Cancelled on Technicalities

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Update 9/4, 4 p.m: UCSC admissions to offer 120 students whose admission was cancelled acceptance to UCSC in winter 2016. Dominique DeJarnatt was one of the students to be offered a winter enrollment opportunity.

*Name changed to protect identity.

Five to seven minutes to the bookstore, five minutes to College Eight and 22 minutes to take the long way around from Porter back to her dorm in College Nine. She scribbled on her tour map, planning in anticipation. Dominique DeJarnatt still needed dorm supplies, but first she had to be readmitted.

“It is really the only school I ever wanted,” recent high school graduate DeJarnatt said. “When I got the email I was confused. I didn’t know what went wrong. I had tried to get help, but that didn’t work. I was lost and in tears. I had tried so hard at school but it didn’t seem to matter.”

DeJarnatt was accepted to UC Santa Cruz as an incoming freshman for fall 2015. She was one of 508 students — over 10 percent of the admitted freshman class — who received messages that their admission has been revoked due to late transcripts, and they are no longer welcome to attend UCSC in the fall.

“This year we sent multiple reminders to students via email and posted in the portal that they needed to meet this deadline because if they didn’t, it looked like they would have their admission cancelled,” said director of admissions Michael McCawley. “From the number of students that got us everything we needed, it was fine.”

These students were rescinded solely for late or missing transcripts, 300 of which were for reasons out of their control and the high school was at fault. Many of the remaining 200 felt that the punishment was unjust and that they were well within the conditions of admission.

“A school with a reputation of being very progressive, UCSC is the kind of place that you would think would be the first to defend injustices like this, but in this case they are the cause of them,” said Randy Walton, whose son’s admission was recently rescinded after a missed transcript deadline. “They didn’t treat him like he was a human being, they treated him like he was just some number.”

Plans Derailed

Dominique DeJarnatt was accepted to UCSC as a senior in high school with a 3.88 cumulative GPA. Between her acceptance and her admission cancellation, DeJarnatt passed the UC writing test, two additional AP tests and boosted her cumulative GPA to a 4.0.

Her admission was rescinded on July 15 due to a failure to meet UCSC’s Conditions of Admission — specifically, for failing to submit all required transcripts by July 1. While her high school transcript was submitted and received, her separate community college transcript had not been turned in, even though she only took one class there.

“On her portal it said that she had one more transcript that hadn’t been received. The next day my daughter emailed [admissions] through the portal, but didn’t receive a response back until the date of the deadline,” DeJarnatt’s mother Joady Lohr said. “Strangely enough [on July 8] she got a welcome email. On the 15th we got an email she had been cancelled.”

DeJarnatt appealed and was again denied. She took her UCSC magnet off of the fridge, hid her UCSC slug mug and stored her t-shirts and Sammy Slug plush toy in a box.

“Yes, she hopes to be able to pull out the box again, but right now it makes us all want to cry,” Lohr said.

But DeJarnatt was far from being the only student rescinded due to admissions cancellations. Erin* was in the 99th percentile on her SAT scores and passed all eight AP exams, yet her admission was cancelled on July 3 due to academic shortfall.

Erin* also took a class at her local community college, but ended up dropping it only weeks later. The “withdraw” recorded on her transcript didn’t meet UCSC’s condition of admissions that high school seniors must earn a C or higher in any classes taken, said director of admissions McCawley.

“I have been unable to find anything in writing from UCSC, including in the conditions of admission contract, saying that a W is unacceptable,” Erin said. “They say a C or higher, not lower than a C, which I would interpret as a D or F.”

With regard to cancelled admissions due to academic shortfalls, McCawley said students must complete all recorded grades and classes that they have as either in-progress or planned. Erin, a star student at the top of her class, was cut because she didn’t report a community college class that she had dropped on her transcript.

Redmond Walton had nearly the exact issue as student Dominique DeJarnatt. A banana slug at heart and a competitive surfer, Redmond found his niche at UCSC. When he found out that he was accepted, he made a deposit to secure his admission, filled out his FAFSA and housing forms, made a orientation reservation and deposit, and took the English placement test.

Walton was cancelled because he didn’t send UCSC a transcript from a community college where he took an elective class in his second semester senior year. The class, while reflected in his high school transcript, wasn’t sent on a separate transcript from his community college.

“As soon as we found out we corrected the problem,” father Randy Walton said. “Instead of getting any leeway at all, instead of using one of the other more gentle remedies, like put an enrollment hold, UCSC implemented the harshest penalty possible for what truly is a minor infraction.”

Redmond Walton found out soon after that his appeal wasn’t accepted, he wouldn’t be attending UCSC in the fall and he would have to wait another two years before reapplying.

“There are so many stories too,” Walton said. “This whole notion of the punishment fitting the crime, it’s flown out the window at UCSC for some reason.”

A Conversation With UCSC

“Our cancellations set off a firestorm of anger and frustration, and in many cases, we learned of schools and school districts for which a July 1 deadline was impossible to meet,” said director of admissions McCawley. “But by then, students had already been cancelled.”

As of last year, UCSC was the first UC school to move the transcript deadline from July 15 to July 1, to allow rescinded students more flexibility and time when applying to community colleges or making a plan B, McCawley said. It was also a time for what admissions calls “clearing,” or the comparison between official transcripts and self-reported academic information to ensure that all academic information is recorded and accurate.

“Our philosophy, both as a campus and as a UC system, is that it is better to inform a student that their admission has been cancelled as early as possible, allowing them to look for alternatives for fall enrollment,” McCawley said. “Cancellations are one of my least favorite parts of my job as an admissions director, and this year has only served to underscore that feeling.”

In 2014, UCSC rescinded 215 frosh admissions due to problems with late transcripts, an increase from the 103 in 2013. This year, UCSC heavily enforced its conditions of admission, and meeting the deadline for transcripts and test scores was no exception.

“UCSC admissions is saying that they are being clearer and clearer every year,” mother Joady Lohr said. “But if that’s the case, why are the number of cancellations skyrocketing? It’s not clearer. It’s just not.”

Of the near 800 total cancellations at UCSC due to both late transcripts and academic issues, the admissions office received at least 500 appeals. At least 300 students were readmitted, while the others were left to enroll in community colleges or told they could reapply next year — provided they didn’t take any college course between now and then.

Other UCs, including UC Merced and UC Santa Barbara, have had significantly fewer missed transcript deadline cancellations due to extended transcript deadlines. UC Merced — the second UC campus to implement cancellations over missed deadlines — hovers around 200 cancelled students due to late transcripts. Yet as of Aug. 31, UC Santa Barbara has no reported deadline cancellations said McCawley and UCSB director of admissions Lisa Prescott.

McCawley said that next year the admissions cancellation approach may change because of this year’s complications. In the future, there will be less admissions offers and more students put on the waitlist in order to prevent over-acceptance McCawley said.

“Next year we may change the approach because of all that’s gone on this year. We will probably cut the number of admission offers and up the number of waitlist offers,” McCawley said. “That will help us avoid too many people accepting their admissions. That means less students will be admitted. There is a trade-off.”

After reinstating at least 300 students, UCSC’s transcript cancellations hover around 210. However, there are still students who didn’t appeal their admission cancellation. Even after the students who were readmitted, UCSC has the highest admissions cancellations out of all UC schools.

“I don’t think we’re necessarily the harshest, the way that we do our admissions is the maximize the number of offers — to give opportunity to students. Then we put the onus on them to meet the requirements,” McCawley said. “We feel like you all have an opportunity to meet those.”

UCSC sent out at least three email reminders to students who hadn’t met the transcript deadline, said mother Joady Lohr. Missing transcripts notices were posted on the UCSC Student Portal and were difficult to find, Lohr said.

“The debrief that we have to do on this is deep, it involves a lot of different individuals. Let admissions officers deal with this, we are out there with the students, we know what the issues are.” McCawley said. “Holding enrollments isn’t going to lessen the enrollment number. At the end of the day it’s an enrollment-driven issue.”

After many freshman students’ admissions were reinstated, many were forced to play catch up on what they missed at freshman orientation — trying to get their primary housing option and class enrollment.

“Some people ask me, well why did you do it in the first place? You cancel this many and now you have reinstated this many. Why? That’s a conversation that we should have at UCSC,” McCawley said. “That’s a question that doesn’t have an easy answer and put a lot of families through emotional turmoil. We weren’t trying to do harm to students who, at no fault of their own, couldn’t get their transcripts.”

Community Response

After receiving notice of their cancelled admissions, frustrated families took their case to an online audience as well as local assembly members, asking for more clarity and lenience from UCSC admissions. An online petition demanding students admission be reinstated has accumulated over 2900 signatures with a goal of 5000.

“I have seen what some parents and students have written. It is compelling on the emotional level,” McCawley said. “That’s the picture that some students and parents have been painting. [Assembly members] have an obligation to look into it. Most of this has been a tug at the heartstrings.”

Assembly members Mark Stone, Phil Ting and Toni Atkins have spoken out against admissions cancellations due to late transcripts and strict academic penalties. Being UC alumni themselves, Stone and Ting have communicated a strong affinity to the UC system.

“My UC education had a powerful impact on my life and it’s disgraceful to deprive hundreds of deserving students of the same opportunity for the most bureaucratic reasons,” said Ting. “The UC will have to answer for this mess at the Capitol in the coming days. Many lawmakers, including myself, are meeting with UC President Janet Napolitano to discuss these issues. The Assembly is also convening a hearing on UC admissions. We expect answers and solutions. Any excuses from UC leadership will be cause to question their commitment to students.”

After over-enrolling last year, UCSC admission is trying to re-balance the number of students by admitting fewer freshmen for the upcoming year.

“[To parents and cancelled students] Would you have preferred that we over-enroll as a campus again, and then students can’t get classes? It delays graduation, there are no beds for them, at some point you have to think about the quality of the experience students get,” McCawley said. “They are only thinking of the one individual, but I am thinking about the hundreds who are out there.”

Assembly member Stone’s office represents the 29th District, encompassing Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, Monterey and the surrounding areas. On Aug. 21, Stone met with UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal to discuss issues with late transcript cancellations.

“I heard from the Chancellor and his staff that UCSC feels it did all it could to get the message out to these kids that the transcript deadline was looming,” Stone said. “As a UC alum myself, I have strong respect for the university system, but in my view, the message could have been better delivered. Further, the penalty was too harsh. These kids worked too hard — they deserve better.”

The office of Stone has combined with multiple parents to confirm that this case will be taken to California Gov. Jerry Brown.

“Because of this, there is a groundswell of activity within UC that is making it seem like it’s not over. And it’s not,” Stone’s office said. “This fight — it’s not over.”

But for now, Dominique, Redmond and Erin will have to wait.