Princeton Admissions Director is Re-assigned

John J. Goldman
Los Angeles Times
The Signal Online

NEW YORK–Princeton University has reassigned its admissions director and is cooperating with an investigation by federal prosecutors examining unauthorized entries into the admissions Web site of Ivy League rival Yale University, officials said Tuesday.

Shirley M. Tilghman, Princeton’s president, said a summary of the university’s internal investigation of the embarrassing incident was sent to the U.S. attorney’s office in Connecticut.

Yale administrators had notified prosecutors about the unauthorized Web entries.

Tilghman said that admissions director Stephen LeMenager had been temporarily reassigned to the communications office while an administrative position for him is being sought. Several other admissions office staffers also were being disciplined, she added.

“Violations of basic ethical principles of privacy and confidentiality are especially serious in a university that teaches these principles and counts them among its core values,” Tilghman said. “Students who apply have every right to expect that information they provide in good faith will be used only for the purposes for which they provided it.”

Yale President Richard C. Levin praised Princeton’s action, which was announced at a news conference at the university in New Jersey.

“President Tilghman has handled a very difficult situation in an exemplary manner,” Levin said in a statement. “I am impressed by the thoroughness of Princeton’s internal investigation.”

Tilghman said that on 18 occasions in early April, Princeton computers were used to gain access to the Web site Yale used to report admissions results to its applicants.

She said 14 unauthorized sign-ons took place from computers in Princeton’s admissions office, and that LeMenager started the process of looking at the Yale site.

The other four sign-ons were from a Yale applicant who was visiting Princeton’s campus, and from Princeton students who had siblings applying to Yale and who received relatives’ permission to visit the Yale site.

Tilghman said LeMenager entered Yale’s site by using the name, birth date and Social Security number of a Princeton applicant who he thought might have applied to Yale. The admissions director then told Princeton Dean of Admissions Fred Hargadon and other members of the admissions office about the discovery.

In the next hour, LeMenager, employing names and confidential information of two additional Princeton applicants, demonstrated what he had discovered to other staff members in the admissions office.

In some cases, staff members entered Yale’s Web site, apparently without the knowledge of Hargadon or LeMenager, to learn whether certain applicants were admitted to Yale, Princeton’s investigation found.

Tilghman said that LeMenager–who disclosed the entry into Yale’s Web site during a discussion of security issues at a meeting of Ivy League admissions officers in May–agreed he should leave his post.

Hargadon has accepted responsibility for his failure to recognize the impropriety of the actions taken by his staff or to report them to higher officials, the university added.

Tilghman said Princeton would discipline all members of the admissions office staff who signed onto the Yale site or knew that it was being entered.

In a statement, Hargadon said he accepted responsibility for not calling attention to the impropriety as soon as he learned about it. He apologized to the eight students whose names were checked on the Yale site.

Hargadon will retire in June and has pledged to do everything he can this year to restore the integrity of the admissions office, the statement said.