A 2002 Wharton MBA student was expelled last Monday, March 18, for what a school official called "a serious material misrepresentation" on the student's application to Wharton.
"I would say that this was a case of serious material misrepresentation, and among other infractions that we found was a forgery," said Wharton School Vice Dean Anjani Jain, who made the decision to expel the student. Jain would not elaborate because of federal regulations and University policies.
According to Jain, "there was probable cause" for investigation after allegations of misrepresentations in the student's application were uncovered by the administration.
These alleged infractions were a direct violation of the "statement of application integrity" within the document that must be signed by all prospective students. The statement includes a section which reads that the applicant agrees that "any misrepresentation or omission of facts in my application will justify the denial of admission, the cancellation of admission or expulsion."
Students must also agree to Wharton's Graduate Code of Ethics, which is included on the application.
After conducting an investigation, Jain said, several meetings were held with administrators in the school's graduate division. After much deliberation, Jain concluded that permanent expulsion, though subject to appeal, was the appropriate disciplinary action.
The nine-student Wharton School Ethics Committee, usually involved in issues of student conduct, did not play a role in the decision for expulsion.
"We weren't involved because the violation is considered as having not occurred during the student's course at Wharton, so it wasn't in our jurisdiction," said Sairah Burki, a senior in the Wharton Graduate School and co-chairwoman of the Ethics Committee. She said that the committee could not comment on the decision at the present time.
The student was given one week to appeal Jain's decision to the Executive Committee -- a standing committee of nine Wharton professors from different disciplines -- and the student chose to take this step. The student admitted to the misrepresentation, but cited "extenuating circumstances." However, the committee voted unanimously to uphold the student's expulsion.
"We try to customize the penalty to address the shortcoming," said Marketing Professor Peter Fader, who also serves as chairman of the Executive Committee. "This was an important decision with lots of precedents, so we had to acknowledge the weight of the decision."
According to Jain, three previous incidents of this nature have occurred in the past 10 years, each resulting in expulsion.
"I think [expulsion] was absolutely the right decision," Fader said. "This could be happening on a broad basis -- it's very tempting. So who knows how often people get away with it?
"I've seen committees be too soft on serious crimes," he added. "This incident transcends a mere ethics violation."