by Kendra Davis
Co-Editor in Chief
In early February of last year, Villanova School of Law found itself in the midst of a grade-inflation scandal. Four members of the Law School faculty had reported falsified data to the American Bar Association, with the bulk of the data related to students’ grade point averages and admission test scores.
The erroneous information was brought to the attention of School of Law Dean John Gotanda by an internal committee charged with assessing and enhancing the effectiveness of the Law School’s Academic Success Program.
On Nov. 28, almost two years after the initial sting, the Association of American Law Schools announced in a letter that it would be putting the University on a two-year probation. According to its website, the AALS is, “a non-profit network of over 160 law schools whose mission is to “improve the quality of legal education by networking law school faculty, professional staff and deans to information and resources.” Though the AALS does not have the authority to remove the school’s official academic accreditation, on Monday, Inquirer reporter Chris Mondics noted that the association “could have banned Villanova School of Law faculty from participating in its conferences, and it might have withheld faculty recruitment services from the University.”
Because the University was compliant throughout the further investigation that ensued after the February 2011 incident and the recent probation, the AALS decided not to proceed with the aforesaid actions.
Gotanda had been in office as the new Dean for less than one month when the news of the data falsification was brought to him. At that time, a University representative spoke on his behalf, noting that “as a new dean, Mr. Gotanda was committed to ‘transparency, trust, and open communication,’” according to a Chronicle of Higher Education article from Feb. 6, 2011.
After learning about the skewed numbers, the University as a whole voluntarily disclosed any information it had, going so far as to hire Ropes & Gray L.L.P., a Boston law firm, to conduct an internal investigation. In August 2011, the American Bar Association censured the University but did not remove its accreditation.
The recently-published letter from the AALS, in addition to formally declaring the two-year probation, provided more information as to the exact parties responsible for the data falsification. It was the work of four Law School faculty members, all of whom have since been let go. One of the four was former dean Mark Sargent, who was forced to leave the University in 2009 after it was revealed that he was a client of a Kennett Township prostitution ring.
The University is taking every measure possible to ensure that this incident will be the last of its kind.
Sam Ellison contributed reporting.