Struppa: Chapman probe into apparent payoffs should conclude in several weeks

In an email to the Chapman community on March 20, Struppa said the university has been working with the DOJ for several months and that the university is conducting it’s own probe into the admissions scandal. Graphic by Maggie Mayer using a photo from Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash.

Chapman University has engaged “external attorney investigators” who have worked in “senior positions in the Department of Justice” to examine the college’s ties to the national admissions scandal, President Daniele Struppa announced Wednesday.

Chapman has been cooperating with the Department of Justice “for several months” and has not been accused of wrongdoing, Struppa said in a mass email sent to students and staff. Yet, he noted, “it is imperative that we look deeper into this situation and do a thorough investigation to whether we are indeed living up to our values and principles.” The investigation, which probes the university’s interaction with the tainted college admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer of Newport Beach, should be completed within several weeks, Struppa said.

Struppa’s email comes after Chapman University was connected to the scandal in the indictment of David Sidoo, a retired Canadian football player accused of paying $100,000 to have a ringer take the SAT for his son, Dylan. Dylan Sidoo was admitted to Chapman as a film production major in 2012 with fraudulent SAT scores before transferring to the University of Southern California two years later, according to court papers and Dylan Sidoo’s social media.

Chapman allegedly received a total of $325,000 in donations between 2014 and 2015 from The Key Worldwide Foundation, a fraudulent charity which officials say was used to launder bribe money from parents seeking to get their children accepted to universities for which they were not qualified. It is not yet clear who at Chapman accepted the money, if it arrived.

“I am confident these allegations are not a reflection of the culture we have at Chapman,” Struppa wrote, acknowledging he had been deluged with “countless messages” about the scandal and Chapman’s practices. At this point in time, the university cannot act on the alleged donations or students that may have connections to Singer’s operations because there isn’t enough information available, according to the email.

When the investigation is completed, Struppa said he will “communicate what [he] is able to regarding the findings.” He also said he was “committed to demonstrating transparency as we work to find resolution.”

Reported drug and alcohol incidents at Chapman explode, officials say substance abuse policy needs updating

Almost half of first-year students reported at least one episode of heavy drinking, according to the Alcohol & Drug Crisis Prevention section of the Chapman University website. Photo by Claire Treu.

Despite sharp rises of reported drug and alcohol abuse incidents at Chapman in the last two years, the committee responsible for recording drug and alcohol violations failed to meet half of the recommendations the group set for itself in 2016. The group did not meet once during the last two years, according to the report, which was emailed to the Chapman community in January.

The report also states that the university does not have a comprehensive strategy to support the success of students in recovery, despite a perceived increase of this population in the student body.

The report, known as the Biennial Review of Alcohol and Drug Programs, compared 2017-2018 incidents to those of the 2016-2017 academic year. “Illegal substances” incidents quadrupled, from four to 16 in the earlier report to the one covering 2017-2018. The number of students with two violations almost doubled, from 45 in 2016-2017 to 87 in 2017-2018.

“Deferred violations” showed a stunning increase as well: from 198 to 422 in the latest report. This means the violation is held in abeyance, or suspension, if no other violations of the conduct code occur, the report states.

Increased drug and alcohol incidents are often correlated with a higher incidence of sexual assaults and violence, may indicate growing addictions and can be detrimental to student health, according to a fact sheet from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

This review is conducted in compliance with the Drug Free Schools and Campuses Act, (DFSCA), which contributes to the university’s ability to receive federal funding. The review board addresses challenges – such as the 2018 legalization of marijuana – in addressing substance use on campus, and set goals for the next biennium.

Eleven university officials serve on the board, but the group did not meet for two years between the compilation of reviews.

“It’s a challenging group of people to find time when we are all free and available,” said Colleen Wood, chair of the Biennial Review Committee.

The committee plans to gather before the next biennial review but as of now no meeting has been scheduled, Wood said.

Eight goals from 2016 are listed in the report. Out of these eight, four were achieved.

“This goal was not met during the biennium” was the status listing for the following objectives set in 2016:

 

1) “Review University policies, including student organization risk management policies, surrounding student organization hosted ‘venue parties.’”

2) “Develop an enhanced communication procedure between Public Safety and the Dean of Students office for medical calls related to drug and alcohol use.”

3) “Create a resource webpage for students and employees where information about local resources is more readily available than the required annual Drug Free Schools and Communities notification.”

4) “Explore creating a taskforce between the University, Orange Police, and the local office of the California Alcoholic Beverage Control to discuss collaborative opportunities between the groups to enhance enforcement of existing laws.”

 

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) conducts periodic program reviews to assess institutional compliance. A fine may be imposed if an institution has failed to certify that DAAPP is in place or if the program fails to address all required subject areas, according to a spokesman.

Will Chapman be fined? “The Department cannot speculate on a specific institution’s compliance without conducting its own review,” the DOE spokesman stated.

Reports must be completed every two years and the DOE periodically assesses compliance with federal regulations, the spokesman said.

“The maximum fine amount is currently $57,317 per violation. While fines are the most common sanction for DFSCA violations, serious violations of the law could result in a termination of an institution’s eligibility to participate in federal education funding programs,” the spokesman stated.

Despite marijuana becoming legal in California for those 21 and older, it is still against the student conduct code to consume the drug on Chapman’s campus, according to Wood. Graphic extracted from Chapman’s most recent Biennial Review.

A student’s first and second violations of the alcohol policy, and first drug violation if only involving marijuana – are generally deferred. This means that if a student has two alcohol incidents, more often than not, they actually have four, according to page four of the review.

These multiplying numbers are said to be a result of “increased training on the student conduct process and the emphasis on correctly entering information into the student conduct database,” according to the report.

Wood attributed the leap in violations to an increase of students living on campus and more robust enforcement by resident directors. The 2018 legalization of marijuana could also be a factor, she said, but these are only theories.

“I’m not positive that (student) substance use has actually increased,” Wood said.

Wood hypothesized that students who have multiple incidents tend to move off campus for their second year. Chapman now requires students to live on campus for two academic years, which could increase the number of citations in the next review.

Dave Sundby, Director of Residence Life and First Year Experience, attributed the dramatic growth of offenses to an increase in students living in university housing.

The university did not add any new residence buildings within the two school years. Chapman Grand was not opened until fall 2018, so it does not apply to the report.

“In my ideal world, I would like to see those numbers drop and go down, but we are bringing in another residence hall in the fall and we are moving to a two-year living requirement. So, I think those numbers are actually going to go up,” Wood said.

Despite rising numbers, the university did show effort in addressing substance use on campus, which can be shown in the four goals which were met. Most notably, the Student Engagement staff has coordinated with Information Systems and Technology to track a student’s campus involvement at the time of their violation. This means the university keeps track of what clubs, athletic teams or campus engagements the student is associated with. They have also collected data from fraternities and sororities concerning alcohol and drug education.

Wood hopes to conduct a campus-wide survey of Chapman student drug and alcohol use in the future.

“We hear a lot of rumors about what substances the students are using, but it would be nice to have some numbers,” Wood said.

Wood said the committee tried to get a comprehensive survey of student drug use approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB), but it was rejected. The IRB is an authoritative board which oversees research of human subjects in accordance with federal regulations, according to the Chapman website. Wood said she hopes to try a different approach to get such a survey  approved within the next few years.

In addition to running the majority of drug and alcohol trainings on campus, Dani Smith, the director of Chapman PEER and Health Education, meets one-on-one with students who have multiple violations. She said that in the past few years, fewer students have been referred to her. The reason for this is unclear.

“Students would generally be referred to me if they had three or four violations,” Smith said. “So I don’t know where all those referrals are going.”

Jerry Price, Dean of Students, was unable to comment by deadline. Sundby said he was unaware that referrals to Smith had declined.

Smith and Wood said Chapman’s drug and alcohol policy needed to be updated. The policy should have more consequences for third and fourth violations, Smith said.

Above are the officials who served on the review committee. Graphic extracted from Chapman’s most recent Biennial Review.