Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Watchdog Blows Lid Off of U.T. Admissions (all over again)....

"He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck,
Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
Proverbs 29:1

Once again, Jon Cassidy demonstrates that we've only scratched the surface when it comes to U.T. admissions:

UT admissions abuse is 10 times bigger than Kroll’s depiction

At least 764 applicants initially denied admission to the University of Texas enrolled, thanks to a backdoor program for the wealthy and politically connected administered by former president Bill Powers.

More than 200 of those applicants were admitted despite having their applications cancelled by the Admissions Office.

The total is more than 10 times the 73 applicants widely reported from an investigation paid for by the university and conducted by Kroll Associates. Kroll withheld the full findings from its 107-page final report.

.... produced the final number by reassembling a key Kroll database tracking “holds,” or applicants rejected by the admissions office but granted favored status by Powers’ office from 2009 to 2014.

Kroll arrived at its published tally by establishing an arbitrary cutoff point for grades and SAT scores that had nothing to do with finding the total number of admissions rejections Powers overrode, which was the original purpose of the investigation.

The university kept the numbers in the database secret from the public and from regents who have asked to review the Kroll investigation records.


The records analyzed by Watchdog show Powers rarely let his favorites be turned away.

Kroll examined the admissions trajectory of 2,085 applicants on hold from 2009 to 2014. Investigators tracked each case and each stage of the admissions review process. For our tally, we simply compared the first impression to the final decision.

Of those 2,085 applications, 834 were put in the “deny” pile and another 249 were cancelled without further processing. By the end of the process, only 84 of those applications were ultimately denied and just 33 remained cancelled.

Of the cancelled applications, 220 gained admission without going through the process.

The Kroll report makes no mention of how anybody got admitted without going through the applications process.

Kroll found 729 applicants initially deemed worthy and 271 who were to be offered one of UT’s conditional transfer programs by the admissions office. But by the end of the process, 1,492 of the applicants were admitted and 474 offered a transfer program.


The Kroll investigation confirmed what had been common knowledge in the wealthy Dallas-area community of Highland Park, which includes UT Regent Wallace Hall and House Education Committee chair Dan Branch: students were getting into UT at extraordinary rates, despite bad grades.

UT admitted seven Highland Park students with grade point averages below 2.0 and SAT scores below 800.

Bill Shain, who now runs a college admissions consultancy, dealt with many “university interest” special cases during a career in admissions at small private universities, but rarely saw that sort of “disastrously unqualified” applicant admitted.

“I can think of three cases (at two schools where I worked) where the student could not possibly succeed, and none of the three did,” Shain said. “That was something I always opposed.”

The very worst of the students UT admitted, the investigation showed, were clustered in the districts of Branch, House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), and Sen. Kirk Watson, (D-Austin).

Straus has gone to even greater lengths than UT to cover up the abuses. He authorized a special committee operating behind the scenes in an effort to impeach Hall for asking too many questions about the admissions process.


UT is trying to protect Highland Park and other communities with potential big dollar donors. In records provided to Watchdog, UT blacked out applicants’ names, as they should, but also their high schools. Plus it redacted GPAs, SAT and ACT scores, and even majors on the documents the school provided to Watchdog.

The university knows this information is not confidential once names have been redacted. It recently released hundreds of pages with those same categories unredacted in response to a public records request related to an affirmative action lawsuit.

There is more to be learned from the Kroll papers.

Many of the applications being held for Powers’ review were tagged with another unknown code that apparently specified what sort of special case they were.

The database also includes a column for the date of action taken on a hold, many of them in the fall and winter, calling into question Powers’ contention that “no spots at the university were saved for any of these students,” that they were all added after the class was otherwise set.


The massive gulf between what Kroll discovered and what it reported helps to explain that press conference – and why Chancellor Bill McRaven has refused to let Hall see the unedited Kroll papers, in defiance of Attorney General Ken Paxton and in apparent violation of the law.

Kroll started off looking for the number Watchdog found at the request of then Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa. By the time its investigation was over, Cigarroa had been replaced by Bill McRaven.

McRaven is responsible for Powers’ final group of special admissions into UT, the class coming this fall. Allowing Hall to look at the Kroll investigation papers wouldn’t have just reopened some “adjudicated” affair; it would prove that nothing has changed. UT’s leadership is still dirty and can’t be trusted to investigate itself.
Read the whole thing here

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