Law schools juice their numbers. But before today, no school has admitted that they flat out lied. As reported on legal tabloid Above the Law, second-tier toilet Villanova Law just admitted to knowingly reporting false admissions stats to the American Bar Association, the accrediting body for law schools. Dean John Y. Gotanda emailed the school’s alumni with the following letter:
Dear Villanova Law School Alumni:
I’m writing to update you on an issue of serious concern that Villanova University leaders and I are addressing swiftly and thoroughly. On Thursday, January 20, 2011, I became aware of inaccuracies in the admissions data reported to the American Bar Association (ABA) by VLS for years prior to 2010. The inaccuracies were discovered and reported to me by a special Law School committee charged with assessing and enhancing the effectiveness of our Academic Success Program.
Upon learning of these inaccuracies, I immediately contacted Villanova’s Vice President and General Counsel to begin a formal review of the matter. The University promptly began a comprehensive internal investigation and commissioned an independent audit by Ropes & Gray to determine the nature and scope of the reporting inaccuracies.
The internal investigation and audit findings showed that the inaccuracies were knowingly reported to the ABA by individuals at VLS. Accordingly, the University will hold those responsible accountable for their actions. The VLS admissions reporting process and organizational structure will be reconfigured as part of the University’s commitment to a reporting system which is above reproach.
In the meantime, I am working closely with the ABA, which is fully aware of this situation and Villanova’s committed response to it. All VLS functions are being carried out by experienced professionals to ensure smooth, ongoing school operations. The University has also confirmed that this year’s VLS admissions data are correct.
It is important for you to know that both Father Donohue and I take this matter very seriously. As always, our primary responsibility is to our students, and the integrity of our educational mission cannot be compromised.
We have a strong and talented group of faculty, students, staff and alumni, and we have a beautiful new state-of-the-art learning facility. Together we will continue to foster a cohesive, supportive academic environment committed to excellence. I am honored to be working with such an impressive group of scholars, alumni, staff and students at the Villanova School of Law. Moving forward, I assure you that VLS will continue to thrive and become even stronger.
Dean John Y. Gotanda
Two things jump out: First, Villanova retained high-priced lawyers to do this investigation? Your tuition dollars at work, to be sure. The law firm was likely retained in order to cloak the investigation in the attorney-client privilege. This is an obvious attempt to thwart litigation. Plaintiffs alleging fraud will be unable to get to the results of the investigation and will have to recreate the investigation from scratch.
Second, what the hell did the school misreport? How long has this been going on? The letter doesn’t say. “Years prior to 2010” seems intentionally vague–leading me to believe that the lies were going on for a long time. My guess is that they were underreporting enrollment numbers and inflating LSAT scores. Underreporting enrollment would boost expenditures per student, which–in the convoluted world of U.S. News rankings–boosts rankings. Inflating LSAT scores also boosts rankings.
One thing is for sure: The spineless ABA will take exactly no real action. Villanova will not lose its accreditation, and no new procedures will be implemented to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Undoubtedly, it has happened at other schools–but why investigate if you’re not going to like what you find?
This incident begs for federal oversight and a tightening of the screws on the ABA.
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