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Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012 10:54 a.m.

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.

  • Perspective

    Yes, but what exactly happend in the past decade in that office? How did that happen? Where is the audit report?

  • Frank Winstead

    Will there be a public drumming out ceremony?

    Here’s a good howto:

  • Ben

    It’s about time we had some accountability for this INTENTIONAL , 10 year long fraud. This activity is worthy of a hedge fund or some Wall Street firm, it is not worthy of an institution of higher learning. A great university needs integrity. I think Knapp should now do the right thing himself and resign his post. The buck stops with him- and that will send a powerful message that dishonesty of this magnitude has a price. Those that say this was no big deal just don’t get it, or maybe they are Finance majors and are looking for work on Wall Street where this stuff happens all the time.

  • Ben

    It’s about time someone was held accountable for this INTENTIONAL act of fraud. It’s not like a university is some hedge fund or Wall Street firm, where people lie and cheat and steal all the time…an academic institution is supposed to have more integrity than that. Knapp should now resign his post as well- the buck stops with him. Those who say this is no big deal just don’t get it. Or maybe they are finance majors hoping for a job on Wall Street.

  • cb

    Maybe she’ll write a tell all novel

  • Mike

    Easy there Ben. This woman put 35 years of her life into GW.

  • Confuscious

    I guess I want to know how many other schools actually do this as well. With high schools not reporting as much now, it seems all schools must estimate somehow. Sucks GW got busted, but who cares, it’s a dumb list that everyone is way too caught up in, and I’m glad gws no longer a part of it.

  • Prof2

    Ben, I’m unclear how the call for Knapp’s resignation makes any sense. The problem was not created on his watch; it was detected on his watch, and he moved swiftly to admit and correct it. Calling for the resignation of someone who reveals problems is a way to discourage such findings, rather than to encourage integrity.

  • Another convenient retiree !

    I hope you students and parents are NOT going to buy this story..
    Ms Napper is Not able to comment ??
    Get that Poor woman a Lawyer !!!

    No one has the right to say this for another person !!!!
    “A staffer in the admissions office said Wednesday that Napper would be unavailable to discuss her decision to retire. A triple-alumna, Napper has spent 35 years at GW.”

    Hope you students and parents are realizing what a penitentiary GWU is via this corrupt administration..

    It is not Knapp .. He is just being paid a Million $$ to roll his eyes and take the darts or like Ms Napper take the fall too but believe me they are being paid $$$ ~ Why Ms Napper is NOT available for comment !

  • Ben

    I understand it didn’t start under Knapp but he is ultimately responsible for what goes on at the university. This is not just a little oversight, it was a 10 year intentional effort to falsify information. In another context it could be criminal. In short it is conduct that just can’t be tolerated at a great university and that is why, as the president of that university, he should resign. Also, releasing the audit report would be helpful to since not releasing pretty much tells us that it’s really, really bad.

  • William

    I am a 1979 alumnus and long-time admission professional. There is little doubt in my mind that the way information was reported by the Admissions Office was not only known by senior administration at GWU but done with their blessing and/or at their direction. Dr. Napper is the proverbial “fall guy” here. The sad and true thing here is that US News & World Report, which has ceased publishing as a magazine, has the power it does with its “revered” rankings. Anyone upset by this phony “scandal” places far too much value on rankings. GWU is far better than any rankings–your experiences as students should be all the testimony to it that anyone should need. Rather than demonize Dr. Napper, demonize US News for the myth of the value of its rankings, senior GWU administration for valuing the rankings over quality education and actually helping students grow, and yourselves for your willingness to buy into the rankings and believe that they mean anything. It is sad that Dr. Napper is being sacrificed this way and sad that The Hatchet isn’t digging deep to discover how deep this goes or to expose US News rankings for the garbage heap it has created in education today.

  • What About Bob???

    I really feel for Kathy Napper as she is just taking the fall for the mess that Bob Chernak created. Chernak oversaw a division filled with incompetent leaders who were given jobs based on nepotism rather than the ability to do a good job. If you look at his direct reports, most of them have cleared out since he left or they have been demoted. Kathy is a good woman, I am just sorry that she is so publicly dealing with the aftermath of a man who deemed himself “the Vice President of fun.”

  • Strangebrew

    Baker tilly was not hired for just this issue. The university outsources their internal auditing to them (strange, yes). It begs a question of their competence to review higher ed data, law, regs, and SOPs, for that matter. Investigate that!

    That said, the comment about the USN rankings is correct. Sad to be dictated by a system with no legal basis.

  • Yup

    Fantastic. Now it’s Knapp’s turn.

  • Student

    This is why you should pay attention in statistics class. I concur with prof2.

  • edmund

    I’m not acquainted with most of GW’s present administration, but I am only too familiar with many of the previous gang. They were not only capable of such skullduggery but in some instances carried out such malefactions as we are witnessing in the present catasthrophic debacle

  • Alan Trevithick

    No doubt she thought she was just adhering to some best practices standard in higher ed–everybody’s doing is a tempting excuse, but when everybody really IS doing it, it’s really tempting. She’s got company.

    Univ. of Illinois Law School
    http://www-source.abajournal.com/mobile/article/u_of_illinois_law_school_is_publicly_censured_for_misreporting_admissions_d/

    Emory University
    http://www.emorywheel.com/emory-intentionally-misreported-admission-numbers-internal-investigation-finds/

    Claremont McKenna College
    http://technews.tmcnet.com/news/2012/04/17/6265669.htm

    Ok, why do I say “everybody” if I’m only offering three non-GW examples? Well, I have a very sophisticated system of estimating the problem: if only a handful of cases have become public in the last year, and, the conventional press (ever shrinking, rather like full-time tenure stream faculty) has something less than the keenest interest in poring over numbers they’d often have to wrest from the clutches of offices of institutional research and so-on, it is certain that, with a 5% margin of error, there are a gazillion and one-half such events that remain not “mis” but just “un”- reported.
    Alan Trevithick (GW, ’79), Board Member, New Faculty Majority.

    #NewFac @SEIU500CAL #academiclabor

  • GDub alum

    Do you mean “The provost’s office spotted the error, which showed that 78 percent of freshman were in the top 10 percent of their high school classes, instead of 58 percent…”?

  • Informed Student

    I could not agree more with the statement that has just been made by William. I have worked with Kathy Napper and that woman is the best thing GW had when it came to recruitment. Nobody was giving her praise when she oversaw the increase of students wanting to come to GW but they are very quick to blame her for US News (who everyone knows their rankings are skewed) classifying us as unranked.

    If you are all worried about the ranking of the school then transfer to another university with a “higher” ranking because in the end rankings will not matter it is the experience at college that you will always remember.

  • It is not the ranking ~ It is the Deception

    William comment said much in a few words. Thank you.. This is not about GWU academics which appear to be high nor GWU ranking etc as that is subjective varibles.. It is about a administration of Higher learning that has No respect or honor for the students, parents, faculty and EDUCATION !!

    GWU administration is the Gang who could not shoot straight… as their objectives is Not education but being as Stephen Trachtenberg wrote his memoir, It is all about ME.
    “Big Man on Campus”
    It did go to his head !

    Trachtenberg is with Robert Chernak, Lou Katz and Trustee chair Ramsey still running GWU ( Knapp is being paid well to take the darts and will get a good severance pay as Ms Napper is for keeping her MOUTH SHUT ). The treatment of females at GWU is abominable.. Every female Dean I talked to at GWU has no equal voice at all.

    These GANG paraded out Tara Pereira as the face for students till I started questioning her ability/experience etc to be in the position she was overseeing the student health and welfare as asst dean of students.. All of sudden it is no more Tara in the news it is Peter Konwerski who has the degrees but not the experience of working with student health welfare either !! The second in command to Peter Konwerski Steven Levine is not experience in any of this either .. But they all take ORDERS very well…

    Robert Chernak had a field day with overseeing 20+ depts at GWU via SASS Student and Academic Support Services. Not qualified to manage any of these depts but did keep them completely under his stifled control like the counseling dept and Police dept.. health center.. the Students got ZERO with Mr Chernak only everyone in these depts got power and control authority and compromised from Mr Chernak

    What is so comical about this , is none of these administrators realize the power of the wireless world.. It is 100% transparency. The more damage control they try to do the more ignorant and ancient they appear…
    Stephen Trachtenberg Is Not Sorry – NationalJournal.com
    http://www.nationaljournal.com/features/restoration-calls/stephen-trachtenberg-is-not-sorry-20120927

    Student & Academic Support Services
    http://gwired.gwu.edu/sass/DepartmentsinSASS/SeniorStaff/

  • Informed Alumna

    I concur with Informed Student – I, too, have worked with Dr. Napper, and she has successfully led the GW Admissions team through times of tremendous change. While I believe that the previous University administration is partially to blame when it comes to inflating admissions statistics, I also believe that this is a wide-spread phenomenon in the college admissions business.

    Kathy Napper has spent her professional career increasing the value of every GW degree by implementing more stringent admissions requirements every year. Surely the University can do better than this for her in return.

  • Newsweek had a more realistic determination of rankings

    The fragility of US News World report ranking was also exposed in this ordeal with GWU. I thought Newsweek had a more realistic deeper approach to their research which was objective…and should be the trend so people do not fudge ~

    Newsweek says about most affordable colleges “Get the most bang for your buck at these schools, where debt and salary statistics show that grads had the best luck shouldering the cost of their degrees.”

    “To find the campuses with the steepest learning curves, we started with the nation’s top colleges, and then whittled the list down based on student surveys.”

    “Between academics, social growing pains, and debt, college can be rough. These schools are hotbeds of anxiety.”

    and so on.. there are many categories to look at rather then just the singular subjective best…Life works in a spatial wheel of scope not a top<down linear grid.

    College Rankings – Newsweek and The Daily Beast
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/features/2012/college-rankings.html

  • DumpSJT

    Fire Trachtenberg from his current faculty position, sever his emeritus status and dump his mascot, that damn hippo statue in the Potomac River!

  • Next Axe to Fall

    Hopefully Kathy will take Deborah Snelgrove with her. Why this university needs an Associate Vice President level person to oversee making admissions flyers is beyond appalling. Oh wait. Doesn’t every university need an Associate Vice President to oversee arts and crafts?

  • Please don’t misdirect anger

    Calls for Knapp to retire are COMPLETELY off base. It’s clear he had NOTHING to do with this. He started at GW roughly 5 years ago and these “sketchy practices” were claimed to have been started at least a decade ago. He simply uncovered the shadiness of the previous administration. If anything he deserves praise for the courage and integrity to do the right thing by reporting these discrepancies instead of covering them up.

  • What a joke

    GW is such a joke. I doubt Ms. Napper was fully to blame here. GW has a history of doing this…next thing to come out will be that the Law School is inflating their employment after graduation numbers because they hire their graduates to temp jobs paying $15/hr during the reporting period. Pathetic.

  • Atkin

    Why are there so many angry and obnoxious whiners at GW? I mean, it’s not like GW is a competitive elite school. Isn’t GW the waitlist school for UDC and Howard or perhaps even the University of Phoenix?

    On a positive note, GW can claim the distinction of having one of the highest paid presidents of an unranked school.

  • Atkin

    lol

  • Deleo

    The cozy board and admin at GW need to look in the mirror. This event alone has really made it a horrible year for GW. So let’s stop the talk about GW being a school on the up and up, or being a “hot” school. It is going to take a long time for GW to get its reputation back. I would suggest more drastic actions than this.

  • Feminist

    Typical GWU. Let the woman be the “fall guy” for the white male leadership. Unbelievable. I agree with earlier poster, Ben above, who thinks Knapp and some of his “yes men” need to go as well.

  • Mica

    SHAME
    Alumnus 1999 and actively connected to the university for more than 17 years. Also someone who was fortunate enough to cross the path with Dr. Napper, extremely bright, dedicated, caring, and above all smart professional woman. This is the immense loss for Admission Office, where she was alpha and omega, the entire GW world – alumnus, professors, students admitted (97-present), and huge shame in my mind for the present administration. It looks lilke this FALL is just way to put the finger of blame where it DOES NOT belong. This methodology of ranking was known, discussed, acknowledged and reported by the university for many years. It will become pretty soon obsolete and process will change, but the most unfortunate fact will be that Dr. Napper was sacrificed along the way.

    At the end of the day GW is the MENS world and this is the pagan sacrificed around which many dance in their happiness that they have who to blame. It is shame and astonishing that it took 35 years to carve the path in becoming the Dean and only few days to be thrown under the bus.

  • Questionable

    Whoever said Deborah Snelgrove needs to go: hear, hear! I’ve heard (having been a student extensively involved in admissions the last four years) the only reason she works in Admissions now is because when Creative Management was broke up and Bob Chernak left, there was nowhere for her to go. Since she was tight with Bob, he made sure she had a meaningless job at the AVP level.

    Since leaving the office, though, I hear she’s actually doing a good job with the marketing aspect of things. The problem is that she definitely doesn’t need a staff as large as she has. Example: former STAR Coordinator (who they actually fired in 2011) Matt Carlson is one of the people responsible for reforming the tour guide program? Give me a break, that office is literally the most screwed up part of GW’s administration, with so little oversight that this entire episode is completely unsurprising.

    Regardless, no one should get a job at the AVP level just because they were friends with Bob Chernak. I say we cut out the senior administrators in admissions – if you know anything about the current staff you know that the good ones have left, anyways – and start all over.

  • Tired

    You know this is Trachtenberg’s doing and Knapper is taking the fall. LOU KATZ needs to be looked at long and hard. Super shady guy doing super shady things.

  • Reporter

    Based on all of the comments, it is not surprising for those of us who are familiar with GW reporting practices, that we have been reporting erroneous data on incoming students for more than a decade. We also report erroneous staff and faculty numbers to certain government and higher education related agencies to make the impact of GW appear more significant than it is. This deception provides positive academic, economic, financial, and public relations impact and reaches the highest levels of the University who, in certain circumstances, are the decision makers on the numbers to report.

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