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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Federal law that’s long been abused by colleges becomes a hit with students

Students who learned they could request their admissions file under federal law are causing headaches for colleges, some of which have started deleting those records.

For Ivy League schools, however, the bigger headache might come from an advocacy group that opposes racial quotas and is threatening them with legal penalties if they don’t preserve such records for use in litigation.

Higher education legal experts told The College Fix the imbroglio highlights how universities are using ambiguities in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act to violate the spirit of the law.

The trend was sparked at Stanford University in January, when the Fountain Hopper, a student-run subscription email list, outlined the step-by-step process for students to gain access to their admissions files under FERPA, according to The Stanford Daily.

The school put strict limits on the process, requiring students to review their files in person while an administrator watched to ensure they didn’t take photos of records. The files include not only “written evaluations” but also “check boxes that indicate whether the applicant qualifies as ‘diverse,’ a legacy or a ‘VIP,’” the Daily said.


The influx of requests led Tom Black, university registrar, to email students and recent alumni who requested their files, asking them to reconsider: “So please ask yourself: What benefit do I seek from reviewing these additional admissions records? Will my life be better for having reviewed them?”

While Stanford is responding to FERPA requests with records that were available when the requests were made, it has since moved to a policy of deleting admissions files.

Yale Law School started deleting records wholesale in late February and early March – without warning anyone – after its own students copied the Fountain Hopper trick, Yale law student Joseph Pomianowski wrote in The New Republic.

There was “nothing in the language of the statute [that] bars the administration’s conduct here,” Pomianowski wrote, arguing that Congress should “tamp down on the wide-ranging and self-serving interpretations” of FERPA by universities.

Yale claimed that its deletion of files was a previous practice that it returned to in light of the FERPA request spike, according to Yale Daily News.

Stop deleting records showing Asians in ‘remarkably similar numbers’ each year

Pomianowski’s article, however, piqued the interest of Students for Fair Admissions, which is already suing Harvard University on allegations of intentionally limiting the number of Asian-American students that it admits.

The group, led by lawyer Edward Blum, sent letters to Ivy League schools except Harvard warning them to restore any admissions records they have deleted, as Yale did.

Asian.ByFaungg.FlickrDestroying those records “may risk spoliation of evidence” in the group’s Harvard litigation because Harvard’s admissions practices are “consistent with all other Ivy League schools, which inexplicably enroll Asian Americans in remarkably similar numbers year after year after year,” Students for Fair Admissions said in the March 19 letters.

Princeton also received a letter from Blum’s group. Blum declined to tell The Daily Princetonian whether he’d subpoena evidence from Princeton for the Harvard case, but asked rhetorically “Is there some benefit in extending cosmetic diversity among the student body?”

Though the University of Pennsylvania isn’t deleting admissions files, what it does make available to students during 30-minute appointments isn’t especially helpful, the Daily Pennsylvanian reported.

One student told the paper she couldn’t see about half the feedback in her file because it “dealt with information involving others” and the school had redacted it, as FERPA allows.

‘FERPA is such a train wreck’

The responses from universities concerning admissions files require the courts to more clearly define FERPA, Jesse Saffron of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy told The Fix in a statement.

“Destroying records or otherwise refusing to comply with requests – essentially urging the requestor to file a lawsuit – sends the wrong message to students, parents, and the public,” Saffron said. The problem is “what constitutes an ‘educational record’” isn’t clear.

Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, thinks the law is clear when it comes to universities’ specific responses to the admissions requests.

“FERPA requires granting students reasonable access to their records, and if the university would otherwise be retaining the records but destroys them specifically to frustrate student access, then that’s arguably already a violation of FERPA today,” LoMonte said in an interview with The Fix.

“But because FERPA is such a train wreck, nobody knows what is and isn’t prohibited, and colleges take advantage of that confusion when it suits them,” LoMonte said.

Regarding Yale Law School’s quick deletion of its files, he said, “As an attorney, that is not what I want to hear from my client.”

College Fix reporter Matthew Boyer is a student at Rutgers University.

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IMAGES: Fountain Hopper, By Faungg/Flickr

Back on January 26, The College Fix reported on a situation involving New York Times columnist Charles Blow’s son and Yale University.

Blow’s son Tahj appeared to match the description of a burglar who had been reported in the area. A Yale police officer stopped Tahj at gunpoint, and the department detained him briefly.

The elder Blow took to Twitter to lambaste the Yale PD, stating, among other things, that he has “NO PATIENCE for ppl trying to convince me that the fear these young blk men feel isn’t real.”

Blow neglected to note that the officer who detained his son is black. The head of the Yale PD is also black.

Now, the Yale Police Benevolent Association, “an independent union [that] represents YPD officers,” is dismayed at the Yale administration’s response, claiming “it created a presumption of guilt.”

The Yale Daily News reports:

References to incidences where unarmed men were killed by police officers was disproportional, and had “no place” in a discussion of a simple burglary investigation, the [YPBA] statement said.

Defending the actions of the police officer who drew his weapon, the YPBA argued that the administration’s reaction “has a chilling effect on officer safety and may yield a consequence that results in the death or serious physical injury of one of our officers.”

“We completely support our officer in his actions,” a statement from the YPBA read. “Yale needs to unequivocally support its police officers when their actions are reasonable and appropriate; not sacrifice them for political expediency.”

The statement further noted that the officer’s decision to draw his gun was in fact in line with the “reasonable officer standard of review.” The University’s investigation into the event, it suggested, should therefore find the officer’s actions justified.

In condemning the administration’s reaction, the YPBA’s statement argued that the University responded to the incident in the way it did because of public optics.

The YPBA statement also asked if Yale would have reacted similarly had Tahj Blow not been “the son of an influential newspaper columnist and television commentator.”

Read the full article.

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IMAGE: YouTube screencap

New York Times opinion columnist Charles Blow is fuming (his word) that his son, a junior chemistry major at Yale, was stopped at gunpoint by a campus cop.

Apparently Blow’s son matched the description of a burglary suspect, and Yale officers “responded to emergency calls from undergraduates in Trumbull College” stating that an individual had gained entrance “under false pretenses, pretending to be looking for someone.”

Yale released a statement on the incident, noting among things that the suspect was “a tall, African-American, college-aged student wearing a black jacket and a red and white hat” … and that “was the description that Yale police used as they converged on Trumbull and attempted to track down the suspect.”

Blow’s son “was briefly detained and released by Yale police.” The actual suspect was eventually caught later that evening.

The columnist took to Twitter to vent his anger (via Twitchy):

Numerous commenters at Twitchy and on Twitter say Blow is way overreacting. Is the fact that his son attends an Ivy League school supposed to insulate the undergrad from police doing their job?

In my late teens a friend and I were approached by a cop car speeding down the street. Right in front of my house the police locked up their brakes, and a woman cop got out of the passenger side yelling at us to “freeze.” She didn’t draw her gun, but had her hand on it in its holster.

It seemed we matched the description of a couple assailants who had beat up and robbed some young kids.

We were very cooperative. Once they checked us out and verified where we had been, they thanked us for our time. There was no real apology, other than something like “sorry for taking so long on this.”

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This past Monday, over one hundred University of Pennsylvania students marched through Philadelphia to protest the grand jury decision in the shooting death of Ferguson, Missouri’s Michael Brown:

Protesters walked in fierce solidarity, responding to the leaders’ chants: “No justice, no peace. No racist police.”
“I just don’t want my son, the child of an Ivy League graduate, to walk down the street in fear for his life,” a student who preferred to remain anonymous said at the protest.

This was along the lines of what New York City mayor Bill De Blasio said in reaction to the non-indictment of the officer who used a “chokehold” on (black) victim Eric Garner:

Mr. de Blasio told an audience that he worried over the years if his son Dante would be safe at night before adding, “And not just from some of the painful realities of crime and violence in some of our neighborhoods but safe from the very people they want to have faith in as their protectors.”

Students at other Ivy League schools have expressed similar sentiments:

“I’m scared to go outside,” [Brianna] Alston said. “This is a real fearful situation for the black community.” (Columbia University)

“Business as usual can’t continue, our frivolities can’t continue while people are dying without reason and impunity,” [Stephanie] Amoako said. (Columbia)

“My brother is turning 20 next month, which means that he is solidifying his presence in a demographic of young black men between the ages of 19-25 in the United States who are disproportionately targeted by police brutality,” Karleh Wilson ’16 explained. “I worry about [my brother’s] safety under the hands of the law. My brother should feel safe among the presence of policemen, but he does not, and this is the same for all men of color his age in America.” (Yale)

A student at Harvard held a placard that read “This is Genocide.”

Nadia May recited a poem about “how she will mother her future children intertwined with commentary on racism and police brutality.” (Cornell)

A frequent refrain heard from “progressives” and Democrats — usually in snide rebuttal to conservatives/Republicans regarding global warming climate change — is that they’re “the party of science,” and the “believers in facts.”

So, is it really a fact that Ms. Alston and the others should be “scared to go outside” for fear of being killed by a police officer?

Compared to many other things out there in society, the answer is “hardly.”

Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly this past week devoted a “Talking Points” segment to this issue. Here is what he noted, with sources from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, the CDC, the FBI and the Census Bureau:

  • Police killings of blacks down 70% in last 50 years
  • In 2012, 123 blacks were killed by police with a gun
  • In 2012, 326 whites were killed with a gun
  • In 2013, blacks committed 5,375 murders
  • In 2013, whites committed 4,396 murders
  • Whites are 63% of the population blacks are 13%

To be fair, some have taken issue with these statistics. The Tampa Bay Times’ PunditFact site (a subsidiary of PolitiFact) argues that some of the figures are “incomplete” because, for example (in the CDC’s case), “coroners and physicians are under no obligation to detail police involvement in the deaths that they encounter.”

black-white-DryHundredFear.flickrHowever, ironically, PunditFact notes that the “whites killed by police figure” is artificially inflated because it includes Hispanics. But … weren’t we informed by the mainstream media in the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman incident that Zimmerman was, in fact, a “white Hispanic”?? So … which is it? Do we refer to “white Hispanics” as “white” … or do we keep Hispanics as a separate category?

Then there is The Daily Dot which claims to have “debunked” O’Reilly’s “argument about racism in American policing”:

Secondly, what O’Reilly’s statistics show—but what O’Reilly leaves unsaid—is that black people are killed at disproportionately higher rates than white people by police officers. African Americans are 14 percent of the population but 30 percent of the police-shooting deaths. This is double the rate that one might expect from O’Reilly’s fantasy world in which race is not a factor.

The numbers get even grimmer when narrowed down a bit. Police kill young black men at a rate 21 times higher than the equivalent rate for young white men.

Which, unfortunately, completely omits any reference to vastly disproportionate black murder rate noted above by O’Reilly. It is quite disingenuous to expect “proportionate representation” in law enforcement killings when the (race-based) crime rate isn’t even close to being such.

The mainstream media also doesn’t help matters by omitting virtually identical types of stories … but where the races are reversed. For instance, a Trayvon Martin-like tale involved a (black) man named Roderick Scott. Scott shot and killed seventeen year-old Christopher Cervini, who was white. Cervini and two others were stealing from cars when Scott confronted them. Scott pulled out a gun and told the boys to freeze until police arrived. However, Cervini apparently charged Scott, who then opened fire, killing the teen.

After a trial, Scott was found “not guilty” of manslaughter.

Some of the comments afterwards by Cervini’s family sound awfully familiar:

Cervini’s family members say justice wasn’t served. They say Christopher was murdered in cold blood, that he’d never been in trouble and Scott acted as judge, jury and executioner.

“The message is that we can all go out and get guns and feel anybody that we feel is threatening us and lie about the fact,” said Jim Cervini, Christopher’s father. “My son never threatened anybody. He was a gentle child, his nature was gentle, he was a good person and he was never, ever arrested for anything, and has never been in trouble. He was 16 years and four months old, and he was slaughtered.”

With regards to the Michael Brown case, two years ago a black police officer shot and killed unarmed white teenager Gilbert Collar in Mobile, Alabama. But, “despite public pressure for an indictment, a Mobile County grand jury refused to bring charges against Officer [Trevis] Austin, concluding that the officer acted in self-defense.”

Collar was under the influence of an hallucinogen when taken into custody. He was 5’7″ and weighed a mere 135 pounds. Once at the police station, Collar “began banging on the outside windows, then walked in the general direction of Officer Austin, who had his gun drawn.”

Austin shot Collar in the chest, killing him.

You can argue about the reasons we didn’t hear about these stories; however, many would say it’s because it doesn’t fit the (usual) media narrative.

The “party of science and facts” does itself, and everyone else, a big disservice by continuing to stand by a discredited narrative. Once the facts — science — came forth from the Ferguson grand jury that Michael Brown did not, in fact, have his hands up, supporters promptly stated “it doesn’t matter.”

Recently, DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton repeated as much. When asked if she had “read all the evidence” in the Brown case, she replied “I did not, and that is not a concern.”

Further, will the mainstream media heavily cover what Erica Garner said (her father being the aforementioned New York City suspect placed in a chokehold who later died as a result, according to a coroner) this week about her father’s death — that it wasn’t a racial matter? That it was more about general police aggression and misuse of tactics?

Any rational and reasonably intelligent American is cognizant of the historic plight of African-Americans. It is certainly understandable that many in that community harbor a degree of mistrust of police; it wasn’t all that long ago when the law made it a crime for black Americans to even sit at the same lunch counter as whites.

But it does no American — black, white, brown — any good to promote falsehoods which serve to shred the entire American community asunder.

We have competent legal procedures in place to rectify a miscarriage of justice — led by the top law enforcement officer in the land, Eric Holder, a black man. The most recent of these unfortunate police killings  (that of  Eric Garner) appears to be a case where the feds can make a compelling case in the typical follow-up investigation.

Dave Huber is an assistant editor of  The College Fix. (@ColossusRhodey)

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INTERIOR IMAGE: Dry Hundred Fear/Flickr

The Yale Daily News has a must-read deep dive into one sexual-assault investigation at the school, using documents handed over by the accusing student that are supposed to remain confidential.

Regular College Fix readers will notice that it sounds an awful lot like Occidental College’s botched investigation that’s now the subject of a lawsuit against the school by the accused student.

The main difference is that Yale’s sexual-misconduct committee (also the subject of criticism from former Yale student Patrick Witt in a recent op-ed) sided with the accused student – but the final decision must come from a Yale College dean, whom the Daily News says has missed his “timeline” this week for ruling in the case.

A few pertinent points:

  • The accusing student waited 13 months to file a complaint
  • The parties had a previous sexual relationship they had promised to end, but the male still had “strong feelings” for her
  • “Anticipating that she would become more intoxicated,” the accuser kept texting the accused
  • “I mean … sex is awesome, and I might try to get it from you. But I shouldn’t. I don’t think,” she wrote
  • “[T]he male student interpreted the female student’s texts as ‘ambivalence,’ not an explicit refusal of a sexual encounter”
  • Though she described herself as “hammered” earlier in the evening, the male said she was “enthusiastic” and they had sex twice that night and once in the morning
  • She didn’t recall sending most of the texts

And in another strong parallel to the Occidental case:

While the complainant said she was upset with the events of March 22, she did not initially consider the encounter to be an instance of sexual misconduct. A few days later, however, the complainant was surprised when her friends said the respondent’s actions constituted rape because her level of intoxication rendered her unable to give consent. …

[Thirteen months later, over] the course of the next few days, the female student met with a SHARE counselor and Pamela Schirmeister, the Title IX coordinator for Yale College at the time.

She decided to file a formal complaint.

While the paper rightly focuses on Yale’s failure to meet its own stated timelines for investigation, what really stands out is the assigned fact-finder’s correct analysis of the pertinent question:

“It is undisputed that she was highly intoxicated that night,” Berkman wrote. “The more complex and central question for this committee is whether this level of intoxication caused [her] to ‘lack the ability to make or act on considered decisions to engage in sexual activity.’”

The sexual-misconduct committee came to similar conclusions, and the accusing student said she was “floored” they sided with the accused.

Let’s see if the top Yale official agrees – eventually.

Read the Daily News story.

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