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.
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.”
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.