They say time heals all wounds.
But when those wounds are six figures deep in dirty money, the University of California better hope they heal sometime soon.
On June 20, the UC announced in a press release that it conducted an internal audit of its admissions process with the UC’s Office of Ethics, Compliance and Audit Services to identify improvements that will be made in its college admissions procedures. These internal audits come on the heels of the highly publicized Operation Varsity Blues college admissions scandal, which revealed several universities had accepted bribes to admit students to their athletics teams.
More specifically, UCLA was thrown into the national spotlight when it was revealed former men’s soccer coach Jorge Salcedo allegedly accepted $200,000 to funnel two students into the university disguised as student-athletes.
These audits are a step in the right direction, and they show the UC isn’t just waiting for an ugly news cycle to blow over.
But let’s not sing their praises just yet.
Big promises – such as tightening up the admissions process – have historically been an easy out for the UC. It has been documented for some time that transparency surrounding decisions it makes or doesn’t make hasn’t been one of the institution’s strong points.
The internal audit that was conducted was the first of two planned audits – the initial audit providing a tentative list of observations and recommendations for general admissions procedures, with the second looking into selected areas of the process, such as application verification controls and student-athlete participation. The second audit is slated to be completed by the end of 2019, and the individual plans for each campus are scheduled to be completed by the end of July.
As it stands, the UC’s press release about the first audit is shrouded in vagueness and general terms for proposed policies, such as “clearer documentation” and “stronger procedures.”
But the UC should know that a statement is just the beginning.
The scandal in March called the credibility, integrity and overall fairness of the college admissions process into direct question. That is not an easy reputation to overcome.
If the UC truly wants to regain the credibility jeopardized by the scandal, it better be prepared to provide the public a clearly communicated auditing process – at the very least.
UC President Janet Napolitano said in an interview with The New York Times that the UC saw where improvements could be made to the admissions system to reduce the likelihood of another case like Salcedo’s.
Clearly, the UC knows the ball is in its court – but promising to hold oneself accountable is always a slippery slope.
As long as the University constantly updates and involves the public with the process in a meaningful manner, it has the potential to regain its communities’ trust.
Of course, proposing policy changes following a huge scandal is the least the UC could do. But when other complicit schools such as USC and Stanford have done little beyond firing their guilty athletics coaches, the UC’s self-recognition of existing flaws within its admissions system is a refreshing change of pace from other schools’ relative inaction.
A scandal this big was bound to leave a wound – one that will require more than a bit of work to heal.
But with the right approach, perhaps the UC can avoid an ugly scar.