Probe shows employee acted alone in Claremont McKenna SAT scandal

A study released by the Claremont McKenna College Board of Trustees Tuesday revealed that the former Vice President and Dean of Admissions was indeed acting alone when he reported false SAT scores and other college statistics for the college for more than 6 consecutive years.

The probe, submitted by O’Melveny & Myers LLP, further states no other employee was involved or aware of the inflated SAT scores submitted by the admissions dean, who stepped down immediately following the revelation earlier this year. Freshman class SAT scores are supplied for school rankings on an annual basis. CMC, founded in 1946, currently enrolls about 1261 students and is ranked ninth on the 2012 list of Best National Liberal Arts Colleges, as published by U.S. News & World Report.

“We regret and are deeply disappointed by this episode,” said Harry T. McMahon, chair of CMC’s board of trustees, in a recent letter to the community. “Throughout its history, the college has been defined by its core values of honesty and responsible leadership.”

Max Benavidez, the college’s associate vice president of public affairs, communications and marketing, says CMC officials are “gratified by the finding” and are hard at work to ensure a repeat will not happen.

News broke of the intentional misinformation submitted by Richard Vos in January, following a tip provided to President Pamela Gann by CMC personnel. Employees had discovered inaccuracies in the SAT scores reported for entering students in fall 2011. Mr. Vos admitted sole responsibility for inflating the annual scores, further revealing that he had been doing so since 2005. An internal audit showed that he had routinely raised the scores each year by an average of 10 to 20 points.

“We take this situation very seriously,” Ms. Gann told the community, noting that the school immediately turned to legal counsel to review admission data and the way the process is conducted.

O’Melveny & Myers found that Mr. Vos had not only reported inaccurate SAT scores, but had doctored ACT, class rank and application statistics as early as 2004. According to the report, Mr. Vos asserted that, though he was acting alone, he felt pressured to maintain or increase SAT scores. However, legal counsel maintains that the level of pressure felt by Mr. Vos did not exceed “the norm” for his position. No evidence of verbal abuse, economic pressure or intimidation was found.

To address the pressures, the college has decided to combine admissions, financial aid and student affairs under a single vice president. In doing so, the university will “better permit the college to capture our balanced desire for both academic excellence and non-academic qualities that define a CMC student,” according to Ms. Gann. Vice President for Student Affairs Jefferson Huang, who has worked with CMC for the last 18 years, will take over the newly-redesigned position.

In the aftermath of reported inaccuracies, CMC leadership has corrected freshman SAT scores and application statistics. Interim measures for reporting accurate data have been put into place and officials are working on a set of guidelines to “regulate the compiling and reporting of all material institutional statistics,” according to a news release.

“We have learned a great deal from this unfortunate matter and will become even stronger as a result,” Mr. McMahon concluded.

The college will not pursue criminal charges against Mr. Vos, according to Mr. Benavidez. “It was never a consideration,” he said.

—Beth Hartnett


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