Admissions dean remains silent on misreported data

by Sarah Ferris

Associate Vice President and Dean of Admissions Kathryn Napper has declined multiple requests for comment regarding the origin of inflated class rank data, which the University had been falsely reporting for at least a decade.
Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
Associate Vice President and Dean of Admissions Kathryn Napper has declined multiple requests for comment regarding the origin of inflated class rank data, which the University had been falsely reporting for at least a decade.

The Office of Admissions has remained silent in the three weeks since University President Steven Knapp announced it had been inflating class rank data for more than a decade, and stripped the office's staff of record-keeping responsibilities.

Administrators have kept Associate Vice President and Dean of Admissions Kathryn Napper from the public eye after GW came clean on the misreported data Nov. 8, with top administrators fielding questions about the office on her behalf. Napper has headed the office for 15 years, and officials have said the data errors date back at least a decade.

“It’s all being handled upstairs with external relations. Take it up with them,” Napper said Nov. 14, when GW was removed from the U.S. News & World Report rankings, in her only comment.

She was not present at a town hall Nov. 19 – the first time administrators spoke publicly about the class rank data. Napper did not respond to emails asking about her absence from the forum, whether or not she was asked to participate or her role in the audit of her office’s data. She declined to comment through a spokeswoman.

When a student asked about Napper's absence from the forum Nov. 19, head of GW's public relations Lorraine Voles took the mic and said Senior Associate Provost for Academic Affairs and Planning Forrest Maltzman – who began overseeing admissions in June – has been “dealing with the media both at the University and outside the University.”

When asked afterward the panel if admissions staff members had been invited to participate, University spokeswoman Candace Smith reiterated that Maltzman was the designated spokesperson on the issue and other admissions questions in the future.

"Forrest wanted to be the person on this, and anything that has to do with that office. He wants to...be made aware and possibly participate. Its pretty standard," Smith said.

She said Maltzman's increased oversight is part of a transition into his new role overseeing admissions. He was tasked with overseeing both the admissions and financial aid offices this June after GW's longserving enrollment leader Robert Chernak retired.

"Sometimes it takes a while to make an assessment," Smith said. "Decisions aren't going to be instant right away, always going to be transitions."

The University created an enrollment manager position to replace Chernak, and Smith said the search was "ongoing" for this position. She said she did not know if the hiring hunt had been sped up after GW discovered the misreported data.

Smith said GW was looking to bring on the new hire "as soon as possible."

Administrators say the error stems from a faulty formula that estimated the percent of freshmen coming from the top 10 percent of their high schools.

The provost’s office spotted the error, which showed that 58 percent of freshman were in the top 10 percent of their high school classes, instead of 78 percent, this summer after Maltzman assumed the top post, they said.

An outside firm audited GW’s most recent admissions cycle and found no other flawed data, Knapp said, though he could not provide a copy of the audit because he said the firm never documented their investigation.

Knapp and other administrators maintained that the error was inadvertent, but have been unable to pinpoint the precise starting point and have declined to discuss personnel decisions made because of the error.

Napper has overseen a 28 percent growth in applications and increased selectivity over the last decade. In the past two years, however, the University’s application numbers and selectivity flatlined, when similar institutions collected more applications and became more choosy in their freshman classes.

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