Last week, Judith Hodara, the Senior Associate Director of MBA Admissions at Wharton, and her outside consulting stints raised a few eyebrows - within the Penn administration and the wider admissions community.
Last Wednesday, Inside Higher Ed published an article that linked Hodara - along with two other senior admissions officials from Columbia University and the University of North Carolina - to the advisory board of AGOS Japan, a Tokyo-based consulting company that helps locals get into top United States MBA programs.
By the end of the week, Hodara had resigned from the firm.
According to an additional article published by Inside Higher Ed on Friday, Hodara received calls from a reporter on Thursday regarding her involvement with another consulting operation, IvyStone Educational Consultants.
Hodara owned and operated the firm, which helped high-school students get into the country's top universities.
On Thursday, she removed the firm's Web site from the Internet. That same day, Penn released a statement saying that she had ceased all external consulting services.
Under Penn's Conflict of Interest Policy for Faculty Members, all faculty are required to report most types of "extramural" activities that could potentially detract from job performance. It remains unclear at this time whether Hodara had in fact disclosed this information.
Both of Hodara's above external activities raise a key question: Should senior admissions officials, like Hodara, be allowed to participate in external admissions counseling services?
Although she resigned from AGOS Japan in order to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest, Hodara justified her affiliation in an Inside HigherEd article by saying that she was not directly advising AGOS's clients but merely advising its employees.
However, through IvyStone, Hodara directly advised prospective college applicants, though she held a prominent role in Wharton's MBA admissions program.
Hodara's ownership of IvyStone ignited an ethical debate among those in the admissions industry.
Penn officials said the issue came to their attention last Wednesday.
"We have since reviewed the situation," the University said in its statement. "In order to avoid even an appearance of conflict of interest, Ms. Hodara has resigned from all outside consulting activities."
In addition, the University said "Penn does not consider this type of situation to be appropriate, which is why it has been ended."
Hodara declined to comment about the situation, directing all correspondence to University Communications. Wharton officials did the same.
According to David Hawkins, the Director of Public Policy and Research at The National Association for College Admission Counseling, Hodara's side jobs, and similar recent incidents, raise two problems.
First, "the admissions officer is in the position to bestow a decision - potentially - on the students they are advising," he said.
The second problem, he said, arises from the fact that admissions officers have "unparalelled access" to admissions information from other schools.
If officers share this privileged information with the applicants they advise, this gives these applicants a competitive edge over their peers.
Vice President of Communications at the Graduate Management Admission Council Judy Phair wrote in an e-mail that schools like Penn have the right to create their own specific policies for dealing with employee behavior.Comments powered by Disqus
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