Student Council discussed their recent investigation into the University advancement office’s “heads-up” watch list and debated how to proceed with the matter in their final general body meeting of the semester.
Documents previously obtained by author Jeff Thomas and reported on by The Cavalier Daily revealed the University's advancement office had tracked the application status of applicants connected to major donors to the University. The University, however, has said that admissions decisions are solely made by the admissions office.
Council members, having been asked to read the investigation’s report before the Tuesday night meeting, shared their thoughts about the allegations against the University’s admissions process, the investigation itself and the administration’s response.
The report stated there was no evidence that admissions decisions were changed as a result of donations to the University, but still expressed concerns about the fact that the University was tracking wealthy and high-profile applicants.
It was also published with a disclaimer stating that the report reflected only the views of second-year College student and representative Ian Ware, who was tasked with the investigation, and not those of Student Council as a whole.
Lukas Pietrzak, a second-year College student and representative, raised questions about the efficacy of the investigation because Ware was denied meetings with administrators.
Sarah Kenny, a third-year College student and Student Council President, was granted a meeting with Dean of Admission Gregory Roberts and Dean of Students Allen Groves. After the meeting, Kenny and Ware were told by University Spokesperson Anthony de Bruyn they had been given enough information to conclude their report.
“I take issue with the fact that Ian was tasked … with leading this investigation, but … it just became a regurgitation of the facts that we already knew,” Pietrzak said. “You weren’t able to meet with [Sean Jenkins, senior assistant to the University president], you weren’t able to meet with the office of advancement … so I’m just kind of confused why we did this report if you were denied entry to meetings with anyone.”
Kenny said the bottom line is simply that the University stands by their statement that there is no connection between the admissions and development offices.
Pietrzak, though, said he thought Student Council had an obligation to continue the investigation beyond accepting the University’s official statement on the matter.
“We shouldn’t just let the University say, ‘Oh, that’s it, you have all you need,’” Pietrzak said. “I feel like we’re not fulfilling our duty to the students at that point.”
Austin Gogal, a third-year College student and representative, asked Kenny her own opinions on the matter.
“To be honest about where I stand right now, I ran on a campaign of diversity and inclusion, and this is not a way to further that goal at the University,” Kenny said.
Kenny said that many elite universities conduct similar practices of tracking certain applicants, but that the University never accepts any unqualified students, no matter how wealthy.
Kenny cited anecdotes she said she had heard about unqualified students who were turned away despite million-dollar donation offers. She also said only a very small number of students are being affected by the practice.
“It’s a very, very miniscule number of students,” Kenny said. “In my priorities on how to advance diversity and inclusion at this university, this is not my top priority.”
Ware, on the other hand, insisted that even if relatively few students are being affected, Student Council should still continue investigating the matter.
“I think we do have an obligation to push forward on this … even if it is such a small number of students that are not being let in,” Ware said. “Imagine if you didn’t get into U.Va., and you found out that it was because someone with more money than you had paid.”
Student Council did not come to a conclusion on how to proceed regarding the investigation during the meeting.
According to a statement from Katie Brandon, a third-year Batten student and Student Council’s director of University relations, Kenny “will be working with University administrators while she is on Grounds this summer and over the course of the next year to further socioeconomic diversity and institutional equity on Grounds.”