Admission office moves forward with random audits

Oct. 18, 2010, 2:28 a.m.

Stanford will implement random auditing of prospective students’ applications starting this application season with early-action applicants, whose credentials are due Nov. 1.

Admission office moves forward with random audits
(ANASTASIA YEE/The Stanford Daily)

The Office of Undergraduate Admission will use random audits to hold a portion of the estimated 30,000 students expected to apply to Stanford this year accountable for what they declare to be true in their applications.

Because the implementation of this practice is still in the planning phase, the Admission Office is not yet sure of how many audits it will be able to carry out. Though the practice of verifying and confirming each aspect of an application may be new to Stanford, it will not be the first of its kind in the state of California.

“The University of California system already audits,” Director of Admission Robert Patterson said. “They use different techniques to conduct these audits, including e-mailing and calling students.” Patterson was the deputy director of admission at UC-Berkeley from spring 2009 until he became director at Stanford this fall.

When using the Common Application to apply to Stanford, applicants are prompted to electronically sign agreements stating that their claims are true before the applications can be submitted, thus holding them to the Fundamental Standard.

Current Stanford students are familiar with the Honor Code and the Fundamental Standard, which calls for “respect for order, morality, and personal honor” as necessary traits in a Stanford student and applicant. But for a small number of past applicants, a contract binding them to their work has not been enough to ensure honesty in the application process.

“Many institutions, including Stanford, have responded to this prominent discussion on the national level of college admissions,” Patterson said.
Students who are chosen to have their application audited will be contacted directly to notify them of their selection in the process. Both the general Common Application and the Stanford Supplement to the Common Application will be included in the auditing procedure.

The issue reached a national audience this summer when alleged academic con artist Adam Wheeler applied and was accepted to Stanford after he was expelled from Harvard and indicted in May on 20 counts of identity theft, larceny and other charges.

Stanford officials in June said the University revoked Wheeler’s admission offer.

In July, Dean of Admission Richard Shaw told The Daily the office was considering a random audit system because of the “issue of dishonesty and forgery on the national level.” He declined to comment on the Wheeler incident specifically.

Patterson said the decision to implement random audits was made independently of the incident.

“The decision to enforce random audits at Stanford does not have to do with Adam Wheeler,” Patterson said. “This is something the admission office has considered doing for a while.”

According to Patterson, the National Association of College Admissions Counseling, which aims to ensure that its member institutions carry out ethical and fair admission practices, is calling for colleges to look into verifying student accomplishments.

“We actively follow the principles and practices of NACAC and the College Board,” Patterson said. “Both organizations have seen an increase in application falsity and want colleges to look into this.”

To ensure that a scandal similar to Wheeler’s never occurs again, the entire admission office, headed by Patterson, will oversee the process of random auditing.

Though applying students may view random auditing as an attempt to “catch” students, Patterson asserts that the Admission Office is hoping to ensure the opposite.

“We do not hope to catch any students,” he said. “Our philosophy in the Admission Office is to keep the process fair for all students, especially honest students. We intend to keep prospective students informed of the process and to make it as transparent as possible.”

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