Law Schools

Villanova Says Inaccurate LSAT and GPA Data Were 'Knowingly Reported' to the ABA in Prior Years

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Updated: The new dean of Villanova University School of Law has informed the law school community in a letter that unidentified individuals at the school “knowingly reported” inaccurate admissions data to the American Bar Association for years prior to 2010.

In the letter, Dean John Gotanda says he became aware of the problem Jan. 20, 2011, when a special committee in charge of assessing the law school’s academic success programs reported the inaccuracies to him.

He then immediately contacted the university’s administration and general counsel, and a comprehensive internal investigation began, Gotanda writes. As part of the probe, the university brought in Ropes & Gray to audit the data.

A copy of the letter is provided by Above the Law.

Although the letter doesn’t specify what admissions data, exactly, was fudged, a university spokesman tells the ABA Journal that “at this point it appears that it is limited to LSAT and GPA scores.” The university is still investigating to “determine the whole nature and scope” of the problem, says Villanova spokesman Jonathan Gust, and he declined to speculate about why the inaccurate reporting to the ABA occurred.

Through Gust, the university provided the following written statement to the ABA Journal:

“Villanova University has learned that inaccurate admissions data was knowingly reported to the American Bar Association (ABA) by individuals at the Villanova Law School (VLS) for years prior to 2010.

“Upon discovering data inaccuracies on January 20, 2011, the University promptly began a comprehensive internal investigation and commissioned an independent audit by a national law firm to determine the nature and scope of the reporting inaccuracies. The investigation and audit findings showed that the inaccuracies were knowingly reported to the ABA by individuals at VLS. The University takes this matter extremely seriously, and will hold those responsible accountable for their actions.

“Moving forward, the VLS admissions reporting process and organizational structure is being reconfigured as part of the University’s commitment to a reporting system which is above reproach. In the meantime, the university has confirmed that this year’s admissions data is correct. The University is working closely with the ABA, which is fully aware of this situation and Villanova’s committed response to it.”

ABA consultant on legal education Hulett “Bucky” Askew confirms that Villanova has kept the ABA informed about the developing situation.

While any specific dealings with a law school are confidential on the ABA’s side, Askew explains that law school questionnaires are relied on by the Accreditation Committee of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar in compiling data for the Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools, which is jointly published by the ABA and the Law School Admission Council.

Computerized data from prior years can be revised online, he notes, but hard-copy issues of the Official Guide have already been published for prior years.

Asked by the ABA Journal whether an admissions data correction by Villanova’s law school could raise an issue concerning the annual U.S. News & World Report law school rankings, research director Robert Morse said it has been the magazine’s policy for many years not to revise previously published rankings.

“Beyond that, U.S. News will need to fully understand the entire Villanova Law School situation in more detail before we can make other comments,” he said in an e-mail.

Related coverage: (July 2009): “Villanova Law Dean Resigns; Name Surfaces in Prostitution Probe” (Oct. 2009): “Students Study Hardest at Villanova Law School, Survey Finds” (Oct. 2010): “ABA Weighs Required Disclosure of Law School Job Stats, More Rigorous Reporting”

Last updated on Feb. 6 to include comment from Robert Morse of U.S. News & World Report.

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