College to alter admissions practice

by Wally Joe Cook | 4/4/19 2:10am

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The College will now require that an athletic recruit's credentials be reviewed and approved by an administrator, according to spokesperson Diana Lawrence.

by Lorraine Liu / The Dartmouth

Dartmouth will change its practices to protect the integrity of the admissions process for incoming athletes following a federal investigation that uncovered a widespread college admissions scandal and resulted in the arrest of 50 people.

College spokesperson Diana Lawrence denied any involvement by the College in the scandal in an email statement to The Dartmouth. However, she said that precautions would be taken to prevent any such scandal in the future.

“Going forward, we will require that, before a coach communicates their support for a candidate to the Admissions Office, that candidate’s athletic credentials are reviewed and approved by an administrator as a legitimate recruit with the athletic talent necessary to contribute to our Division I varsity team,” she wrote. “While the data from the last three entering classes demonstrates that no Dartmouth coach has supported an inappropriate candidate, this protocol is being instituted to further increase the rigor of the process in response to the Operation Varsity Blues’ scandal uncovered at other institutions.”

Although the FBI did not name Dartmouth in its investigation, an online biography of Mark Riddell — who has been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering — said that he assisted students in gaining admission to a number of universities including the College. Law enforcement officials have accused Riddell of tweaking clients’ standardized test answers to improve their scores while he worked as the director of college entrance exam preparation at IMG Academy, a Florida private school. Riddell’s page on the account’s website has since been deleted. However, to date, there is no evidence that Riddell used illegitimate means to provide this assistance. 

Lawrence added that the College has not been contacted by the Justice Department in relation to the matter.

Vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid Lee Coffin said that he was disappointed, but not surprised, by the national college admissions scandal. He added that the highly competitive nature of college admissions may have motivated people to lie and cheat.

“It’s this idea of impossibility that I think is the wind in the sail of that scandal,” he said.

Although IMG Academy’s website stated that Riddell helped students gain admission into Dartmouth, Coffin said he doubts that any wrongdoing could have been possible.

“What’s helping us too is that we’re small, so we’re not in this really huge, high-volume place where you can’t be reading files as thoughtfully and thoroughly as we are,” Coffin explained. “Some of our Ivy peers have larger classes than the number of people we’re admitting.”

Coffin said he is proud that the College was not involved in the scandal but is disappointed that the admissions process may need to be more critical in the future.

“I have not historically had to read every file and be suspicious of the material that’s been submitted,” he said.

However, he added that some files stand out when “something smells” about their authenticity.

“There are moments when you’re reading a file and the essays are overly scripted,” he explained. “We have not, to date, been dubious of the materials a student has submitted, and it would be sad if that’s the kind of outgrowth of this, that we have to bring heightened scrutiny.”

Alison Ingalls, a recently admitted member of the Class of 2023, commented on the scandal from an applicant’s perspective.

“Obviously hearing about the scandal was hard, especially because the whole process of admissions was so real to me at the time,” she explained. “I was living and breathing it. I had put so much time and energy into putting together an application.”

Ingalls added that she has felt better since hearing that Dartmouth was not involved in the scandal.

“To think people could simply pay a large sum of money and get into the school of their dreams certainly made me lose faith in the process,” she said. “That being said, I was impressed and relieved to hear that Dartmouth had no part in the scandal. It made the acceptance letter that came a couple weeks later that much sweeter.”