Admissions & Student Aid

Villanova U. Reveals Its Law School Gave False Reports of GPA's and Test Scores

February 06, 2011

Villanova University officials announced on Friday that unidentified employees of its law school knowingly reported inaccurate, and presumably inflated, grade-point averages and admission-test scores to the American Bar Association in years before 2010, a scheme that could have affected where it fell in national rankings.

In a written statement sent to alumni of the Pennsylvania law school, its dean, John Y. Gotanda, said the inaccuracies were reported to him on January 20 by a law-school committee that was evaluating academic-support programs.

Mr. Gotanda, who became dean on January 1, said the university immediately began an internal investigation and hired a national law firm to conduct an audit.

"The internal investigation and audit findings showed that the inaccuracies were knowingly reported to the ABA by individuals at VLS," Mr. Gotanda wrote in the letter to alumni, a condensed version of which was released to the entire university. "Accordingly, the university will hold those responsible accountable for their actions."

He declined to name the people involved or the disciplinary action that would be taken against them, citing the university's policy on personnel matters. The inaccuracies were reported for an unspecified number of years before 2010.

The data, which a university spokesman said included grade-point averages and scores on the Law School Admission Test, also factor into the rankings used by publications such as U.S. News & World Report.

Robert J. Morse, director of data research for U.S. News, said the magazine did not revise previously published rankings based on data inaccuracies that were reported later. "Data integrity is important, but we don't know the magnitude of the inaccuracies or whether they go beyond LSAT scores and GPA's, both of which are separate factors in the rankings," he said in a telephone interview on Saturday.

In any case, the fudged numbers do not appear to have given much help to the law school's ranking, which dropped from 60th for the class entering in 2006 to 67th in the most recent report, reflecting the 2009 entering class.

Mr. Gotanda said the law school's admissions-reporting process and organizational structure were being "reconfigured" to ensure the integrity of its reporting system. The law school has confirmed that the data reported to the ABA for 2010 were correct.

Hulett H. (Bucky) Askew, the ABA's consultant on legal education, said on Friday that Mr. Gotanda had notified him about the problem and that they had held several conversations about how the university was handling it.

Mr. Askew said the ABA's confidentiality policies prevented him from discussing the case, but said of the dean, "He has handled this in a very responsible and forthcoming way."

A campus spokesman said that, as a new dean, Mr. Gotanda was committed to "transparency, trust, and open communication."

The public image of the Roman Catholic law school suffered a setback in 2009, when its dean abruptly resigned after newspapers reported that he had been a customer of a prostitution business.