Admissions dean to step down one month after data misreporting

Associate Vice President and Dean of Admissions Kathryn Napper will exit at the end of the year, after month of scrutiny for her office. She has held the post since 1997. Hatchet File Photo by Francis Rivera.

Updated Dec. 12, 2012, 1:11 p.m.

Head of admissions Kathryn Napper announced Wednesday that she would step down this month – about five weeks after news broke that GW was inflating class rank data for at least a decade.

Napper, who has remained out of the public eye since GW came clean on the data inflation and was unranked by U.S. News & World Report, is “retiring,” according to an email to staff, confirming her resignation. She has not returned a request for comment, and since Nov. 8, has refused interviews.

A staffer in the admissions office said Wednesday that Napper would be unavailable to discuss her decision to retire. University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard told a reporter Wednesday that Napper would not return to her office that day.

Through a spokeswoman, University President Steven Knapp and Maltzman declined to comment on whether Napper was asked to leave due to the scrutiny GW has faced for the last month.

A triple-alumna, the departing dean has spent 35 years at GW.

“Dr. Napper’s dedication and commitment to GW and the enrollment profession is well-known within the university, as well as to the higher education community,”  Senior Associate Provost for Academic Affairs and Planning Forrest Maltzman said in an email.

Administrators have repeatedly said data inaccuracies – which prompted U.S. News & World Report to boot GW from its coveted annual top colleges rankings – were “without malice.” Officials including Knapp have said the appropriate staff members were held responsible, but have repeatedly declined to comment on personnel.

The University was already searching for an enrollment manager, one administrators have said would be part of the checks and balances to prevent data inaccuracies in the future.

Napper’s exit will leave the admissions dean post vacant. Maltzman said decisions about the admissions office’s organization and operations will not be made until the top enrollment leader is brought on.

Maltzman has overseen admissions since GW’s longtime enrollment leader Robert Chernak announced this spring that he would retire over the summer.

The provost’s office discovered the data error this summer, which showed that 58 percent of freshmen were ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school classes, not the 78 percent that the admissions office reported.

About two-thirds of high schools do not rank students. But the admissions office counted students who earned top standardized test scores and grade point averages as part of the top 10 percent of their high school classes – even if they didn’t get a rank.

While questions still linger about the origin of the flawed data and who was responsible, the University has stripped the admissions office of data-reporting responsibilities. Starting with the next admissions cycle, all data from the office will be verified through an external audit before it is reported to organizations outside the University.

“Since we do not comment on personnel actions, I will say that people are being held accountable, that the people who were responsible for this data are the ones not currently handling the data, and we are reviewing this from outside the admissions office, so we have a check on all that data,” Knapp said in November.

The University hired the firm Baker Tilly to audit the past year’s admissions data and has said no other errors were found. But administrators have refused to release a report of that audit for the last month, saying there isn’t one.

The Board of Trustees only received a verbal briefing from administrators. More than a dozen board members have declined to comment on the audit, its findings or whether or not the firm was charged with creating – or not creating – a formal report.

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, while similar institutions collected more applications and became more selective.

Priya Anand and Cory Weinberg contributed to this report.

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