AROUND HIGHER EDUCATION: Harvard rescinds admission offer after learning student killed mother

· April 17, 1995, 5:00 am

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Gina Grant, the honor student whose early admission to Harvard University was revoked April 3 after school officials learned she had killed her mother, has also been admitted to Columbia University, The New York Times reported Saturday. According to Admissions Dean Lee Stetson, Grant did not apply to the University. But Stetson said last night he thinks her case -- in addition to that of Yale University senior Lon Grammer, who was expelled last week for falsifying significant parts of his application -- will impact future Ivy League admissions policies. Stetson said that as students feel increased pressure to apply to top-echelon colleges and universities there may be more cases of like these in the future. Grant was the subject of an April 2 article in The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine about the resilience of young adults who have overcome severe adversity while growing up. Raised in South Carolina, Grant moved to Massachusetts in 1991, when she became an orphan at the age of 14, the Globe reported. She now lives alone on income from a family trust fund. Grant's father died of cancer when she was 11, and she told Maria Karagianis -- the free-lance writer of the Globe story -- that her mother's death was too painful to discuss. But following the article's publication, both Harvard and the Globe received anonymously mailed clips of South Carolina newspaper stories that ran during Grant's trial and after her conviction. The stories detail a gruesome crime -- that of Grant bludgeoning her mother, Dorothy Mayfield, to death with a lead crystal candleholder, and then stabbing Mayfield in the neck to make her death look like suicide. Grant ascribed her actions to years of verbal and physical abuse by her alcoholic parents. Ultimately, she "pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter," according to the Globe, and served six months in a juvenile detention facility. The Harvard Crimson reported last week that during Grant's interview with a Harvard alumnus, she allegedly said her mother had died in a car accident. Harvard rescinded its offer of admission to Grant because of this lie -- a decision Harvard Law Professors Charles Ogletree and Alan Dershowitz have decried because they contend it was made hastily. But Grant's attorney, Margaret Burnham, claims Harvard "intentionally leaked information" about her client's circumstances, The Crimson stated. Burnham has also challenged Harvard's action because the application question regarding disclosure of a student's background is vaguely worded and could be interpreted to include only incidents of academic dishonesty. Stetson said staff members in the University's Admissions Office "do our best to validate every application" by requiring original transcripts and recommendations from a student's secondary school and test score reports directly from the testing agency. But he admitted that the admissions process is "based on an honor system to some extent," especially when it comes to plagiarism-prone essays. Stetson estimated that the University encounters four to six cases of dishonesty from applicants -- out of 15,000 applications -- in an average admissions cycle. He also said while he believes the University is not permitted by law to ask applicants about crimes they may have committed as juveniles, he "would expect that students would inform us where appropriate."

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