How Berkeley is responding to state auditor’s admissions report

Chancellor Carol Christ shared the following message with the campus community on Tuesday:

Today the California State Auditor released a report that contains numerous highly disturbing allegations of improper conduct in our undergraduate admissions work. These allegations, if true, are unacceptable, especially in our community where excellence, fairness and equity are our core values.

We are committed to getting to the bottom of this. At this point, however, we are waiting to receive the underlying documents that led to the state auditor’s findings, as these allegations will be investigated by the university.

Improvements to our admissions process

The audit covers a time period from the 2013-14 to 2018-19 academic years. It is important to point out that our campus has made numerous changes in recent years, from 2016 through 2020, to strengthen our undergraduate admissions policies and practices.

The most recent improvements to admission policies followed a UC systemwide internal audit of undergraduate admissions policies at all UC campuses, which concluded in late 2019. At Berkeley, we now document more thoroughly how certain admissions decisions are made, and we have added more process oversight. For example, under our new processes, no individual person (including the admissions director) can determine the final outcome of a student application.

And, under the leadership of a new undergraduate admissions director, who joined Berkeley in January 2019, additional controls were added. These were separate from the UC audit recommendations and involved, for example, addressing potential unconscious bias among individuals who review student applications.

Regarding student-athletes and admissions, we made significant changes in fall 2016 (which took effect with the spring 2017 admitted class) when a new compliance director in Intercollegiate Athletics initiated reforms. These changes were made with the full support of the athletic director and other campus leaders.

Intercollegiate Athletics and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions have continued to fine-tune the policies and add additional improvements in the years since then. For example, in 2016, we implemented a policy that requires a coach to demonstrate that non-scholarship recruits were high-performing athletes who would be required to be active, contributing members of the varsity athletic team for a minimum of one academic year. More recent improvements include a requirement expanding these policies and protocols to scholarship student-athletes. Further, the compliance director now conducts a review through the University Development and Alumni Relations’ data system to determine whether any prospective student-athlete is a relative of any UC Berkeley or Cal Athletics donors.

Under longstanding university policy, student applicants are evaluated based solely on a holistic review of their application. Under UC policy, ties to donors are not considered in admissions and staff violation of the policy can result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination. Communications between campus development staff and admissions are currently prohibited during the application review process.

Disciplinary actions

Staff and administrators who violate policy are subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination. Policies in place at the time of the alleged incident are the ones that may be enforced.

Student applicants must provide complete, accurate information and their own work. Students who submit falsified application information are subject to penalties up to and including denial of admission, withdrawal of an offer of admission, registration cancellation, dismissal, or revocation of their Berkeley degree.

Our commitment

Again, the state audit covered a time period from the 2013-14 to 2018-19 academic years. While we know that there is always room for improvement - and that any policy depends on individuals acting with integrity - we have confidence that our current admissions policies and protocols are sound. We remain committed to continuing to refine our processes to protect the sanctity of our admissions process.

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