A Different View Of A Rankings Scandal

Headshot of Former Admissions Director Bill Sandefer

Former Admissions Director Bill Sandefer


Bill Sandefer says he joked with Freeman administrators about acting as a scapegoat regarding problematic data. “I said, ‘Something’s wrong, you can blame it on me.’ I didn’t realize they would take it seriously.”

Sandefer suggests that new administrators at Freeman began promoting “different ideas for the goals of the program” in 2012, and that rosy student data was an obstacle to change. “If the program was successful then it’s a little bit more difficult for someone to come in and say, ‘We need to make some dramatic changes,'” Sandefer says. “The intention was to sort of reshape the MBA program, and you can’t do that when the MBA program is more successful. You go about making it less successful.”

But Freeman dean Ira Solomon has said it was the less-than-rosy GMAT and application numbers in 2012 that spurred Freeman administrators to start probing past data. And this week Solomon dismissed Sandefer’s alternative explanation.


“The suggestion that this difficult situation was somehow manufactured by the university to make sweeping changes in programming is so absurd as to not warrant additional response,” Solomon said in an email to Poets&Quants.

School officials discovered the data problem, Solomon told Poets&Quants last year, after the Freeman admissions team in the fall of 2012 reported that the latest GMAT scores and MBA application numbers were far lower than numbers reported for previous years. Solomon, an accounting expert and former KPMG auditor, notified Tulane’s provost and legal office. Tulane hired law firm Jones Day to investigate. The firm concluded the earlier numbers had been substantially inflated.

Freeman in December 2012 notified U.S. News that inaccurate data had been provided for MBA classes entering from 2007 to 2011. A month later, the school submitted to the magazine new data for those years. U.S. News at first threw Freeman out of its rankings, then accepted the new numbers, which saw Freeman plunge 24 spots in the rankings to 67th.

Last year, Tulane pegged the average GMAT score for its new full-time MBA class at 629, 41 points below the reported 670 for 2012. Freeman’s acceptance rate skyrocketed in 2013 to 82.9 percent over 56.7 percent from 2012.

U.S. News has confidence in the new data Freeman had submitted after the Jones Day law firm investigation and associated audit, says U.S. News spokeswoman Lucy Lyons.

“U.S. News believes the vast percentage of schools are reporting their data accurately,” Lyons said in an email.

By the time Bill Sandefer left Freeman in May 2012, he had already accepted a job as senior director of graduate admissions at the University of California, Davis Graduate School of Management. In January 2013, U.C. Davis put Sandefer on leave while investigating whether he was involved in falsifying data at Tulane. Six months later Davis reported that Sandefer was no longer employed by the school.


Bill Sandefer calls the outcome at the California university “unfortunate.”

“I was doing a lot of good work at Davis,” he says.

He acknowledges that he will be forever seen by some as a perpetrator of data fraud. “People are going to think what they think. Tulane made some statements and that creates a rumor mill. You can’t fix that,” says Sandefer, who is now retired and living in New Orleans with his three Rhodesian ridgeback dogs. “My feelings toward Freeman and Tulane are overwhelmingly positive. I had a great career at Tulane. I know hundreds of alumni here in this community and around the world. That was a rich experience and that’s way too valuable for the kind of petty stuff that this allegation was. Tulane’s a fabulous institution and I truly believe it’ll get through this and move on.

“The entire business school community has suffered through this and I’m just one of the victims.”

Related Stories:

We Faked Data, Admits Tulane B-School 

Who Cooked The Books At Tulane?

UC-Davis Puts Admissions Chief On Leave

U.S. News Tosses Tulane From Ranking

Former B-School Admissions Chief Calls For Audits

Tulane’s Business School Falls 24 Places In U.S. News Ranking

UC-Davis Adcom Chief No Longer Employee

Tulane: Putting A Rankings Scandal Behind It

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