In light of the nationwide bribery scandal involving admissions procedures at elite institutions, Penn Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said the University will once again consider revising its processes related to recruitment and evaluation. Penn hired an outside consultant to review procedures after former men's basketball coach Jerome Allen pleaded guilty in October 2018 to accepting bribes to help a current Penn senior gain admission.
"Penn Admissions and [the University's Division of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics] have worked with an outside consultant to review and strengthen our processes for the recruitment of student athletes and, in light of the current charges, will again consider whether any further changes are called for in our recruitment and evaluation processes," Furda wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian.
The U.S. Justice Department charged 50 people — including famous actors, college athletic coaches, and university administrators — in connection to a nationwide bribery scandal that has called into focus the power of wealth and fame in the college admission process. The alleged crimes included cheating on entrance exams and bribing college officials to falsely identify students as part of athletic recruitment.
Peer institutions, such as Yale University, Stanford University, Georgetown University, and the University of Southern California, were named in the legal documents unsealed on March 12, but Penn was not. Just days before the nationwide scandal surfaced, however, Allen testified that he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from Philip Esformes, a father of a current Wharton senior.
When Allen pleaded guilty in October 2018, Furda told the DP that safeguards must be put in place to prevent bribery scandals from occurring in the future. At the time, he suggested new professional development and training for all staffers in both the Admissions Office and Athletics Department.
Furda did not provide further detail on the results of the work done by the outside consultant or whether these suggested changes have been implemented.
Penn Athletics wrote in an email to the DP in July 2018 that it had "retained outside legal counsel" to investigate the bribery allegations against Allen, and in October 2018 told the DP the investigation was in its final stages.
“Penn thoroughly reviewed everything surrounding the situation, and as soon as we're at liberty to proceed forward, after that part of the trial at least, we will," Penn Athletics Director M. Grace Calhoun said last month, referring to Allen's testimony. The athletics department has not released results of its findings.
In light of the Jerome Allen scandal, IvySelect College Consulting Founder Michael Goran, who is a 1976 College graduate, said college admissions offices should increase oversight of athletic departments.
“Obviously in the current situation there were the coaches acting independently as to what sort of review you could have,” Goran said. “It may be a safeguard that they have to be thinking about a review of files in greater detail.”
Goran suggested that admissions offices designate staff members to review and fact-check athletes’ applications, including evaluating whether their reported rankings and team involvement match with reality. He also stressed educating administrators and athletic officials about ethical admissions practices.
On March 13, Furda wrote more generally that the Admissions Office has safeguards in place to prevent incidents of bribery from occurring, adding that the admissions process has multiple layers of review and documentation.
"We believe we have a culture of compliance here and have put in place appropriate policies and practices to prevent the kind of unlawful and unethical activity reported in the news today," Furda wrote. "But it is always important to be reminded that this kind of situation does arise, so that we can be vigilant in our efforts going forward."
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