Following a wide-ranging state audit, the UC Admissions process was dealt another blow this past week exposing more ways in which the wealthy gain advantages in the California college admission process. The audit alleged that more than 64 underachieving wealthy students received inappropriate preferential treatment from the admissions officers due to pressure exerted by the UC regents. 22 students were seen to have earned preferential athletic treatment while showing little athletic ability. UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ called the findings “highly disturbing.”
California Senator Dianne Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum, a wealthy investment banker and UC regent, was identified by a UC spokesperson as the specific regent who unilaterally violated university policy when he wrote a letter inappropriately advocating for an under qualified student. Blum wrote the letter directly to the school in question’s Chancellor instead of going through the regular admissions process. According to the auditor, Blum’s letter was likely the reason the applicant was admitted. Blum has donated at least $15 million to the university.
This sort of behavior has come under scrutiny in recent years due to the college admissions scandals racking the UC system, among others. With the system phasing out the SAT and ACT exams, many are calling for increased scrutiny of nepotistic behavior or favoritism.
Blum has been implicated in similar scandals in the past. He admitted he frequently writes letters bypassing the proper admissions process for friends and family. “No one ever told me it was wrong,” he said. “My cousin’s brother wanted to get into [UC] Davis. They’d send me a letter and tell me why it’s a good kid, and I’ll send it on to the chancellor. Been doing it forever,…I’m not convinced I’ve done anything wrong. It all sounds kinda boring to me.”
This is the second time this year Blum has come under fire in recent months. Back in May, he was alleged to have insider traded on stocks before the coronavirus sent them spiraling. This latest scandal also comes within a broader scope of the 2019 Varsity Blues scandal which saw the largest scandal case of its kind by the US Justice Department.