Western sending clear message about admission fraud

Prospective Western students will now receive crystal-clear messages of the consequences of falsifying application details or documents.

Students who apply through the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre must already affirm the information they submit is true and accurate. But now, included in Western offers of admission, students will see a statement that Western will deny or withdraw admission and any scholarships of a student found to have provided false or fraudulent documents.

The statement will also be included in on the welcome website and Western course calendars.

“We wanted to make it clear so that students are keenly aware that if they commit fraud, they are aware of the consequences,” said Lori Gribbon, Associate Registrar and Director (Undergraduate Recruitment and Admissions).

This isn’t a departure from Western policy, which has always condemned admissions cheating, but a strengthening of it, she said. “We want it to be visible.”

University Senate approved the new wording at its regular meeting Friday.

The incidence of falsified documents – such as resumes, test scores, proof of residency, references and letters of recommendation – seems to be on the increase not just at Western but elsewhere, Gribbon said.

It’s not widespread and it’s not a new phenomenon – but electronic technology can sometimes make it a little less obvious than it would have been in the days when some would-be applicants used low-tech Wite-Out and pen to doctor typewritten transcripts.

Even so, there are effective low- and high-tech ways of identifying fraudulent application details, she said. And universities across the country share information about verification methods, emerging trends and maintaining the over-all integrity of the admissions process.

Without rigorous controls, these applicants could be taking spaces from legitimate, highly qualified candidates, she said.

Beyond the poor ethics and disciplinary consequences of fraud, cheater students should know their chances of overall success are low if the only way they can get in is under false pretenses.

“In the end, the sad thing is if people do get through and they’re not prepared, they’re spending thousands of dollars for a record that will be quite poor,” Gribbon said. “You’re really not doing yourself any good misrepresenting yourself going in.”

While Western’s policy revisions were drafted weeks ago, the issue of admissions cheating became hit headlines this week with a scandal that has rocked U.S. universities. Dozens of multi-millionaire parents have been charged after allegedly paying others to falsify their children’s admission tests and applications to preferred universities.

In some instances, documents show, students sat for entrance exams that were later replaced or ‘corrected’ by professional test-takers. In other instances, parents allegedly paid a consultant to fake students’ academic, volunteer or athletic credentials. In one case, records suggest parents paid $1.2 million to an admissions consultant, who then paid a coach $400,000 to accept a soccer student who didn’t actually play the sport.

The consultant has admitted he was paid more than $25 million to help parents ensure their children’s admission into the ‘right’ competitive universities.