Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

UC San Diego sends wrong e-mail to rejected students

UC San Diego Admissions Director Mae Brown said this morning that an “administrative error” was responsible for  a bogus e-mail that went out to 28,000 students congratulating them on their admission and welcoming them to the campus.

The applicants had been denied admission by the university earlier in the month. Someone accidentally sent the e-mail to the entire applicant pool of 47,000 although it was intended for only the 18,000 students who got in, Brown said.

The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Cornell University and Northwestern University’s prestigious Kellogg School of Management have experienced similar goof-ups in recent years, but the UCSD incident Monday was by far the largest.

“I take full responsibility for the error,” said Brown, who was in the office Monday until midnight preparing an apology and answering e-mails and phone calls from disappointed students and their parents. “We accessed the wrong database.

“We recognized the incredible pain receiving this false encouragement caused," she continued. "It was not our intent.”

One parent, who asked to remain anonymous because he didn’t want to intensify his daughter’s college admissions stress, called it a “colossal screw-up” and said the family had been thinking of attending “Admit Day” Saturday, as the e-mail encouraged them to do, before learning the invitation was fake.

“It was kind of a shock,”  he said.

The mistake was all the more dire because this year is shaping up as one of the toughest in recent years at San Diego and other UC campuses. In response to a UC-wide enrollment cap ordered because of the state’s budget crisis, San Diego reduced its freshman enrollment target by 520 students, to 3,775, Brown said. 

The campus, like many throughout the United States, handles most of its application process online.  Brown said the e-mail mistake would be reviewed, but she doubted the university would back off from  communications technology.

“All our research tells us students are most comfortable with online communications,” she said.

“Ouch!” said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Assn. of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, when he heard about the failure. “I feel terrible for the applicants.”

 “This is a source of constant worry at colleges," he said. "They use extremely sophisticated systems of communication from the front end of applications all the way to alumni relations for all kinds of high-stake business, and bad things can happen all the way.”

Nassirian said, however, that the advantages of technology outweigh the risk, and he doubted colleges would go back to paper-based systems.

Brown said she and her staff would spend the day answering every phone complaint and e-mail from parents and students.

-- Gale Holland

Comments () | Archives (62)

"Ouch", is the farthest away from what the students are probably feeling. Being a high school student that is waiting for admission letters, I think I get an idea of what this would feel like. Yes, it is understandable and perhaps forgivable but at this point there is nothing that can take away the emotional discontent that those students are going through. I know it is in the best intent of Brown to apologize for the error, but perhaps the mistakes could be avoided next time.

Too many people in the United States. Too many people want to attend the University of Californi. Where is the leadership?

Big mistake by UC San Diego's Admissions Office, but I wish to comment on the poor choice of words by the writer, Gale Holland. After reading Holland's story, it is evident the e-mail sent to these students was neither "bogus" nor "fake." Both of those words would imply the e-mail congratulating people on admission came from a third party with the intent to fool them into thinking they had gotten into UCSD. The fact is, it was a legitimate e-mail for the 18,000 who *were* accepted, it simply was MISTAKENLY sent to others who were *not* accepted for admission.
I am a newspaper reporter, so I know how important proper word choice is.

That kind of careless cruelty is inexcusable, and Mae Brown's half-arsed mea culpa is scant solace for those 28,000 students who must now be crushed. What a rotten joke on those poor kids. Whoever "we" are who "accessed the wrong database" should all be docked a paycheck. (And they can spare me "Oh, I guess you're perfect. I guess you never made a mistake." Not one that affected 28,000 people, I didn't.)

The best part about this is the phonyness of the university's hiring procedures. Had you submitted your resume for supervising the university's e-mail procedures, then you would have received a sure rejection regardless of your qualifications. Time to cut those fat budgets and reduce our taxload!!

This isn't the first time it's happened. When I applied to UCSD in 1997 I received a rejection letter, then a few weeks later I was told it was a mistake and I got an acceptance package.

You're comment is completely irrelevant and smacks of ignorance. Don't turn this into an immigration issue, with "too many people in the United States."

This happened to me when I applied to the University of La Verne. Except, I was mailed a welcome package from the university's housing department congratulating me on being accepted and with information on on-campus housing.

Need any more evidence that UC's are run by liberal incompetents who admit illegal aliens instead of residents ?

THIS JUST SUCKS. GET A CLUE UCSD!!! Same goes for all the UC's.

They should allow the students to get in because of their error

Same thing happened to me in 1997 from UCSD...I got a rejection and then an apology with an acceptence letter. Looks like technology isn't the problem...you'll always have to deal with human error.

This same thing happened to me from the Univeristy of Rhode Island for their grad school. i got an acceptance package, sent in all the info and turned down a job offer. they called me later to ask me why i sent in all the information since i wasnt accepted. i still have the acceptance letter. The administration, and Deans didnt really seem to care.

"Administrative error" yea right. That's too flattering.

As someone who works in an admissions office, this type of mistake is inexcusable, but within the realm of possibility. With budget cuts and hiring freezes, staff are asked to do the work of two and three people. This does not change during the busier times of the year - like admissions season. In order to greatly reduce the likelihood that this sort of error never happens again, the colleges and universities need to ensure that staff cuts are not the first place that they go to in order to balance their budget. I feel for the applicants and their families, but this is just a glimpse at the current state of education in California.

Putting young people who are rejected through that ''mill"!
Someone's head needs to roll...and it should be Brown.

My son also received the invite e-mail but the tip off that is was probably a mistake was the fact that it was an invite letter to an orientation meeting. Yes it began with “congratulations on your admission” but that was immediately followed with “you are invited”. It was somewhat obvious that a mistake had been made since we had already received a denial e-mail several weeks earlier and the focus of this communication was an invite. Needless to say, we did not get excited and call friends and relatives. We accessed the on-line admissions site for UC San Diego and my son’s status had not changed. The denial message was still a denial message. A short time later we received the e-mail indicating a mistake had been made. I did try calling UC San Diego between their e-mails to get clarification and was not impressed with their phone/message service. I could not speak with anyone and many of their recorded messages were from early fall and December. Was it a big mistake? Yes. Did a little hope enter our emotions when we first read the e-mail? Yes. Did we get overly excited and later depressed and angry? NO.

Overall, I'm disappointed with UCSD's Office of Admissions. When I applied to UCSD in 2003 there was a security breach on applicants' personal information (ex. SSN, family income, etc..). UCSD quickly sent out an email apologizing for its negligence. Now, the Office of Admissions is negligent again. How many more mistakes will it take the UCSD to learn?

YOUR A SCHOOL ! This should not happen. If this happens now just think how they are teaching the kids.
The school should be responceable for a years payment at antother school.

This isn't exactly the biggest scandal to ever rock the state. When you consider the potential for both human and computer error, this isn't even all that shocking. It sounds like it was caught quickly, and handled in the best way possible. Are people disappointed? Absolutely... but it's melodramatic and unrealistic to think that this is going to "scar" these kids. "I turned to drugs and prostitution, all because I thought I was going to UCSD for 6 hours before I got an email saying that it was an administrative error!" Yeah, right.

Some of the comments above are just idiotic:
**"They should let them all in?" Yeah... they should let 28,000 extra under-qualified students into a school that's trying to REDUCE enrollment. Who, exactly, does that benefit?
**"Someone should be docked a paycheck." Right, because it's legal to withhold wages from an employee for making a mistake. Although I wouldn't be surprised if the person lost their job... happy?
**"I never made a mistake that affected 28,000 people." You don't KNOW 28,000 people! The university had FORTY-SEVEN THOUSAND undergraduate applicants... can you even fathom the size of that database? Do have any idea what 47,000 applications looks like? No, you don't, so lay off ... you've never made a mistake that big, because you've never had a RESPONSIBILITY that big.
**"Maybe the mistakes could be avoided next time." You can't avoid a mistake... that's why it's a mistake. I'm sure the university makes efforts to minimize mistakes, but you can't eliminate them.

All in all, I feel bad for the kids, but they'll get over it... most of them probably already have. I bet for every one call from a student that the admissions office is receiving, they're getting 100 from angry parents who are WAY more upset than their kids. These "helicopter parents" need to realize that their kids are entering adulthood, and need to be able to learn to deal with rejection without Mommy calling up Mae Brown and raising hell.

UC San Diego needs to apologize to all the students they've wronged. In fact, they should do a personal apology because I have friends who already accepted other schools because they got "rejected" from UCSD! SHAME ON UCSD! This year they really messed up.

"They should allow the students to get in because of their error

Posted by: Lily Sparkletoon

Yeah right...... they have room for less than 1/2 the number that got the letter.

So where do twice the number of professors and classrooms come from to accomodate double the number of students? Santa Claus? Going to vote to increase your taxes?

Good grief. With that kind of whiney touchy-feely nonsense, no wonder California is known as "The Cereal State - the land of fruits, nuts and flakes."

Because of this colossal blunder our daughter has now been rejected by UCSD TWICE. This is just salt in the wound. Maybe she's better off not attending a university that doesn't seem to have a competent admissions department.

"YOUR A SCHOOL ! This should not happen. If this happens now just think how they are teaching the kids.
The school should be responceable for a years payment at antother school."

I'm guessing this person doesn't teach English. Or at least, I hope not.

This is nothing new for the boneheads who run UCSD. I was accepted there and started attending back in 1982, but advised to pick a different college (Revelle) because my chosen one (Muir) was already full. In addition, they told me that switching colleges was merely a formality.

Well, it was a lot more than a formality. In order to get the transfer approved in my sophomore year after they told me my reasons weren't 'compelling' enough, we submitted the original letter as proof (thank God my mother was so organized), threatened to expose the lies they were telling potential students to the local newspaper and even, if necessary, complain to our elected politicians at the state and national level. The transfer was granted.

After that experience, I made it my mission to embarrass the administration with regular articles in the campus humor newspaper, The Koala (and of course both lawsuits and removal of funding were threatened). But I held firm, and in 1986 I graduated from Muir College with a degree in Economics.

Too bad they're still messing up, because academically it's still a great school!

I think everyone needs to maintain a little perspective. Yes, college admissions are stressful, and I can only imagine how difficult admission must be this year. With a bloated applicant pool, fewer spots, and genuine money concerns, competition to attend an affordable UC school must be very high.

With that said, these students were already rejected. Sure, there must have been some momentary hope, but at the very least it should have been mitigated with genuine confusion, and probably suspicion. The calls for action posted here are reactionary, and extremely short-sighted.

Let everyone into UCSD? Are you crazy? Not only will this result in completely, and probably irreparably, sinking the admissions standards of one of the best public schools in the country, it's simply impossible. There's not enough space.

Look, I can see why people are frustrated, and the administration owes an apology email (if they haven't already). But this isn't going to ruin anyone's life. These kids were already rejected. Much of this sounds like misplaced blame for a frustrating and difficult admissions season.

Good luck to parents and high school seniors.

1 2 3 | »


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
Have a story tip for L.A. Now?
Please send to newstips@latimes.com
Can I call someone with news?
Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.


Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: