CMC’s SAT Scandal: A Recap

By: Clancy Tripp | Feb 02, 2012 | 294 Views News |

Whether we like it or not, it’s hard to ignore the recent attention on Claremont McKenna College from major national news outlets.  The initial wave of national reporting reiterated President Pamela Gann’s email message and explained the circumstances surrounding the discovery of misreported SAT scores.

On campus, the Forum broke the news of President Gann’s email concerning the fudged reports and compared a google cache of the Office of Admission webpage to its current page, and later highlighted former Dean Vos’ resignation. On Wednesday afternoon, the Forum publicized an official statement from CMC’s student government, ASCMC. Nationally, The New York Times and The LA Times were among those to first pick up the story, offering background on the events of the incident, including the score falsification, Richard Vos’ resignation, President Gann’s email to students, and the move to hire a law firm to investigate the matter more fully.

Photo Courtesy of CNN

A variety of reports have concluded that the college’s rankings will only be mildly affected, if at all.  CNN reported that according to U.S. News and World Report, SAT scores “account for about 7.5% of a school’s total score in the formula.”  In an interview with NPR, Robert Morse, the director of data research for U.S. News, speculated that while the score change wouldn’t have dire effects on the college’s ranking, it could likely drop out of the top ten.

USA TODAY interviewed Robert Franek, the senior vice president of publishing for The Princeton Review who stated that “he had never heard of a college intentionally reporting incorrect data.” However, Franek also told the Forum that he didn’t believe the score inflation would make a real difference in CMC’s standing with the Princeton Review, as their reviews are based entirely on student opinion.

Rankings aside, the Claremont Port Side conducted an in-depth investigation into how much the scores had been altered to create an upward trend in scoring. Reporter Jeremy B. Merrill ’12 published graphs which reveal critical reading scores were inflated by “an average of more than 17 points,” suggesting the score manipulation was more drastic than President Gann had originally suggested. Merrill reported an elevated mean during the past years to cover up a dip in scores and the fact that, “the freshmen admitted in 2011 — the class of 2015 — had mean Critical Reading scores that were the lowest since the class admitted in 2007.”

TIME magazine’s online newsfeed was sympathetic to CMC and criticized the rankings system for putting undue pressure on colleges to present a flawless face.  The Chronicle of Higher Education also reported on the competitive world of admissions and gave examples of several colleges in similar circumstances.  The article concluded by reaffirming, “We also maintain the belief that the system is fair and honest, and try to head off the cynicism that our families could easily adopt by viewing college admission as a rigged game of numbers and self-interest.”

As for the man responsible, The New York Times also confirmed that it was in fact Richard C. Vos the former Vice President and Dean of Admission and quoted him as saying, “No comment. It’s an internal personnel matter.”

The New York Times Education Section spent time on campus for an article entitled “Students at Claremont McKenna More Worried About Reputation Than Rankings” interviewing students who generally agreed that although the score adjustment was regrettable, it did not reflect negatively on their fellow students. Most students echoed senior Blake Bennett’s sentiment, “It’s still a great school. I just wish this wasn’t why it was getting headlines.”

ABC News reported on campus in front of the Kravis Center, gathering footage of sweatshirt-clad CMC students as a background to its report on the recent controversy.  More recently, ABC News reported that a spokesman for CMC, Associate Vice President for Public Affairs, Communications and Marketing, Max Benavidez, stated “We’re not hiding anything,” he said. “We’re the ones volunteering to tell people what took place and what we’re doing to fix it.”  The report also quoted Aditya Pai ’11, ASCMC Vice President, as saying, “[Vos’s] actions do not reflect the strength of our community, the excellence of our education, or the caliber of our people.”

Students continued to ask for answers as Nathan Falk ’14 called for a further explanation from the administration. “Only shedding light on the issue will bring us closure,” Falk said in his Forum op-ed.

In a positive take on recent events, Caroline Nyce ’13 defended her college and its community in another Forum op-ed published Wednesday morning. Nyce wrote, “The CMC they’re writing about? That’s not my school.”

About the Author

Clancy Tripp is a sophomore Literature & Media Studies major at Claremont McKenna. She may be from Indiana, but that doesn't stop her from hating country music, corn, and cow-tipping. She's ambivalent about line-dancing. To read more about her CMC misadventures visit www.thegoldenantlers.wordpress.com

  1. HangOn February 2, 2012 at 10:58 am -

    “On campus, the Forum broke the news of the fudged reports and compared a google cache of the Office of Admission webpage to its current page, and later highlighted former Dean Vos’ resignation.”

    Let’s be clear.  You did not break the story.  You have done an excellent job covering the story, but President Gann and CMC broke the story.  This is an important distinction.  If you broke the story, that means CMC did not own up to this.  If they broke the story, they have accepted responsibility and trying to set things right.  Whether or not you have journalistic integrity hinges on whether or not you report this accurately, because this one difference changes the whole story.

    • alum February 2, 2012 at 1:32 pm -

      Dude. Claremont Portside needs to stop trolling.

      • HangOn February 2, 2012 at 2:03 pm -

        How is acknowledging excellent reporting but requesting the avoidance of a giant mistake trolling?

        • HangOn February 2, 2012 at 2:03 pm -

          And I don’t work for the Portside.  Or read it.

  2. Anonymous Alum February 3, 2012 at 6:07 pm -

    Kiplinger just dropped CMC from its list. We’ll see what other rankings also drop CMC. One issue that defenders of Gann have yet to consider: How many rankings organizations, such as US News and World Report, might look at what has happened and just respond by removing CMC from their lists entirely.

  3. worstkidatcmc July 26, 2013 at 11:07 am -

    According to Forbes’ methodology page, their rankings are
    influenced significantly by reviews on RateMyProfessor.com (15% of the Student
    Satisfaction category) and PayScale.com (15% of the Post-Graduate Success
    category). SAT scores may have been misreported, but at least Forbes’ “research”
    is anchored by these other highly-reliable sources. Journalism at its finest.