If you want to peruse any records associated with your admission to Columbia University, you’ll be quite limited in what you receive.

What Columbia junior Frederic Enea got back when he made a request to do just that included his original college application and an email sent to the school by his high school guidance counselor, but “any documents created or comments made by Columbia admissions officers were missing from his file.”

This is policy, it seems.

The Columbia Daily Spectator reports:

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jessica Marinaccio said that in the admissions process, admissions officers create a written assessment of the student’s application called a “reader rating sheet.” That document is shared with the admissions committee, which may add comments.

“We have a document retention policy here at Columbia that has been in place for a little while,” Marinaccio said. “And part of that document retention policy is that we do delete, we remove those reader rating sheets before a student matriculates.”

According to Marinaccio, those records are destroyed to provide students with a clean slate when they begin college.

“If we feel they’re going to be good fits here and they’re admissible and they make the choice to come, [their reader rating sheets] shouldn’t necessarily follow them throughout their entire career here,” Marinaccio said.

Columbia is the latest institution known to liquidate such documents.

Stanford began doing so shortly after the anonymous group Fountain Hopper “sent emails to its subscribers encouraging them to request access to their admissions records.”

Yale has eliminated such records, too.

The group Students for Fair Admissions has sent letters to all Ivy League schools but Harvard (with whom it’s currently involved in litigation) requesting they retain their admissions archives. SFA says “schools should not be able to ‘destroy evidence essential to judicial review of its admissions policies,’ especially if such policies were racially discriminatory.”

Unfortunately, currently there is nothing in the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) that prevents universities from extinguishing student admissions forms.

NOTE: This story has been updated to correct the year of student Frederic Enea, and to note that his college application and counselor email were not the exclusive contents of what he received from Admissions.

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In yet another instance of contemporary college students’ delicate feelings being bruised, some undergrads were “personally hurt” after someone (or some group) hung posters around Harvard’s campus which mocked those displayed by a new student magazine.

The online magazine Renegade launched last week to “showcase the writing and artwork of students of color.” Magazine contributors had hung posters advertising the new site which included “phrases about race and diversity, such as ‘because Mather owned slaves.’”

Soon after, an unknown entity exhibited their own posters satirizing Renegade’s message.

The Harvard Crimson reports:

The apparent parody posters, however, were black with white text and included the messages “because all straight white men are racist” and “because anyone that disagrees with me is racist.” The posters included the url of the magazine’s website and its launch date.

In her statement on behalf of Renegade, Gathright confirmed that “[a]ny other posters in Pfoho imitating the style and font of Renegade were not produced by or endorsed by Renegade.”

“These posters were put up by people outside of Renegade, presumably with the intention of mischaracterizing our mission and reducing the work we are trying to do on this campus,” [Jenny A.] Gathright’s statement said on behalf of the group.

“The production and distribution of these fake posters is an immature and unacceptable attack on students of color in Pfoho and across this campus who have come together to speak their truths,” the statement read.

Pforzheimer House Masters Anne Harrington and John R. Durant said “Whatever the intent behind these posters, their effect has been to potentially mislead our community about Renegade, and to personally hurt and undermine some members of that group who live here in Pfoho. That is absolutely unacceptable, and we intend to take those posters down immediately.”

We’ve already seen today how a screening of the most popular film of 2014 was nixed due to it making some students feel “unsafe;” at this point one wonders how colleges can even fulfill their basic mission when anyone, at any time, can gripe about battered sensibilities and immediately have it turned into a cause célèbre.

That is, if it’s the “right” cause.

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The president of the group Students for Fair Admissions has sent a request to the president of Princeton, Christopher Eisgruber, asking the school to “preserve its student admission records and to restore these documents if any part had been destroyed.”

This comes on the heels of a report by the New Republic which notes that fellow Ivy League Yale Law School has deleted students’ educational records.

According to the NR, apparently there is nothing unlawful about Yale’s actions. But Edward Blum of Students for Fair Admissions says schools should not be able to “destroy evidence essential to judicial review of its admissions policies,” especially if such policies were racially discriminatory.

Blum’s group has sent a similar request to all other Ivy League colleges except Harvard (as SFA is currently involved in a suit against the school).

From The Daily Princetonian:

“It should go without saying that Princeton cannot destroy evidence essential to judicial review of its admissions policies and expect to withstand strict scrutiny if and when its admissions policies are challenged in court,” the [SFA] letter read, particularly for “racially discriminatory policies and procedures in administering undergraduate admissions.”

“The question of diversity is one that needs some explanation,” Blum said. “Is there some benefit in extending cosmetic diversity among the student body? I think my answer is that cosmetic diversity doesn’t mean anything, if it does, then our civil rights movement has regressed.”

Making decisions based on the color of students’ skin when they have the same socioeconomic background brings only a minute benefit to campuses, Blum said.

SFA’s suit against Harvard claims the school discriminates against Asian students in its admissions procedures.

As reported by The College Fix last November, that suit says that Harvard is “’strictly limiting’ the number of Asian-American students it admits each year and [is] ‘engaging in racial balancing year after year.’”

It also says that Harvard is “not in compliance with the new Fisher strict scrutiny requirements.”

In asking about the so-called “benefits” of diversity, Blum seems to be taking a page from the National Association of Scholars’ report on the subject from the Gratz v. Bollinger case. The NAS contends there are no measurable academic benefits to campus racial/ethnic diversity.

The SFA may face an uphill battle in obtaining any requested records. The guiding statute, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) currently “contains no guidelines for document retention or destruction,” according to the New Republic.

Read the full Daily Princetonian story.

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IMAGE: Kah WaiLin/Flickr

A swath of students at one of the nation’s most prominent universities stand accused of cheating.

At Stanford University – considered an unofficial Ivy League school on the West Coast – Provost John Etchemendy reports that “an unusually high number of troubling allegations of academic dishonesty [were] reported to our Office of Community Standards at the end of winter quarter.”

The winter quarter there began in early January and ended March 13.

“Among a smattering of concerns from a number of winter courses, one faculty member reported allegations that may involve as many as 20 percent of the students in one large introductory course,” Etchemendy stated in his memo, published Tuesday. “While OCS investigates the larger matter and students are being notified, I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone of our role in helping students understand the seriousness of academic dishonesty.”

Etchemendy warned technology may be at the root of some of the problems.

“At the beginning of our students’ Stanford careers, they are introduced to the Honor Code and agree to abide by it,” he stated. “But with the ease of technology and widespread sharing that is now part of a collaborative culture, students need to recognize and be reminded that it is dishonest to appropriate the work of others. …”

“I ask you to continue to reflect on ways to discuss the importance of academic integrity frankly and openly with our students. When collaboration in a class is encouraged, as I do in my classes, do we make certain that the parameters for collaboration are clear to the students? Do we provide guidance for the use of technology? And are students aware that we really will seek to identify and report concerns that may arise?”

It’s not unheard of for students at prominent universities to use technology to cheat.

Earlier this year, Dartmouth College charged 64 students with honor code violations following allegations of widespread cheating in a sports ethics class. In that case, the class reportedly used tech called “clickers” to engage students during class – and apparently to check for attendance – and students were pretending to be their absent peers. Last May at Barnard College, a private women’s liberal arts college in New York that’s affiliated with Columbia University, students allegedly used their smartphones to pass answers back and forth.

It’s also not unheard of for students at prominent universities to cheat without using tech. Harvard University, for example, was hit with a massive cheating scandal in 2013. In that case, dozens of student athletes collaborated on a take-home exam.

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The documentary The Hunting Ground, which purports to show a rape epidemic on college campuses and indifferent administrator responses, is getting unexpected scrutiny at Harvard.

The Crimson reports that the film “misrepresents statistics on instances of reported sexual assault at Harvard, calling the rigor of the film’s fact-checking process into question”:

In one sequence, a series of slides lists various schools and the number of sexual assaults reported there in a given time period compared to the number that led to expulsion. The film lists that from 2009-2013, Harvard College saw 135 cases of reported sexual assault, but only 10 expulsions.

Those numbers are misleading.

The article explains that those figures might also apply to incidents outside of Harvard College, leading to a sharply lower assault rate: “Harvard College has roughly 6,400 students, while Harvard University as a whole includes about 20,000.”

The film also misrepresents who has authority over expulsions:

According to five-year statistics that are currently available online, the Ad[ministrative] Board required 10 students to withdraw from the College between the fall of 2009 and the spring of 2014 in disciplinary cases under the general category of “social behavior – sexual.”

Those students, however, were not necessarily expelled, but rather required to leave the College temporarily with the possibility of readmittance. In fact, the Ad Board cannot expel students. Only a vote of the Faculty Council can, and it happens rarely.

Furthermore, cases listed under the broad “social behavior – sexual” category are not necessarily sexual assault cases; the case statistics are not so specific.

The film includes a “prank” clip that is clearly fake, The Crimson says:

The student in the film, Nicole C. Hirschhorn ’16, was a sophomore at Harvard when she acted out the scene for campus comedy group On Harvard Time. After viewing that segment of the film, she confirmed that the clip in “The Hunting Ground” is from the prank video. She called the video “definitely fake.”

The short clip is included in the film with no indication that it is not authentic.

Read the story.

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Harvard’s Spee Club is throwing a party on Saturday. It sent out invitations via email on Wednesday morning, but by Thursday night, the all-male “final club” was tripping over itself to apologize.

Its sin? Making the party sound fun.

The Crimson reports the club’s invitation featured “an image, which appeared to be drawn, and a link to a video hosted on YouTube”:

The drawing, titled “Playbear,” depicted a bear wearing a robe, pants, and hat, with its arm around a woman dressed in tights and a sleeveless top. The email linked to a video that included multiple clips of women wearing underwear and male and female models walking a runway, as well as a clip from the song “Stay the Night.” The video, which was previously public on YouTube, was made private and then removed Thursday evening, after it prompted criticism from students and other social club members.

The sender of the invitation – which doesn’t appear to have surfaced online – said Spee will work with the women’s final clubs on future social invitations, which is fine, but this is just a laughable reaction:

Members of Our Harvard Can Do Better, a student group that advocates for changes to Harvard’s handling of sexual assault, also criticized the invitation in a statement, writing that its tone reflects “deep power imbalances.”

Another student called the invitation an example of the “hypersexualized” portrayal of women in the elite world of final clubs.

Hypersexualization on campus certainly is a problem – students are regularly subjected to vaginas in their faces and mouthsvibrators in their crotches and full nudes that “empower” women.

Read the Crimson story – and send us the invitation if you got one.

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