Edward Tom, director of admissions at the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, confirmed Monday that he accidentally sent a large percentage of the school’s applicants nationwide an e-mail on Friday congratulating them on their admission to the school, along with at least one of two apology e-mails asking students to disregard the initial message and stating that it did not imply admission.
The initial message and first apology were sent to applicants with last names in the first half of the alphabet, Tom said, and the second apology was sent to the entire applicant pool. Tom said the initial e-mail was sent at approximately 3 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, while Tom was teaching a staff member how to use the e-mail system linked to the applicant pool e-mail list. The office expert was unavailable at the time.
“I was fiddling around with the filters, the program, and I did something wrong,” Tom said. “You have one of those moments when you click on the mouse and you say, ‘Oh, no.’ I clicked the mouse and I immediately realized what I had done, and I sat there that moment like I was in a fugue.”
The first e-mail was sent with the subject line “You Are Cordially Invited” and extended an invitation to a reception for newly admitted students of color at the home of Boalt professor Richard Buxbaum. The event has in past years been for students of color, Tom said, but is now open to all admitted students who are on the Berkeley campus that day.
“I am writing to congratulate you once more on your recent admission to Boalt Hall and to cordially invite you to one more special event,” the e-mail read.
Approximately 20 minutes later, the same applicants received a brief second e-mail with the subject line “AN ERROR AND AN APOLOGY” asking students to disregard the first message. Tom said he composed the “very terse retraction” in a state of crisis after sending the first message.
“In hindsight, I probably should have composed a longer, more apologetic explanation,” Tom said. “In the heat of the moment, I wanted to get out a retraction because I realized the implications of this. I know that for many people my initial e-mail mistake caused a lot of heartache, and I deeply regret it.”
The third and “more fulsome” e-mail with the subject line “AN EXPLANATION AND ANOTHER APOLOGY” was sent on Saturday morning to the entire applicant pool, Tom said.
“To those of you who were recipients [of the first e-mail], I wish to express our deep regret for any confusion or disappointment our error may have caused,” the e-mail read.
Noah Gold, who graduated from Binghamton University last year and received the series of e-mails, said that he was disappointed after realizing that the first e-mail did not imply his admission, but that he understands the error.
“It kind of sucked for obvious reasons, but I understood,” Gold said. “Mistakes happen.”
Jacob Jou ’06, who received the e-mail messages, said that although he appreciated the more extended apology in the third e-mail, he wished the message had acknowledged responsibility for the error.
“I was happy to receive the longer apology eventually,” Jou said. “That’s better than not sending it at all. I feel as though they should have taken responsibility specifically for their mistakes. For them to explain it was good, but when they didn’t take responsibility for it, it was not so good.”
Yale Law School spokesman Klas Bergman said he thinks the error was unfortunate for the students receiving the e-mails, but that anyone can make a mistake.
“We certainly sympathize with the students who received the erroneous e-mails, but we also realize that mistakes can happen to anyone,” Bergman said in an e-mail. “Here at Yale Law School, we try to be extra careful in this age of electronic communication. We believe we have a good system in place.”
Undergraduate Career Services Director Philip Jones said such errors occur regularly in college admissions.
“Who among us has never pressed ‘send,’ only to regret it a split second later? That doesn’t justify it, or make it more palatable, but it might help to make it a little more ‘understandable,'” Jones said in an e-mail.
Tom said he has notified a few applicants to the Boalt Hall School of Law of their admission by e-mail and that students previously notified of their acceptance should not be concerned about Friday’s e-mails.