E-mail misleads law applicants

Hundreds of applicants to University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law received an e-mail on Friday afternoon congratulating them on their admission to the school, only to receive at least one of two e-mails retracting the offer, claiming to be from Director of Admissions Edward Tom.

Based on hundreds of postings to an online prelaw discussion forum, undergraduates from across the country — including UC law school applicants from Yale — appear to have received the erroneous messages. Several students said they were disappointed that the e-mail was sent in error and wished the apology e-mails had been more substantial.

The first e-mail invited students to a reception for newly admitted students of color at the home of Boalt professor Richard Buxbaum scheduled for April 6. Buxbaum said that while he was unaware of the confusion sparked by the e-mails, he is scheduled to host the event for all admitted students — not exclusively students of color.

“It’s a general reception,” Buxbaum said. “We tend to try to interest [students of color], but it’s an open reception … I couldn’t imagine how this happened.”

The e-mail, sent at approximately 6 p.m. Eastern time on Friday, contained the subject line, “You Are Cordially Invited.” A second, brief e-mail sent approximately 20 minutes later with the subject line “AN ERROR AND AN APOLOGY” apologized for the previous e-mail and asked students to disregard the first message. The third and final e-mail, with the subject line “AN EXPLANATION AND ANOTHER APOLOGY,” was sent on Saturday morning and informed students that the first e-mail, sent in error during a software training session, referred to an annual event hosted by two graduates and was neither an offer of admission nor a rejection. The e-mail went on to apologize to students for the error.

Scott Caplan ’06, who received the first and second e-mails but did not receive the more extended apology, said he was initially excited by the first e-mail message until he realized it was sent in error. He said he would have preferred to receive a more detailed explanation of the e-mail.

“Even if there was an initial apology like that, I would have preferred a more thoughtful apology being sent,” Caplan said. “It makes people feel better to receive a longer apology than the one we received.”

Stephen Butler ’06, who had not received any communications from the admissions office prior to the e-mails, said he thinks the messages were a disservice to applicants.

“When I got it, I sort of went nuts and when I scrolled down the e-mail, I was like, ‘Wait a second,’” Butler said. “It was pretty disappointing to get your hopes up and then bring them down. It’s sort of unfair to the applicants.”

Jacob Jou ’06, who received the second two e-mails, said other students who received the messages and believed they had been accepted to the law school were seriously disappointed to learn of the error, after having contacted friends and relatives and made plans to celebrate.

“I thought it was handled pretty unprofessionally,” Jou said.

University officials and representatives from the Berkeley Law admissions office were unavailable for comment Sunday night. Applications to the UC Berkeley School of Law are accepted on a rolling basis until Feb. 1, and admissions decisions for the majority of applicants are usually received by mid-May, according to the school’s Web site.

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