From the start, [Claremont McKenna College or CMC] officials played down the scope of Vos’s fabrications. College president Pamela Gann said that [admissions boss Richard] Vos had manipulated only the school’s average SAT scores, and then not by much. But a day after Gann made that claim, the Claremont Port Side, a left-wing student publication, revealed a wider system of manipulation by the admissions office; in some years, some individual SAT scores were simply made up. A report released last month by O’Melveny & Myers, the college’s outside counsel, shows still more deception. Evidently, Vos didn’t merely fake SAT scores; he faked ACT scores, the percentage of students admitted from the top 10 percent of their high school classes, and the college’s overall acceptance rate. Everywhere the investigators from O’Melveny & Myers looked, they uncovered evidence of fraud and manipulation. So after just 18 hours of interviews, they stopped looking.
It’s probably no coincidence that Vos’s manipulations began soon after the college received a $700,000 grant to expand racial preferences in its admissions. In March 2002, the admissions office changed its policies in accord with a “Campus Diversity Initiative” grant that it received from the James Irvine Foundation. The grant’s conditions called for a 2 percent yearly increase in nonwhite enrollment for three years. CMC also promised to deliver a student body that would be 37 percent nonwhite at the end of the grant’s term. The college went to great lengths to achieve these quotas, preparing “minority brochures” and flying in nonwhite students from around the country to visit. These efforts reached their apex at the same time that the college boosted its minority-outreach efforts through two new programs, QuestBridge and Posse, which continue to grant full scholarships to low-income—mostly black and Hispanic—students at top colleges across the nation.
Vos was an enthusiastic supporter of racial preferences and a vocal critic of California’s Proposition 209, which in 1996 banned state colleges from admitting students on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sex. During his tenure, CMC’s admissions policies led to higher acceptance rates for blacks and Latinos and lower ones for whites and Asians. According to the Claremont Independent in 2006, “statistics provided by the admissions office show that it admitted roughly 45 percent of both black and Hispanic applicants, [versus] 22 percent of the white applicants and 17 percent of Asian applicants.” Given this history, it’s probable that Vos’s preferential policies resulted in lower average SAT scores than he would have liked and led him to make his disastrous fabrications.