Claremont McKenna College (CMC) administrators spoke to students Monday about the falsification of the school’s SAT scores for the first time since President Pamela Gann sent an initial e-mail alerting the CMC student body about the incident Jan. 30. The conversation took place at an open CMC Senate meeting.
Associate Vice President of Admission and Financial Aid Georgette DeVeres and Dean of Admissions Jennifer Sandoval answered questions from an audience of over 100 students. DeVeres and Sandoval said that they still considered CMC to be an excellent institution and did not expect the quality of CMC’s student body to suffer because of the scandal. They said that no applicants have asked to withdraw their applications, and that employers will continue to recruit CMC students.
Associate Vice President of Public Affairs Max Benavidez and Vice President for Student Affairs Jeff Huang were also present to answer any questions that the admissions representatives could not.
“I think it was a good step in the process of the administration opening up and being transparent about the whole situation,” Ben Tilltson CM ‘15 said.
Students asked about the possible effects the scandal will have on the school in terms of applicant pools, donations, national rankings and what the administration is doing to respond to criticism.
“As we move forward, we’re getting the same number of applicants, [the] same number of phone calls,” Sandoval said. DeVeres and Sandoval said they had not heard of any negative data coming from the Career Services Center.
Last week, however, Kiplinger magazine removed CMC from its list of “100 Private Colleges with the Best Value.”
Multiple students questioned why Dean Richard Vos manipulated the test scores.
“This [scandal] is a problem that has been isolated with one individual, and with his resignation, it’s over,” one student said. “But everyone whom I’ve spoken with has said this is illogical, why would one person risk his career or reputation to inflate some stats? Who is he protecting?”
Another student asked if it would be appropriate for Vos to submit a statement, or even an apology.
“His voice is missing from this proceeding,” the student said. The administrators said they could not speak for or about Vos because of employee privacy laws.
“My only expectation [for the meeting] was that there would be a constructive exchange, that people would ask good, relevant, pointed questions, and that the participants would answer those questions candidly and openly to the best of their knowledge,” said Aditya Pai CM ‘13, Vice President of Associated Students of CMC. “I think that happened.”
Many came out of the meeting, however, feeling that their questions had not been fully answered.
“This wasn’t going to be a revelatory meeting, [and] I think everyone who came knew that,” Evan Lind CM ‘14 said. “[But] I’m most disappointed with the CMC administration’s continual dodging of hard questions that deserve good answers.”
One student asked how CMC students were going to trust administrators again, noting that if she had misreported her SAT scores she would have been “blacklisted.” The question received murmurs of approval from the audience.
“This is the beginning,” said Max Benavidez, Associate Vice President for Public Affairs, Communications and Marketing, in response. “[The administration is] going to continue to reach out.”
An attempt to record and stream a live video of the meeting caused a debate among the senators. Pai, who leads Senate meetings, said that journalists from the Claremont Port Side approached him before the meeting on Monday to say that they were going to livestream the event.
“It was really supposed to be an event for the students and the administration, and to build the trust between them,” Pai said. “So I declined that request.”
In an attempt to overrule his decision, Port Side reporter and Senator Kayla Benker moved to change the senate policy that does not allow for audio or video recordings, causing a 20-minute debate among the students. The motion failed by a vote of 42-5. A second motion to record the event but not livestream it also failed.
“This is one of the biggest scandals in the school’s history,” said Senator Aseem Chipalkatti CM ‘15, who opposed the motion to livestream a video of the meeting. He said he wanted to ensure an “intimitate conversation [between students and administrators] without fear of repurcussions.”
Benker and other students said that there were many students, such as those who are abroad or in Washington D.C., who would have like to attend the meeting but could not, and that those students should be able to watch the meeting online.
When students asked DeVeres and Sandoval if they would feel censored if there were a live video of the event, they said that the decision would not affect their responses.
Many students who attended the meeting were active on Twitter throughout the meeting, and students pointed out in the debate that these information-distribution techniques were good alternatives to livestreaming the meeting.
The Board of Trustees has hired a law firm to make a report on the falsification of CMC’s SAT scores. Information is still being gathered, and administrators said that the CMC community will find out the results of the investigation once there is more information available.
Both Mao and Pai agreed that if this open meeting between students and adminstrators was the first step in what Benavidez called a “process of rebuilding trust” in the CMC community, the next step should be an open forum, similar to Monday night’s, with President Gann answering student questions.
Benavidez said that Gann plans to speak to students in the near future, although no specific plans are in place for such a meeting.