Thursday, May 1, 2008

UF to scan student, faculty e-mail in admissions leak

From The Gainesville Sun :

The University of Florida has launched a privacy investigation, looking for students and faculty members who may have leaked confidential information about a controversial admissions decision.

UF's Privacy Office is questioning members of UF's Medical Selection Committee and also searching through student and faculty e-mail for evidence of illegal disclosures of private student information, according to officials. ...

The investigation launched by UF is in part the result of stories that ran in The Sun in April, discussing the admission of a student who did not have the support of the committee that traditionally handles admissions decisions.

The student, Benjamin Mendelsohn, did not have basic qualifications, having never taken the Medical College Admissions Test, or MCAT, according to three members of the selection committee and two other sources close to the situation.

Mendelsohn is the son of a major Republican fundraiser, and a prior application he sent to UF's medical school contained letters of recommendation from Gov. Charlie Crist and Sen. President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie.

Dr. Bruce Kone, dean of UF's College of Medicine, says he overruled the committee because the student was 'exceptional.'

[AJW: That the student, and the circumstances, are "exceptional" goes without saying in circumstances like these. The more interesting question is the respect in which they are exceptional. And launching a blunderbuss investigation of everyone's email is a sure recipe for notoriety and humiliation of the institution and its "quite exceptional" dean. Or maybe everyone in Florida is utterly without shame on such matters?]

And from an April 10 story, same journalist and newspaper:

Dr. Lewis Baxter, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience in the college, has called on Machen to allow for the Faculty Senate to conduct an independent review of Mendelsohn's credentials to determine how he stacked up against other applicants.

In response to an e-mail from Baxter requesting an independent Faculty Senate inquiry, [UF President] Machen said he was satisfied with the student's credentials and hoped his own assessment would "suffice."

Absent an independent vetting, however, Baxter says he's not satisfied that UF can assure the public that Kone didn't play favorites with a student whose family is politically connected.

"Like Sen. Joe McCarthy, Dean Kone won't show the evidence; he just asserts he has it, and demands others accept his assertion," Baxter wrote in an e-mail.

"This whole thing stinks like a rotten fish, and the university just can't afford this," added Baxter, who completed his undergraduate degree at Yale University and his medical degree at UF. "We just can't appear this way."

Baxter added that he was disappointed his colleagues haven't spoken out publicly about the issue.

"The faculty here, some of them could care less, and a lot of them are just scared," he said.

Several faculty members who contacted The Sun said they feared what might happen to their careers if they were publicly critical of the dean's actions. As evidenced by his Friday e-mail, Kone has openly criticized those with whom he disagrees - even [President] Machen's own staff.

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