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U of Illinois Law School Admits To Six Years of False LSAT/GPA Data

Posted Nov 7, 2011 7:21 PM CDT
By Mark Hansen

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Updated: The University of Illinois acknowledged Monday that its law school reported and/or published inaccurate admissions data in six of the last 10 years.

The university, in a prepared statement (PDF), said it had determined that Paul Pless, the law school's former assistant dean for admissions and financial aid, who resigned last week, was solely responsible for the inaccuracies.

It also found that the law school lacked adequate controls to prevent, deter and detect such actions, a situation that it said it is taking steps to correct.

The statement accompanied the release of the university's final report (PDF) on its investigation into the inaccurate class profile data, which began in late August after the university's ethics office was alerted to potential discrepancies in its admissions data for the class of 2014.

In addition to its findings, the 114-page report includes a set of recommendations designed to enhance the school's data controls, implement "best practices" processes and ensure a culture of integrity and ethical conduct.

In response to the report, the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, which accredits law schools, issued a statement saying it was "actively investigating" the matter.

The ABA's Standards Review Committee has been directed to draft a new standard that provides for specific and severe penalties for the intentional misreporting of placement data, including possible monetary fines and loss of accreditation. The committee is meeting Nov. 11 and 12 in Chicago, but the chair said the committee will take no substantive action at the meeting.

The university's investigation determined that the college reported and or published inaccurate LSAT and GPA data for the class of 2008 and for the classes of 2010 through 2014. College profiles of the classes of 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009 contained no such inaccuracies.

The investigation also found that the college reported and or published inaccurate acceptance rate data for the classes of 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2014. In three of those years, investigators attributed the inaccuracies to both overcounting the number of applicants and undercounting the number of admissions offers made.

Investigators concluded that Pless, who was responsible for reporting the information, "knowingly and intentionally" miscalculated key data to make it seem as if the University of Illinois was showing steady and occasionally dramatic improvement in the main factors used to gauge the academic credentials of a law school class. Data analysis and investigative records indicated that the discrepancies were neither random nor the result of inadvertent errors.

The investigation found no information to suggest that anybody other than Pless knew the erroneous data had been reported or published by the college. Nor did it find any evidence of intentional misreporting of financial aid, scholarship, bar passage or career placement data.

Law school dean Bruce Smith apologized for the fraudulent data to the legal-academic community, the university, alumni and students in a statement (PDF). "The college takes seriously the issue of data integrity and intends to implement the report's recommendations promptly and comprehensively," he said.

Prior ABAJournal.com coverage:

ABA Legal Ed Section to Draft a Standard Specifying Penalties for Schools That Misrepresent Data

University of Illinois Removes Website Data on Incoming Law Class, Probes Possible Inaccuracies

University of Illinois Releases the Real Stats for Its Incoming Law Class

US News Won’t Recalibrate Law School Rankings Despite Word of More U of Illinois Data Errors

Updated Nov. 10 to include ABA Standards Review Committee information.

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