Another “Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal hits UC Berkeley, as a new audit finds students from households with donor and staff connections inappropriately cruised through the admissions process.
Fallen Full House star Lori Loughlin has not yet even been shipped off to prison for her role in the 2019 “Varsity Blues” rich kid college admissions scandal (though she will be on November 19, for a measly two months, while Felicity Huffman did two weeks time in Dublin last October.) That Department of Justice investigation unearthed a pattern of wealthy parents using bribes and deepfaked photos to get their kids into prestigious schools, so UC Berkeley ran their own self-audit in March and found a few “troubling errors.”
But a just-released independent report from the California State Auditor found the errors far more numerous and troubling, as the Chronicle reports that UC Berkeley and other UCs "improperly admitted dozens of wealthy students based on their connections" in an audit going back to 2013. The Mercury News adds that “Most of the students were white and came from families making at least $150,000 a year.”
The audit calls out other schools too, though to a lesser degree. The Los Angeles Times notes that “64 noncompetitive applicants” were admitted to UC schools statewide during this period. UC Berkeley had the lion’s share of the alleged cheats with 42 fraudulent donor-connected admissions, while that school, UCLA, UC San Diego, and UC Santa Barbara combined had 22 students who “were admitted as athletes despite having demonstrated little athletic talent.” (13 of the questionable athlete admissions were to Berkeley.)
“We conclude that the university has allowed for improper influence in admissions decisions, and it has not treated applicants fairly or consistently,” State Auditor Elaine Howle writes in an audit summary. Of the UC Berkeley students inappropriately wrangled in, she says most “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.”
UC Berkeley dominates the cases of wrongdoing here, with 55 of the 64 fishy admissions. But with tens of thousands of admissions a year, and the audit covering six years, this seems like a pretty negligible rate of fraud, right? Not exactly, or at least not for UC Berkeley, who received a singled-out admonishment from the auditor. “The pervasiveness of this problem at UC Berkeley demonstrates that campus leadership has failed to establish a campus culture that values commitment to an admissions process based on fairness and applicants’ merits and achievements,” the audit said.
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