UC Regent in Hot Water

It recently came to light that a University of California Regent, Richard Blum, a man who happens to be the husband of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, wrote a letter of recommendation for an applicant to UC Berkeley that apparently helped the applicant earn admission off the waitlist. According to the reporting, the student — in light of his or her test scores — had no business earning admission to the elite public university. The admission of this student was thus flagged by the California state auditor along with 54 other students who too boasted connections to UC staff, faculty, donors, and/or influential officials and earned admission over more qualified applicants.

UC Regent Penned Letter in Support of Applicant to UC Berkeley

As Maria Young reports for The Daily Californian in a piece entitled “CA State Auditor report alleges UC Regent Richard Blum inappropriately influenced campus admissions,” “Blum allegedly wrote an ‘inappropriate letter of support’ to Chancellor Carol Christ, which was then forwarded to the admissions office, according to the California State Auditor’s office. ‘Given the low likelihood of this applicant’s admission and the prominent and influential role that Regents have within the university, we conclude that the decision to admit this applicant was likely influenced by the Regent’s advocacy,’ the audit states. According to the audit, this incident was ‘particularly problematic’ because University of California policy states that regents should not inappropriately influence admissions decisions. Regents may send letters during the regular admissions process if it is appropriate and requested.”

The Rules Surrounding UC Regents Writing Letters of Recommendation Seem Vague

Well, pray tell, when is it appropriate and when is it not appropriate for a UC Regent to pen a letter on behalf of an applicant to a UC school? Is it only appropriate if the student has top test scores? The line that “Regents may send letters during the regular admissions process if it is appropriate and requested” seems entirely vague. Thus, how can Blum be faulted for merely writing a letter in support of an applicant? If UC Regents were expressly not allowed to write letters on behalf of applicants — a move we would fully support (along with the abolition of trustees / influential alums writing letters at any university in America), that’s one thing. But the fact that the UC rules currently stipulate that UC Regents may send letters “if it is appropriate” means Blum didn’t do anything wrong. If the rules don’t fit, you must acquit!

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