Kroll report means prospective UT students aren’t getting a fair chance

College applications can be a stressful topic for many high school seniors, including those who wish to attend this University. A potential Longhorn has to ensure that his or her GPA and extracurricular activities are impressive enough to merit an acceptance letter. Some students are guaranteed admission, but some are stuck in the “maybe” pile, in need of an impressive award or accomplishment that can push them over the top. However, as recent news has demonstrated, there is an unconventional asset that those “maybe” students can use to their advantage: political connections.

According to a report by Kroll Associates Inc., President William Powers Jr. granted undergraduate admissions to 73 students with poor academic records between 2009 and 2014. The Kroll report found that, in the cases of these students, their political or legacy connections likely played an oversized role in their acceptance.

Powers and other University leaders would put “holds” on certain applications, according to a recent Austin American-Statesman article. These holds would signal that the applicant would not be formally rejected until the person who had placed the hold was notified. Final decisions concerning these applications would be made by the president’s office and the admissions office.

The Kroll report stated that while Powers’ office “appears to have violated no law, rule, or policy (with the possible exception of the prohibition against legacy admissions), it is an aspect of the admissions process that does not appear in the public representations of UT-Austin’s admissions process.”

It is an understatement to say that admitting students based on favorable connections is not a part of the “public representation” of the University. The UT website endorses the same standard admissions process used by many other universities. Applicants are encouraged to send in the usual items such as transcripts and SAT/ACT test scores. While the website does encourage students to send in recommendation letters, it says that they are only used to “provide more information about [an applicant’s] personal and academic achievements.” Nowhere on the website is it revealed that a recommendation letter or any other sort of endorsement from an impressive connection could help balance out a subpar transcript or test score.

While the idea of well-connected students having an easier time getting into college may not be a surprising one, it should be pointed out that the vast majority of students applying to UT do not have these kinds of connections, especially those who come from other states or countries. An out-of-state student probably isn’t going to have someone who can tip the scales in his or her favor if the admissions office decides to reject them. This practice is also hurtful toward lower-income students, who usually do not have the same advantages (and connections) that higher-income students do.

Perhaps the system will change. According to the Austin American-Statesman, UT Chancellor William McRaven is undecided on whether or not the admissions system should be isolated from the rest of the campus by a “firewall,” saying, “That may be a good idea. It may not. I don’t know.” McRaven is right to not make a quick decision. A barrier between the admissions office and the rest of UT would have to be put in effect before its potential benefits or consequences could truly be assessed. It could be that a “firewall” would allow for a more fair admissions process. It could be that the current system is still the better way to go. What matters is that all prospective students are reviewed using the same process. UT needs to ensure that students are admitted or rejected from this University because of their academic achievements, not because of who they were able to get to advocate for them.

This has always been a great school. The opportunities for growth and discovery afforded to students in all majors and programs are endless. We need to make sure that potential students are reviewed fairly so that all applications have an equal chance to enjoy this University and everything it has to offer.

Dolan is a journalism freshman from Abilene. Follow Dolan on Twitter @mimimdolan.