Statement by Association of Governing Boards (AGB) President Richard D. Legon on the Justice Department Investigation Involving Corruption in University Admissions

By AGB March 20, 2019 February 27th, 2020 Press Releases

“U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter famously outlined ‘the four essential freedoms of the university’ as part of his 1957 opinion in Sweezy v. New Hampshire—among them the freedom to decide “who will be admitted to study.” The recent Justice Department investigation into corruption in the admissions process through falsified athletics profiles at several elite universities demonstrates a moral violation of this foundation. Once again, stakeholder trust in higher education (and college sports) has suffered a hit that affects the entire sector. As the federal investigation continues, institution governing board members must step up and assert the full scope of their authority. Governing boards must demonstrate leadership by insisting on institution-wide admissions policy audits as well as transparency on any unacceptable admissions practices in the athletics program, where too often problems seem to occur. Boards should expect that their institution presidents and senior administrators report on the results of such reviews and should also mandate recommended changes; ultimately, boards must feel confident about the implementation of those measures. Moreover, boards should look beyond these immediate risk assessments and work with institutional leadership on strategies that protect against all forms of potential crises, ensuring that institutions preserve their integrity and stay committed to their missions and values. The time is now: governing boards must collaborate with their presidents, ask the hard questions, and demonstrate that they understand their fundamental responsibilities. Time and due diligence spent now will save exponential losses in reputational capital in the future.”

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