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Change to athlete recruitment policy follows admissions scandal

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

All varsity athletic recruits proposed by a Stanford coach for an “athletic recommendation” to the University will from now on face a background check from a Stanford Athletics executive for “a second, higher-level verification of the athletic credentials of recruited student-athletes,” University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell announced on Thursday.

Previously, only the recruiting coach was responsible for reviewing such credentials before passing them to the admissions office. Tessier-Lavigne and Drell maintain that recommendation is just “one factor in a comprehensive review of each student’s qualifications” for admission.

The change comes just over a week after Stanford fired then-head sailing coach John Vandemoer for his role in the largest college admissions scandal ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice. Vandemoer pleaded guilty to accepting gifts to the sailing program in exchange for recommending acceptance of students who were not actually sailing recruits.

Stanford Sailing received $770,000 from the Key Worldwide Foundation (KWF) operated by scandal ringleader William Rick Singer. The University reports that it “received no other contributions, beyond those already reported, from the foundation,” and that no members of the 2019 applicant pool are associated with a contribution from the foundation.

While Stanford has confirmed the pre-admission athletic credentials of all sailing team members admitted with an athletic recommendation since 2011, the acceptance of one student has been linked to a $500,000 donation from KWF to Stanford sailing.

The student, whose identity has not been revealed, was admitted as a non-athlete and has never competed for the Stanford sailing team, though their application to the University contained “fabricated sailing credentials.” Tessier-Lavigne and Drell did not specify the actions that would be taken toward this specific student, but they reiterated on Thursday that admission may be revoked for admitted students with any application materials “discovered to be fraudulent.”

“Stanford has high expectations for the integrity and personal conduct of everyone in our community,” Tessier-Lavigne and Drell wrote. “We will continue looking to determine what additional steps are needed to ensure that our policies fully live up to our ideals.”

The University is conducting a “comprehensive external review of the procedures” followed in recommending athletes for admission, as well as those related to acceptance of gifts for athletic programs, to ensure the processes’ “integrity”. The review will also ensure “appropriate action” if “further improprieties” in the processes are found, Tessier-Lavigne and Drell wrote.

“In particular,” they added, “we are committed to ensuring that financial contributions to Stanford receive the proper scrutiny, and to ensuring that donors are never under the impression that a place at Stanford can be bought.”

Contact Holden Foreman at hs4man21 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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