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Stanford to direct funds gained from admissions scandal to ‘public good,’ launches external review into admissions

(AVI BAGLA/The Stanford Daily)

Stanford is working with a state attorney to find a worthy cause to donate the $770,000 fraudulently gained from the national college admissions scandal — including the $610,000 obtained from bribes to former head sailing coach John Vandemoer — according to a victim impact statement submitted to Boston District court. Vandemoer’s sentencing hearing will take place on Wednesday.

Simultaneously, the University has hired Simpson Thatcher & Bartlett LLP to conduct an external review of its admissions process. The review aims to determine whether any improper actions occurred that has not been identified, to examine what allowed such conduct to occur, and to make recommendations to improve the system to prevent similar violations in the future. Stanford had promised an external review shortly after the scandal’s unveiling in March; a Monday update to its website indicates that the review is expected to be completed in the fall, and the conclusions will be publically reported.

The University’s general counsel, Debra Zumwalt, told the Boston judge who is handling Vandemoer’s case that Stanford views money obtained through the scandal as “tainted” and “does not wish to benefit in any way” from Vandemoer’s actions, and instead intends to direct the funds toward “public good.”

Stanford is consulting with Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office to figure out where to direct the funds, according to a previous Notes from The Quad post.

Vandemoer, who accepted bribes from scandal ringleader William “Rick” Singer, is set to be sentenced on Wednesday, and prosecutors have recommended a 13-month prison term — a duration much shorter than the typical 33 to 41 months prison sentence for similar crimes.  To explain the shorter sentence, prosecutors cited the fact Vandemoer did not keep the money, but directed it toward his team. Defendants argued his intent “though misguided, was to help the sailing program he loved.”

Vandemoer was reported to have accepted bribes on behalf of three students: two through the athletics recruitment process (neither of which ultimately attended Stanford) and one through the regular admissions process whose application contained falsified sailing credentials. The third student has since been expelled from the University.

Stanford has since begun working to increase “the regular education of development officers about the need to know prospective donors as well as their intermediaries and the reason for a prospective gift or pledge,” its Monday update states. The University is also creating more written materials for development officers with guidelines for gift offers, is forming a more “systematic vetting process” to for prospective gifts for acceptance and forming a gift acceptance committee “to handle unusual situations.”

Contact Julia Ingram at jmingram ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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