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Student Council to investigate alleged preferential treatment in U.Va. admissions

Investigation announced after documents show advancement office kept 'heads up list' of applicants

<p>The Office of Undergraduate Admission is located in Peabody Hall. University Spokesperson Anthony de Bruyn&nbsp;has denied any influence from the advancement office in admissions decisions.</p>

The Office of Undergraduate Admission is located in Peabody Hall. University Spokesperson Anthony de Bruyn has denied any influence from the advancement office in admissions decisions.

In light of recent allegations of preferential treatment in the University’s admissions system, Student Council will be conducting an investigation during the coming weeks in order to better understand the situation.

Student Council President and third-year College student Sarah Kenny announced the investigation in a release Monday, asking third-year College student and Chair of the Representative Body David Birkenthal to choose a representative to head up the investigation.

Birkenthal named Ian Ware, a second-year College student and representative, to take charge of the initiative.

Kenny’s release tasked Ware to “work with appropriate administrators and Contracted Independent Organizations and to then make a report to the student body.”

In an email to The Cavalier Daily, Birkenthal said the investigation will be conducted largely at Ware’s discretion, however he may see fit.

“I'll be serving in more of an advisory role,” Birkenthal said. “By providing Ian with the contacts, resources, and, potentially, the guidance he needs, as well as playing a role in ensuring his accountability to the assignment.”

Ware said in an interview on Monday that the investigation is still in the very early stages, as the allegations have only recently come to light. He’s currently planning which people and groups he’ll need to work with.

Ware did, however, name Dean of Admissions Gregory Roberts, Vice President for Advancement Mark Luellen and Director of the U.Va. Parents Fund Jeff Boyd as important parties to include in the investigation.

While he emphasized the importance of understanding the entire situation first, Ware was clear in saying he disapproves of any sort of preferential treatment based on wealth or status in the University’s admissions.

“We want to see an end to that practice if that is indeed what is happening,” Ware said. “We do not want a pay-to-play admissions system at U.Va.”

Ware, who said he campaigned for his position as a representative on a platform of increased accessibility of higher education, said his strong opinions on the issue may have been the reason Birkenthal chose him for the task.

He made no secret of his personal views on the issue, saying he was not surprised that the University may have given special treatment to some applicants.

“I think it’s a pretty open secret that at schools like U.Va., there is a pay-to-play admissions system,” Ware said. “It was not a shock to me when that Washington Post article came out.”

While Ware admitted that Student Council’s influence on the University’s admissions process is negligible, he said he and other representatives will still attempt to petition the administration to make a change if it is found that the advancement office was in fact influencing admissions decisions.

“I’m really hoping we can follow through on this and see something happen in the coming months — a real administrative response,” Ware said.

University Spokesperson Anthony de Bruyn has denied any influence from the advancement office in admissions decisions and has said the admission office solely decides whether to admit students to the University.

Hailey Ross contributed to reporting of this article. 

Update: The language of the article has been updated to reflect that Ware is only speaking on behalf of himself and other representatives who are involved in the investigation. 

View the documents obtained in Jeff Thomas's Freedom of Information Act request HERE.