Yale Law School deletes admissions data after numerous FERPA requests

This article was originally published in The Daily Pennsylvanian Steven Tydings on March 28, 2015

Yale Law School has deleted admissions evaluation data for enrolled students after a large uptick in FERPA requests.

Stanford students found out that they could access their own admissions files, causing a major increase in FERPA requests around the country, including at Penn. With requests coming in to Yale, the Law School decided to go back to an old policy of deleting numerical scoring data, as well as the identities attached with each score, after the annual admissions cycle.

“Recent FERPA requests prompted us to look at our record-keeping practices, and the decision was made to revert to our previous practice, which was to discard evaluation records after they had fulfilled their intended purpose,” Yale Law School Associate Dean Asha Rangappa said in an email in a Yale Daily News article.

According to the article, Yale only honored the first few FERPA requests before deleting the files without letting students know. Many students interviewed by the Yale Daily News were frustrated with the decision and found it irresponsible.

After the news broke that Yale Law School had deleted the files, the advocacy group Students for Fair Admissions sent a letter to every Ivy League school (except for Harvard, which it is currently suing) requesting that it preserves its admissions files and restores any that have been deleted.

Read the Yale Daily News for more about Yale Law School and check out the Daily Princetonian for more about the letter. 

Read the original article here.

Students for Fair Admissions sends letter to U.

This article was originally published in The Daily Princetonian by Jessica Li on March 25, 2015

In a letter to University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 on March 19, the president of the advocacy group Students for Fair Admissions, Edward Blum, asked the University to preserve its student admission records and to restore these documents if any part had been destroyed.

The letter was in response to an article by the New Republic reporting that Yale Law School had destroyed its admission records, Blum said.

University spokesperson Martin Mbugua said Eisgruber had not yet seen the letter.

A letter was also sent to every Ivy League college’s president except Harvard’s, because Students for Fair Admissions is suing Harvard for allegedly discriminating against students of Asian descent in its admission process.

The goal of Students for Fair Admissions is to have race become a non-factor in college admissions, according to the group’s website.

“It should go without saying that Princeton cannot destroy evidence essential to judicial review of its admissions policies and expect to withstand strict scrutiny if and when its admissions policies are challenged in court,” the letter read, particularly for “racially discriminatory policies and procedures in administering undergraduate admissions.”

The organization provided legal counsel to Abigail Fisher, a white applicant who was rejected from the University of Texas at Austin and is the namesake of the Supreme Court decision Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, Blum noted. Fisher lost her argument that the University of Texas’ affirmative action policies were illegal.

“Our concerns about the FERPA is that students should have access to their records, even if we had never written these letters and expressed our concerns, students should still be concerned that their records are being destroyed,” said Blum.

Blum declined to comment on whether he intends to subpoena evidence from the University for legal cases.

“The question of diversity is one that needs some explanation,” Blum said. “Is there some benefit in extending cosmetic diversity among the student body? I think my answer is that cosmetic diversity doesn’t mean anything, if it does, then our civil rights movement has regressed.”

Making decisions based on the color of students’ skin when they have the same socioeconomic background brings only a minute benefit to campuses, Blum said.

He added that the lawsuit against Harvard University is one of the most complex in the history of affirmative action litigation.

“Harvard is doing two things outside of written law,” Blum said. “Harvard has hard fast intractable quota for the number of Asians [admitted], [and] Harvard has ratio balancing policies, the outcome of which is that every year just about the same percentage of four major racial groups [are admitted].”

These two practices are unconstitutional and Blum hopes to prove that in court, he said.

Read the original article here.

Admissions Lawsuit Plaintiff Pens Letters Blasting Record Purges

Daphne C. Thompson, writing in The Harvard Crimson, authored the following piece about a call for universities to release admissions files under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. 

In response to a report that Yale Law School had decided to destroy its student admissions evaluation files, Edward Blum—the president of nonprofit membership group Students for Fair Admissions, Inc.—sent a letter Thursday to every Ivy League university president, except for Harvard’s, to object to any further deletions of student admission records.

Project on Fair Representation, a legal defense group also led by Blum, is currently suing Harvard for allegedly setting admissions quotas on students of Asian descent and engaging in “racial balancing” in its admissions process. According to Blum, Harvard did not receive a similar letter regarding admissions file destruction because it is already facing litigation and must retain all records during the lawsuit’s discovery period.

In the letter, Blum wrote that the file destruction raised concerns under the 1974 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a Department of Education act that holds that the documents must be accessible under federal law. FERPA attracted widespread media attention in January after The New York Times reported that Stanford students had invoked it to successfully access copies of their records from the university, including written assessments and numerical scores assigned to them by admissions officers.

“It should go without saying that Yale cannot destroy evidence essential to judicial review of its admissions policies and expect to withstand strict scrutiny if and when its admissions policies are challenged in court,” the letter read.

Blum also wrote that Yale’s employment of racial consideration in admissions decisions subjects the university to legal scrutiny under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and that “this brazen attempt to avoid scrutiny of legally questionable admissions practices is precisely the wrong course of action at precisely the wrong time.”

Harvard has denied all of Blum’s allegations of race-based discrimination in its admissions process and will meet the plaintiffs of the complaint at a status conference in April.

—Staff writer Daphne C. Thompson can be reached at daphne.thompson@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @daphnectho.

Read the original article here.

Learn more about Harvard’s unfair admissions practices here.

UNC to grant students’ requests for admissions files under FERPA

Corey Risinger, writing in The Daily Tar Heel, authored the following piece about UNC’s recent decisions to comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act .

College acceptance might no longer be a mystery to UNC students — the University is expected to join a national movement and release admissions files under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

“We are glad to comply with the law,” said Steve Farmer, vice provost for enrollment and undergraduate admissions.

The student-led effort was sparked by The Fountain Hopper, an anonymous Stanford University newsletter that, in January, sent out instructions for requesting admissions files under FERPA.

The 1974 law has two primary objectives — protecting students’ information from being released to third parties without permission and allowing students access to their educational files.

Upon request for admissions files, universities have 45 days to respond, according to FERPA.

Farmer said UNC has seen its first requests ever to view admissions files this year, and the admissions department is still working to establish a procedure for honoring these requests.

Still, access to admissions files will not necessarily reveal a concrete reason for acceptance, he said. The admissions process is too holistic and dependent upon basic “human experience” to provide a single rationale, he said.

When folders are eventually released, Farmer said they will not include teachers’ recommendation letters — one of the primary causes of the admissions department’s research before releasing information. Only students who did not waive the FERPA rights — prominently located on the Common Application — would be permitted to view recommendations.

What would remain, Farmer said, might be a note or two about an application and students’ essays and transcripts.

Tara Schimelman, Samantha Buckshon, Brooke Tucker and Courtney Brown — all seniors in high school in Mooresville — said they would want to see their records.

Farmer said the admissions department respects each individual’s decision, but he wouldn’t personally choose to view his own admissions file.

Following a stream of requests to view academic files, universities like Yale School of Law and Stanford have reconsidered their policy for admissions information.

Yale Law deleted admissions and career evaluations on Feb. 25 without notice. Stanford’s 20-minute viewing sessions of files was short-lived, too, as the school has announced it won’t be taking more requests — the Stanford Daily reported that unrequested files have been deleted.

Advocacy groups like Students for Fair Admissions, a group that is suing UNC-Chapel Hill over its admissions policies, have called for the reversal of such deletion policies. They argue admissions files should be maintained for a substantial amount of time.

Edward Blum, director of Students for Fair Admissions, said Congress should revisit the FERPA legislation to clarify for colleges and universities how long they’re required to keep students’ information on file.

Anne Klinefelter, a UNC law professor, said FERPA’s admissions policy — often criticized for its ambiguity — applies only to students who choose to enroll in the institution.

Klinefelter said the deletion of admissions documents would be reasonable considering the desire to protect students’ records in the name of better cybersecurity.

“(But) I do not think an institution would be FERPA compliant if it were to adopt a policy or practice of destroying education records in response to each student’s request for those records,” she said.

Read the original article here.

To learn more about UNC’s unfair admissions practices here.

Plaintiff in Harvard University Admissions Lawsuit Objects to Destruction of Student Records at Yale Law School

(Washington, DC) Today, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) sent a letter to Peter Salovey, president of Yale University objecting to reports of the destruction of student records at Yale University law school.

A similar letter was sent to the presidents of the other Ivy League universities except Harvard. The letters to Yale, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Princeton, Penn, and Dartmouth can be found here.

SFFA filed two lawsuits in November 2014 challenging the admissions policies at Harvard University and the Univ. of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

The lawsuit against Harvard asserts that the university has an unconstitutional racial quota that limits the number of Asians it will admit, as well as a racial balancing policy that the U.S. Supreme Court has forbidden in earlier litigation.

According to an article in The New Republic (March 15, 2015), “Yale Law School Is Deleting Its Admissions Records, and There’s Nothing Students Can Do About It” authored by Joseph Pomianowski, Yale Law School Dean Robert Post informed students in his annual “State of the School” address that students who requested access to their admissions and educational records under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) would no longer be receiving them. It is unclear from the article if Yale will pursue the destruction of undergraduate records.

The Pomianowski article stated that, “To avoid being forced to hand over a wide range of documents in response to a flood of recent student requests, the school had decided to destroy its student admissions evaluation records along with any notations made by the career development office in individual student files.”

SFFA objects to the willful destruction of admissions files by Yale Law School because it raises serious concerns under the Family Education Rights Privacy Act—a 1974 statute which allows students to access and correct inaccuracies in their own records.

Moreover, the destruction of these files may risk spoliation of evidence in SFFA’s Harvard litigation. In its complaint against Harvard, SFFA alleged that Harvard’s data is highly consistent with all other Ivy League schools, which inexplicably enroll Asian Americans in remarkably similar numbers year after year after year. As proof, the complaint set forth seven years of enrollment data from the Ivy League schools—including Yale University. Thus, Yale has been on notice that undergraduate student admissions files may be subject to subpoena as this important civil rights case proceeds to the discovery phase.

Edward Blum, president of SFFA said, “SFFA’s letter hereby notifies Yale and the other Ivy League schools of the legal duty to preserve all admissions files in their possession or control. To the extent that Yale has already destroyed such documents and is able to retrieve them, it must do so promptly.”


Read more about the Harvard and UNC-Chapel Hill lawsuits here.