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University audits years of admissions in wake of higher education scandal

Duke is auditing the last several years of its admissions in the wake of the national higher education admissions scandal.

No Duke coaches or administrators have been named in the incident. President Vincent Price fielded a question from Lee Baker,  Mrs. Alexander Hehmeyer professor of cultural anthropology, about how Duke was responding to the admissions scandal that has rocked higher education in recent weeks during the Academic Council meeting on Thursday. 

“I’ll tell you that we’re not addressing it by putting our hands over our ears and saying ‘la, la, la,” Price responded. 

The president said that although he has confidence in Duke’s admissions, he is not letting that get in the way of fully reviewing the issue. 

“Everything I’ve seen in my time at Duke gives me confidence that we are not engaged in the kinds of things that other institutions have been engaged in, but I don’t let my trust replace the need to verify that,” Price said. 

The FBI charged dozens of people—including university officials, coaches and parents—in an alleged scheme to illegally buy admission into college. The allegations included that students were admitted under the guise of being on sports team that they were not on and subverting standardized testing procedures to get students higher scores. 

“So what we’re doing right now is the Office of General Counsel has been working with athletics,” Price said. “In admissions, we’re going back and we’re auditing previous years. I believe we have covered four years so far, but we have not uncovered any instances that looked to us like they would be especially troubling.”

Price said, however, that there is a ways to go. 

“If you read this case, the principle player involved, they have been at work for about 10 years, so there’s a lot of ground to cover there,” the president said. “Prospectively, we’re asking ourselves ‘Are we vulnerable?’ Even if we’re doing everything right, do we have the necessary safeguards in place?' Let’s learn from this incident.”

In the case that there is an issue with Duke’s admissions, Price said he wants to be the first to know. 

“If we do uncover something, my first goal is to know it before anyone else discovers it for us,” Price said. “I mean this quite seriously, because that is our responsibility. A good institution does discover these things before other people point them out, because they have a routine review.”

The president also said that the Athletic Council—which reported to the Academic Council in Fall 2017 about athletes clustering in courses—reviews athletic admissions twice per year. 

This faculty involvement, Price said, is the University’s “strongest bulwark” against impropriety.

“I’m feeling confident," Price said. "But as I said, that is no replacement for making sure that we dig into it and learn everything."

Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, told The Chronicle Monday that the FBI has not contacted the University in relation to the case. 

“Duke has not been contacted [by the FBI] or in anyway implicated in this particular case,” Schoenfeld said.

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