By Margaret Voelzke

A campus committee appointed to investigate questions about how Washington and Lee University measures selectivity in admissions has concluded that the university’s practices are appropriate.

“I think we did a very thorough job,” said committee member Sidney Evans, the university’s vice president of student affairs. “I think we were all in agreement on the findings. It’s not like one of those things where we disagreed. We spoke with one voice, and I feel like it was a good process.”

Evans was one of a three-member group appointed by university President Ken Ruscio after a Sept. 21 story in The Washington Post questioned Washington and Lee’s process for measuring its acceptance rate. The other committee members were Alumni Affairs Executive Director Beau Dudley and Associate Provost Marc Conner.

The Post reported that, unlike some universities, Washington and Lee includes incomplete applications when it measures its acceptance rate.

Photo courtesy of Margaret Voelzke

The practice, used by a number of schools, makes universities like Washington and Lee appear more selective by increasing the number of applications that are rejected. Selectivity is one factor that many college ranking services take into consideration.

Ruscio responded to the committee’s findings in a statement online.

“For an institution that values honor and integrity, that charge, even if implicit, called for a response — not an impulsive response, neither a simplistic apology nor a reflexive defense,” Ruscio said in the statement, “but rather a patient, careful look that avoided any rush to judgment and acknowledged the complexity of the question.”

But Ruscio declined The Rockbridge Report’s request for further comment.

Evans said a big part of the committee’s work involved contacting other universities about their admissions techniques.

“It was not people right around here but more people who stuck out to us as leaders within the field,” said Evans. “Everyone was very cooperative with us.”

The committee’s findings are published on the university website at, but are not currently posted on its homepage.

Locating the committee’s findings involves going to the university’s home page, typing President’s Office in the search field or selecting it from a Quick Links dropdown box, selecting Messages to the Community, and clicking an additional link from Ruscio’s response to the findings that leads to a summary of the committee’s report.

Some undergraduates at Washington and Lee, where students live under a rigorous honor system, said they were initially concerned by the story in The Post. But Nathan Kelly, president of the student Executive Committee, said he was encouraged by the committee’s findings. The Executive Committee weighs cases in which students are accused of violating the honor system, usually involving lying, cheating or stealing.

“I am proud of how the implied allegations of The Washington Post were handled [by the administration],” Kelly said. “I believe that Washington and Lee considered the allegations seriously and took every step possible to come to a complete understanding of the situation.”

Evans said the university considers the matter closed. The committee does not anticipate meeting again, she said.


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