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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, June 13, 2011

Villanova's 'Unseemly Silence' Over Law School Rankings Scandal

Villanova Logo Philadelphia Inquirer, Villanova's Unseemly Silence Over Law-School Scandal:

Four months nearly to the day after Villanova University disclosed its law school had inflated grade-point averages and other admissions data, seemingly to improve its ranking in the pernicious yet all-too-closely followed U.S. News & World Report survey [see links below], the university appears to have settled on a communications strategy.

And that would be to say nothing.

Neither law school dean John Gotanda, who took over in January after the falsifying of data had ended, nor university spokesman Jonathan Gust is returning phone calls on this one.

Although the disclosure deeply shamed the university and set off a wave of campus anxiety, Villanova has decided the most comfortable course of action is to, in a public-relations and marketing sense, plead the fifth.

This, one must concede, is a pretty cheeky approach. Even the randy New York congressman Anthony Weiner felt compelled to hold a news conference.

The results of an internal probe by the Boston-based law firm Ropes & Gray L.L.P. will remain confidential, it would appear, and neither the public, nor prospective students, will learn who cooked the books, how long it went on, and what the university is doing to make sure it doesn't happen again. ...

The fraudulent data at Villanova Law School appears to have occurred under the administration of Mark Sargent, the former dean of the law school. Sargent stepped down in June 2009 amid disclosures that he had been cooperating with police in a Kennett Township prostitution investigation. Sargent was one of two customers who provided information to police that resulted in a no-contest plea by the man running the business.

Two American Bar Association committees are working on revamping the reporting requirements in an effort to better inform prospective students. One of the participants, David N. Yellen, dean of Loyola University School of Law in Chicago, says he doubts there's much that can be done to prevent the kind of out-and-out academic fraud that occurred with the Villanova numbers.

He says the upside is that it probably is very rare - there are only so many Bernie Madoffs in the world. The employment information is another matter. That is reported every year and used by U.S. News & World Report. Yellen says it is often misleading because it makes no distinction between full- and part-time employment. Moreover, salary data often are reported from a misleadingly small sample of graduates. ...

Villanova might go a step beyond all of that and tell the public more about its admissions-data scandal - and what it has done to set things right.

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The story is inaccurate. Just look on the Villanova Law website.

Posted by: Luigi | Jun 13, 2011 7:51:46 AM

I suppose I should enjoy a competitor having problems. But I think we've had enough of this story for me. I'd be amazed if what Villanova did was really exceptional, and they've taken every reasonable step to deal with it. I think we have created a scandal culture that does us little credit in law schools or otherwise.

Posted by: mike livingston | Jun 13, 2011 9:10:22 AM

As a villanova law grad, I am disgusted with the school. I have written them a letter asking that they never send me anything asking for any money. i washed my hands of them several years ago.

Posted by: vlawgrad | Jun 14, 2011 6:03:30 AM