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Villanova Scandal Watch: More Cryptic Emails From the Dean

This Villanova scandal is going to get uglier before it finishes. On Friday, we reported that John Y. Gotanda, the dean of Villanova Law School, sent a letter to students and alumni in which he revealed that the school reported inaccurate admissions information to the American Bar Association.

The letter was light on specifics. According to comments made by a Villanova spokesperson to the ABA Journal, the problem involved Villanova providing the ABA with incorrect LSAT and GPA numbers.

The Villanova administration has not yet disclosed exactly what data was inaccurate, who was responsible, and what the school is doing to make sure that this kind of thing won’t happen again. That could be because the school is still investigating the full scope of the problem.

But Villanova students and faculty members are talking. Here’s what we’ve heard so far…

After our story went up on Friday, multiple sources contacted Above the Law to say that at this point Villanova has identified three people allegedly responsible for giving the ABA false information. Our sources claim all three people have been fired, but we have not been able to independently verify that information.

Moreover, one source claims that faculty at Villanova have told students that two of the three individuals claim that they were just following orders:

Two of them have alleged that the former dean mark sargeant “directed” them to falsify LSAT and GPA scores.

We’ve mentioned that Mark Sargeant had a rocky tenure as Villanova Law dean. That might make him a somewhat believable culprit, but it also makes him a convenient scapegoat. Since Villanova is conducting an internal investigation, we might never know just how high the alleged malfeasance went.

To the extent that the Villanova administration official is making statements to its own students, the school is still being very cryptic about the specifics of what went on. Here’s a follow-up letter that Dean Gotanda sent to Villanova students on Sunday:

Dear VLS Students:

On Friday, Feb. 4, I notified you by email of the issue that has arisen with respect to figures that have been reported to the American Bar Association. We shared this information with you as soon as possible, but due to the nature of our investigation, we could not make any announcements before last Friday. Once we were able to share this information, we made the decision to inform our entire community immediately, within the same two-hour time period. Thus, notification was made to the Board of Consultors, the faculty, the staff, the alumni, and students on Friday afternoon.

I am sure that you have many questions about the email. Under the circumstances, we were unable to provide more complete and detailed information in that first communication. I believe it is very important for you to understand this issue and its effect, and both the faculty and I want to give you as much information as possible as soon as we can. As such, I am working with the faculty and our administrative team to develop an orderly process for bringing you up to speed. We expect to begin this process Monday morning, and to continue it for the next several weeks. Please let me know if you have any thoughts about what would most helpful to you at this time.

Throughout these difficult two weeks, my foremost thought has been with you – our students – and your welfare. Please be assured that I will do everything I can to protect the reputation of our Law School and to ensure that you continue to receive an excellent legal education.

Sincerely, John Gotanda

John Y. Gotanda

Well, there’s three paragraphs used to say nothing. Assuming Dean Gotanda knows what actually happened, I don’t see why he needs an “orderly process” to tell people what he knows. Who is responsible? What has been done to them? What will be done going forward?

The one thing you do learn from Dean Gotanda’s letter is that Villanova is (rightly) concerned about its reputation. If the allegations are true and Villanova falsified LSAT scores, that would have an impact on Villanova’s ranking, as determined by U.S. News.

If it does affect Villanova’s ranking, it’s an impact that nobody will ever see, at least as to prior years. Rankings guru Bob Morse tells the ABA Journal that U.S. News will not go back and revise previously published rankings. And last year should be okay in any event, since Dean Gortanda claims that all of Villanova’s information has been accurate since 2010.

But credibility is the kind of thing that is hard to build and easy to lose. Right now, Villanova has admitted to knowingly reporting inaccurate information. Until the school makes a full accounting of exactly what happened, prospective students and potential employers won’t be able to know exactly what they’re getting out of a Villanova education.

Villanova Says Inaccurate LSAT and GPA Data Were ‘Knowingly Reported’ to the ABA in Prior Years [ABA Journal]

Earlier: Villanova Law ‘Knowingly Reported’ Inaccurate Information to the ABA

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