) that are unlikely to give approval.

It is likely that any shenanigans or corrupt acts were done to get around this policy, unlike at many other universities where admission for development purposes is openly done as an accepted practice (and would not require doing things like falsifying athletic credentials or whatever).

Is this surprising or unexpected?


Richard Blum may have wrote the student recommendation, but according to news articles, the letter should have gone to the Admissions Office through the normal admission process, not to the University Chancellor, according to former UC Regent. These are the rules (regents’ policy 2201).

However, it was a letter of recommendation. Moreover, you will also have to prove that the student was accepted because of the LoR. While having a 26% chance of being accepted is low, as we’ve seen on CC, there are kids being accepted schools at which they have a 1% chance of admission.

But note that UCs normally do not use letters of recommendation to begin with, although UCB has recently been experimenting with asking some applicants for optional letters of recommendation (but during the regular process, not during the wait list process as some news articles have suggested). However, Blum does not appear to be the type of normally expected recommender even in this case. So it looks like there were shenanigans or corrupt practices aimed at getting around Regents Policy 2202 ( ), since it was not mentioned that the Academic Senate, UC President, or UC Board Chair were informed and gave approval for any such irregular admission decisions.

Of course, it is a scandal because Regents Policy 2202 exists, where some have incentive to do shenanigans or corrupt practices to get around that, unlike at many universities where admission for development purposes is an accepted practice and done openly without needing to engage in practices that are against the rules of those universities.

“I did it a bunch of times,” Blum said. “No one ever told me it was wrong.”

Negligent? Quite likely, I think.

Double-check the definition of “negligent” - Failing to take proper care in doing something.

I find it odd that Blum would write a LOR at all given the UC schools don’t accept them in their application process. I believe UCB very rarely will ask applicants for 1-2 LOR’s, but aren’t those submitted directly to admissions and don’t they want teachers or counselors to write them?

Blum may legitimately not be familiar with the details of admissions requirements, and no one is going to tell a major donor that he can’t write a letter. Such a letter, written to a college where there are policies in place, should have been stamped “Not Considered For Admissions Purposes”, stuck in the applicant’s file, and otherwise left forgotten.

Blum submitting several letters of recommendation is seriously fishy. UCs don’t accept letters of recommendation. It’s not part of the application. If you try to send one, it goes directly in the trash. The very existence of a letter of recommendation in an applicant’s file is an obvious attempt to bypass the normal admissions process and use influence to get a student admitted.

Some UCs do ask some applicants for LoRs. For example, here is the LoR info from UCB’s site:


UCB is the only UC that invites a small group of applicants to submit LOR’s in their general admission review . As of the last admission cycle, none of the other UC’s ask or consider LOR’s during the general application review. However, some campuses/majors may require letters of recommendation as part of a supplemental application review.