U.S. Attorney’s office asked to launch investigation

Original: The Cavalier Daily,  April 11, 2017

Author Jeff Thomas filed a federal complaint April 8 asking the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Western District of Virginia to launch an independent investigation into admissions practices at the University.

The federal complaint comes in light of documents Thomas obtained via Freedom of Information Act request from the University’s advancement office while he was doing research for his book, “Virginia Politics & Government in a New Century: The Price of Power.” Large portions of the information in the documents have been legally redacted.

The documents reveal the University has used a “heads-up list” in recent years for applicants who are connected to major donors, although the University’s financial aid website touts a system based on accepting students “solely on their academic merit.”

The documents suggested potential changes in the admissions status of applicants and noted meetings between University officials with some applicants — likely because of donor gifts.

In the complaint, Thomas cited the admissions documents he received as proof of corruption and said “they speak for themselves.”

Thomas said in an email to The Cavalier Daily he filed the federal complaint because the University and the state government are incapable of independently investigating what he called a “corruption scandal,” which could implicate political donors, legislators and members of the University Board of Visitors.

“If U.Va. will not release the complete, unredacted documents, then an investigating body with subpoena power must compel them to do so,” Thomas said.

One of Thomas’ goals in filing the complaint is to initiate a fair investigation.

“I hope that the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Western District of Virginia will conduct a fair, open and impartial investigation to determine what crimes, if any, have occurred,” Thomas said.

Brian McGinn, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Attorney of the Western District of Virginia, said the U.S. Attorney’s office has no comment at this time regarding the complaint.

Thomas also said he wants University President Teresa Sullivan to apologize to students.

“It is also imperative that U.Va., end this potentially illegal practice immediately and that President Sullivan issue an apology to the many deserving students in Virginia who have been denied admission under her watch because their parents could not or did not contribute money to the University,” Thomas said.

University spokesperson Anthony de Bruyn said in an email statement the University strongly objects to Thomas’ “unfounded allegations.”

“The University remains confident in the integrity of its rigorous admission process,” de Bruyn said. “There is no evidence to support this speculation.”

After the documents were released, Student Council announced they were launching their own investigation to look into the alleged preferential treatment. The investigation is headed by Ian Ware, a second-year College student and representative.

“I’m really hoping we can follow through on this and see something happen in the coming months — a real administrative response,” Ware said in a previous interview with The Cavalier Daily.