CMC scandal exposes flaws


Author: Damian Mendieta


President Pamela Gann of Claremont McKenna College (CMC) announced in an internal email on Jan. 30 that the college had been falsifying its SAT scores for the past six years, according to USA Today. 

Further investigation, initiated by Gann, discovered that Vice President and Dean of Admissions Richard C. Vos was responsible for misreporting the schools scores to organizations such as the Princeton Review and U.S. News and World Report. He has since resigned from his position, and Claremont McKenna has hired a law firm for further investigation into the admissions-related data submission, according to their college spokesperson  Max Benavidez.

President Gann launched the initial investigation into the incident after she was told of possible inaccuracy in student SAT score reports, the New York Times reported.

“I think it shows tremendous integrity for the president to stand up and say this is what we did and own up to it,”  President of the Princeton Review of Southern California Paul Kanarek said. “Because as you know the cover up is always worse than the crime, and she did not make that mistake.”

Claremont’s SAT score reports were inflated by an average of 10 to 20 points, Gann said in an interview with USA Today. Last year, the college was ranked 11 in U.S. News and World Report’s Best Value Liberal Art’s Colleges, and now it is ninth. However, this change is not necessarily due to the inflation. SAT score reports only amount to 7.5 percent of the ranking, according to US News and World Report.

“I think it probably had no impact on the rankings at all,” Kanarek said. “That’s what makes it so sad. They get all the negative press, probably for no benefit.”

According to Kanarek, it is possible that this is not an isolated incident.

“All of this data is self-reported, right? It is a system that is begging for abuse,” he said. “I would be astonished if Claremont McKenna was the only school to have ever manipulated that system,” citing the pressure that college officials are under to place well in such rankings.

Occidental’s Vice President of Admissions and Financial Aid Vince Cuseo further lamented the development as a poor reflection of the climate among colleges.

“No one takes pleasure in seeing this individual and the admission world vilified,” Cuseo said. “It is an unfortunate testament to heightened competition among colleges, and in my opinion, misplaced priorities.”  

According to Cuseo, the college ranking systems do not validly measure an institution’s academic and student affairs.

“I don’t believe any ranking system can adequately represent a school’s strength,” he said. “While some measures of quality are quantifiable, many are not. Rankings require quantifiable measures and therefore are not able to capture the breadth of considerations that make for a high-quality college experience.”

Despite the controversy, major ranking publications have chosen to continue holding Claremont McKenna in high esteem. Although Kiplinger’s magazine removed Claremont McKenna from its college rankings, the Princeton Review has decided to stand by the college.

“We will honor the President’s integrity and continue to proudly lift Claremont McKenna as one of our finest schools in America,” Kanarek said. 

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