The Dirty Little Secret of College Admissions

By Rodriguez, Roberto | Black Issues in Higher Education, August 8, 1996 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Dirty Little Secret of College Admissions


Rodriguez, Roberto, Black Issues in Higher Education


In the aftermath of an expose by the Los Angeles

Times that some students were admitted

to the University of California at the request

of prominent people, a report by the

university was recently released.

Rather than silencing the debate, the report

drove home one of the dirty little secrets of college

admissions -- that when it comes to admitting

students who otherwise couldn't get in, friends and

relatives of prominent people are the first ones to

take advantage of special admittance procedures.

This has long been true at private colleges, where

"legacies," or children of alumni, have had first

preference and requests from large donors are

respectfully granted.

But public colleges are supposed to be immune

from that sort of influence. The report on the

University of California, which recently voted to

eliminate race as a factor in admissions, shows that

is not so.

The study, titled "Report on Campus Practices

Related to Admissions Inquiries by Prominent

Individuals," examined the admissions of the past five

years. Records from before then have been destroyed.

Approximately 215 annual inquiries were made on

behalf of undergraduate applications by prominent

individuals, of whom about 15 a year appeared to

have received special treatment.

Those who attempted to influence the admissions

process included UC Regents, legislators, high

government or corporate figures, and major

donors. The report, which was ordered by UC

president Richard Atkinson and conducted by UC

provost C. Judson King, showed that most of the

inquiries about undergraduate applications

occurred at UCLA, Berkeley and UC Davis, the

most prestigious of the campuses. Total inquiries

about graduate and professional school

applications were approximately ten per year for

the entire UC system.

During the time period analyzed, approximately

60 applicants may have or did receive preferential

treatment as a result of inquiries or

letters from prominent individuals.

According to the Los Angeles Times,

both Atkinson and King had

themselves handled some of the

admissions cases in question.

The report concludes that while

nothing was done improperly, the

university should establish a clear

policy so that there are no

misinterpretations in the future. The

report recommends the following:

* additional safeguards to assure the

integrity of the admissions process

should be instituted so that no external

factor is allowed to exercise undue or

improper influence on the outcome of

admissions decisions;

* procedures regarding handling and use of

letters of recommendation in undergraduate

admissions should be clarified

and published in University

materials; and

* clear guidelines to govern appeals of negative

undergraduate admissions decisions should be

developed and published.

However, administrators within the admissions

community say that the issue, which

comes within the context of the

heated affirmative action debate, is not one

that will go away soon. For one thing, the

report only documented cases where there is a

paper trail. But that may not tell the full

story.

Many high-level administrators in the

field of admissions say that preferential

treatment is widespread and involves not

simply VIPs from outside colleges and

universities but also VIPs from within the

institutions. Many of those who spoke about

this phenomenon requested anonymity,

fearing retaliation.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Dirty Little Secret of College Admissions
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?