Full Scale Report on SAT Scandal Released
On April 17, 2012, Claremont McKenna College formally released an external investigative report on the SAT data scandal first discovered in early January. The 25-page report, which the Board of Trustees commissioned in late January, is available publicly on the College’s website and outlines in detail the findings of law firm O'Melveny & Myers LLP.
The independent report confirms speculations that it was Richard Vos, the former Vice President of Admissions and Financial Aid, who reported false SAT statistics to third party organizations. It also confirms the College's earlier claims that the senior administrator acted alone and that no other College employees knew about the score modification.
In an interview with campus press on Tuesday afternoon, President Gann reiterated that she played only a minor role in the investigation process. "Because I was being investigated, I was definitely kept separate from this investigation except for the extent that I was interviewed or asked to provide documents," she stated.
In total, the external investigation, which took just shy of three months, consisted of a review of over 14,990 documents and interviews with 24 different individuals. Former Vice President Richard Vos was interviewed five different times — for a total of over fifteen hours.
ACT SCORES AND OTHER STATISTICS ALSO MODIFIED
The report reveals that SAT scores were not the only modified metric. Further investigation shows Vos also modified ACT, class rank, and application statistics as far back as 2004.
Vos told investigators "he believed reporting ACT statistics was unimportant and that he devoted little time and attention to this task." Vos is also quoted in the report referring to the process of gathering class rank statistics as an "art not a science."
As for the infamous SAT score manipulation, the report describes how Vos worked backwards, setting a target median and then changing the data accordingly. The falsified statistics were created by hand — with nothing but "paper, a pencil, and a calculator."
The report concludes that Vos began changing scores as early as 2004 and attributes his ability to do so undetected to two factors. First, Vos was highly respected within the College's administration and, consequently, rarely questioned. Second, the Claremont McKenna Admissions Office lacked an internal checks and balances process to confirm that the data was reported accurately. It would have taken at least eight years before Vos' falsified statistics would have been detected and officially reported.
Once concerns were raised in early 2012, however, the College moved quickly. The report notes that an unidentified Admissions officer reported concerns to the College's General Counsel on January 9, 2012. An internal investigation immediately ensued. Fifteen days later, Vice President Vos admitted to manipulating the scores and, on January 29, he resigned. When asked whether or not the College requested his resignation, President Gann admitted, "It was discussed with him."
"But he resigned," she emphasized. "I want to be clear that he resigned."
ASPIRATIONAL GOALS AND THE MOTIVE
What could drive a senior administrator to unilaterally manipulate scores for the better part of a decade?
According to the report, Vos claimed CMC President Gann pressured him to "maintain or increase SAT scores for the College's incoming classes."
President Gann acknowledged that there were "aspirational goals" that had been set between her and Vice President Vos. However, she argued that these aspirational goals were agreed upon between the two of them. "This was a conversation," she told campus reporters. "These [goals] were mutually set."
The report concludes that the pressure Vos felt was not extraordinary. Investigators found no evidence of any verbal abuse "or any form of intimidation that might reasonably lead us to view the pressure exerted as coercive or improper."
"While we believe the VP sincerely felt pressure to achieve particular SAT goals, we do not believe that the pressure he described exceeded the norm for an executive-level employee," the report states.
Importantly, the report mentions a divergence in the admissions "priorities" of President Gann and those of former Vice President Vos. According to the report, Vos "felt [Gann] had too many goals and that some must give way." Vos also told investigators he believed he knew what was best for the College.
Although CMC had an applicant pool talented enough to reach the specific aspirational goals set between Vice President Vos and President Gann, admissions decisions failed to meet the target scores. Claiming he was afraid to tell Gann otherwise, Vos said he chose instead to falsify admissions statistics.
The report emphasizes that Vos' salary and compensation were unaffected by the yearly SAT score reports and does not point to any financial motive.
Despite national media coverage suggesting otherwise, it appears that college rankings were not a motivating factor behind Vos' actions. Vos explicitly told investigators that his motive was not to increase CMC's position in rankings. "We believe the VP's assertion to be true," the report states.
Gann acknowledges that this incident fundamentally alters the manner in which CMC will talk about admissions data in the future. "Assume you have totally accurate data, there's then the question of how we use it in communications and marketing," she said. "We have to be sure that, for those of us that make speeches or refer to data in fundraising materials or in admissions materials, that we are talking about the data in a clear and verified way."
Gann also noted that the there have been no changes to the College's ten-year Strategic Plan in light of the scandal.
MOVING FORWARD: "WE CAN AND WILL DO BETTER."
Tuesday's report release was accompanied by two letters addressed to the CMC Community: one from President Pamela B. Gann and one from Chair of the Board of Trustees Henry T. McMahon.
McMahon noted that the Claremont community has "learned a great deal from this unfortunate matter and will become ever stronger as a result."
President Gann's letter announced that, going forward, admissions, financial aid, and student affairs have been consolidated into one Vice President position. Dr. Jefferson Huang, currently the Vice President of Student Affairs, will be taking on this role.
Also in her letter, President Gann made a promise to the CMC community: "We can and will do better."