​Student Council releases admissions investigation report

Report finds no evidence of donations influencing admissions, but claims lack of response from administrators


The admission office is located at Peabody Hall. 

Kelsey Grant | Cavalier Daily

A Student Council representative’s investigation into alleged preferential treatment in the University’s admissions system came to a conclusion Tuesday at Student Council’s General Body meeting.

Third-year College student and Chair of the Representative Body David Birkenthal announced at the meeting that second-year College student and Representative Ian Ware would be releasing his final report on the matter.

The report concluded “that there is no direct evidence that applicants to the University of Virginia have had their admissions decisions changed because of donations to the University,” though it also claimed “several key administrators were not permitted to speak with anyone involved in this investigation.”

The “findings” of the report also commented that “it is deeply worrying that our university spends time and money to track high profile applicants.”

Documents given to The Cavalier Daily by author Jeff Thomas revealed the University’s advancement office has monitored a “heads-up list” of applicants connected to major donors, although the University maintains that admissions officials solely determine whether an applicant is admitted.

Birkenthal oversaw the investigation, but Ware was personally tasked with conducting the research, meeting with administrators and compiling the report.

“We finished the investigation into the allegations of donations buying admissions at U.Va.,” Ware said at Tuesday’s meeting, supplementing Birkenthal’s remarks. “It’s going to be released today.”

The report, originally commissioned by third-year College student and Student Council President Sarah Kenny, was released with multiple disclaimers saying the report represents Ware’s views and not those of Student Council itself.

“The views expressed in this report are solely those of Representative Ware and do not reflect the views of the University of Virginia Student Council as a whole,” a note prefacing the report reads.

At the end of the nine-page document, a nearly identical disclaimer from Birkenthal and Kenny again reminds readers the report does not reflect the views of the entire Student Council.

Kenny declined to comment on why the report did not receive Student Council’s endorsement. She also declined to comment on Student Council’s official position on the allegations against University admissions in light of the investigation’s findings.

The document consists of an introduction, background information on how the allegations emerged and an analysis of the documents released through Thomas’ FOIA request. There is also a section detailing a meeting between Kenny and Dean of Admissions Gregory Roberts and Dean of Students Allen Groves, which is followed by a summary of the investigation’s findings and a brief note from Kenny and Birkenthal.

Under the section titled “Conversations with Administrators,” the report said investigators were allowed to speak only with Roberts and Groves.

It also says requests to speak with Sean Jenkins, senior assistant to the University president, and Mark Luellen, vice president for advancement, were specifically denied by University Spokesperson Anthony de Bruyn.

The documents — obtained from Luellen’s office through the FOIA request — noted there were meetings between applicants and Jenkins, although it was unclear from the documents what specific role Jenkins played in the admissions process.

The report says in the meeting with Roberts, Groves and Kenny, Roberts “clarified” Jenkins’ role in the admissions process and said Jenkins is “the intermediary between the offices of advancement and admissions, acting as a go-between in the situations where collaboration or communication would be helpful.”

The description of the meeting also notes Roberts responded to a question about whether donations have influenced any admissions decisions “with a firm no.”

In his findings, however, Ware said he felt Jenkins could have provided important insight to the investigation.

“As the person described as the intermediary between admissions and advancement, Sean Jenkins … could have provided us with more detailed information on his role in the admissions process for high profile applicants,” the report reads.

In a brief email to The Cavalier Daily on Tuesday evening, de Bruyn said Roberts answered Kenny’s questions regarding University admissions in their meeting. 

“The University provided the requisite background information and context on this issue in the spirit of transparency and collaboration with student leaders,” de Bruyn said.

Kenny declined to comment on the administration’s responsiveness to her and Ware’s requests to meet with Jenkins and Luellen.

Ware said despite his satisfaction with the results of the investigation, those administrators’ inaccessibility was a hindrance to the investigation.

“I’m happy with how it turned out, but still disappointed in the lack of response from some administrators,” Ware said.

Student Council report:

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