Administration Addresses SAT Scandal at ASCMC Senate

On Monday, February 6th, The Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College (ASCMC) hosted several members of the administration at its weekly meeting of the ASCMC Senate to talk to students about the recent revelation of SAT score manipulation by former Dean Richard C. Vos. Associate Vice President of Admissions and Financial Aid Georgette DeVeres, Director of Admission Jennifer Sandoval-Dancs, Vice President of Student Affairs Jeff Huang, and Vice President of Public Affairs Max Benavidez each answered questions from students  and provided their perspective on the matter. Excluding interviews with the Forum and the Claremont Port Side, the ASCMC Senate meeting was the first time members of the administration spoke directly with students since the discovery of manipulated data was made public last week. During the meeting, Benavidez noted that President Pamela Gann, “said that she will meet with the students at an upcoming occasion.”

The Bauer Forum was unusually packed with nearly 150 students in attendance, eager to hear the administration speak publicly on recent events and offer answers to the many unanswered questions raised by the SAT scandal and Dean Vos' resignation.

The meeting began with a motion from representatives of the Claremont Port Side to allow for recording and live-streaming of the event. Following an extensive discussion and vote, the senate body decided to bar video and audio recording from the room, much to the dismay of some attendees.

The discussion opened with an address by Dean Huang in which he explained, “We’re here tonight to listen to your concerns… We want to talk about moving forward as well.” He went on to summarize the events of the past two weeks, and tried to reassure students that the situation was under control. “We’ve pledged to strengthen our interior controls over the data,” he explained. He also argued that the impact of the scandal on current students would be minimal, especially for their employment opportunities. “One company … actually did call and said that they had heard about this, and that they were staying with us, saying ‘CMC students are still of incredible talent.’”

Following Dean Huang’s address, DeVeres and Sandoval-Dancs fielded questions from the students, while Benavidez offered help when necessary.

Students were quick to voice their concern for the potential ramifications of Vos’ misconduct. Daniel Shane (CMC ’13) asked how Early Decision applicants were responding to the recent news. DeVeres responded that none had yet asked to withdraw from enrollment because of the debacle.

When asked how the administration would prevent similar problems in the future, DeVeres declared firmly that “all admissions data has been audited” and that, “we’re going to be swiftly putting controls in place” to decrease the likelihood of a repeat offense. Benavidez seemed hopeful for the future when he declared, “We are in the middle of a PR challenge, but we are withstanding it because CMC has a strong foundation”

When asked what kind of pressure, if any, was placed on the administration to strengthen CMC’s performance in national rankings, Sandoval-Dancs claimed, “I can’t say I’ve ever interpreted anything as pressure … to me it was just about momentum and feeling good and knowing you can set goals and you can reach them” but that, “it was always be very clear, you know, be realistic.”

The officials also discussed the impact of recent events on themselves personally. Dean Huang in particular noted that, “I will forever be changed by this.” He hoped that students could also learn something from the affair, and implored the audience to, “be honest and forthright with the people you work with.”

Students later offered their responses to the discussion. Aditya Pai (CMC’13), who leads the Senate as ASCMC’s Vice President, said, “My expectation was that students would ask constructive, pointed questions and that administrators would answer those questions honestly and openly to the best of their knowledge. I think that expectation was met.”

Others were less satisfied. Tyler McBrien (CMC’14) noted that, “The voice of Dick Vos remains notably absent,” and summarized the night as “Too many questions. Not enough answers.” Talia Segal (CMC’15) agreed, saying “I thought there were too many ‘I don’t knows.’”

Sam Stone (CMC’14) was more critical. He explained, “I was not satisfied. I was, in fact, a little bit insulted because, number one, they spent a lot of time talking about how nice it was for them to take time out of their day to come and talk to us, and that’s their job … The only thing I got from today was that these people didn’t have answers.”

Carly Lenderts (CMC’14) added “I felt like they were trying to pacify us … the answers were dry and a little bit prepared.” She added that, “On a personal level, I don’t really believe it was just Dean Vos. I just don’t think that institutions work this way. You can’t tell us that every application gets two reads but the SAT scores are only dealt with by one person. That doesn’t really make sense to me.”

The CMC administration has made an initial attempt to reach out to students who are hungry for answers. Unfortunately, the general feeling of attendees seemed to be one of dissatisfaction. Many feel that the administration has yet to own up to their mistakes and engage the student body in a thorough, honest discussion regarding the manipulation of admissions data by the Office of Admissions. Hopefully, the administration will better involve students in the process of moving past this ordeal and work harder to resolve lingering questions.

Nathan Falk '14 contributed reporting.