March 12, 2019

The sailing case, and our resolve

By now many of you have seen the news that Stanford’s head sailing coach was charged today, along with many others around the country, in an alleged scheme that involved payments intended to influence the admission of students to a number of U.S. colleges and universities.

To the two of us, this is nothing short of appalling.

The head sailing coach was terminated from his Stanford employment this morning, shortly after the government’s charges were made public. Later in the day, he pleaded guilty in federal court to a count of racketeering conspiracy.

Let us be clear: The conduct reported in this case is absolutely contrary to Stanford’s values, and to the norms this university has lived by for decades. Today’s news is a shock exactly because it so clearly violates our institutional expectations for ethical conduct.

The charges brought by the Justice Department pertain to our former head sailing coach. But clearly, the case will prompt questions about our processes more broadly. We want to share some information about those processes.

First and most importantly, every student admitted to Stanford must meet the university’s high academic standards. Our admissions office conducts a holistic review of each applicant, focused on academic excellence, intellectual vitality, extracurricular activity and personal context.

For students who have special talents – artistic, athletic, musical or otherwise – those talents are factored into the process. In the case of athletics, we have a process through which coaches can identify the most promising athletic recruits, for the consideration of the admission office. But such talents, athletic or otherwise, by themselves never ensure admission to Stanford.

Our resolve in these matters is as firm as ever. The integrity of our processes, and the ethical conduct of our people, is of paramount importance to Stanford.

The Justice Department investigation provided no evidence or indication that the conduct involved anyone at Stanford beyond the head sailing coach, including anyone associated with any other Stanford team. However, we are undertaking an internal process to confirm this is the case, across all of Stanford Athletics.

In addition, we will ensure that Stanford will not benefit from the monies that were contributed to the Stanford sailing program as part of this fraudulent activity. We are working to determine the most appropriate way to redirect the funds to an entity unaffiliated with Stanford, consistent with the regulations governing such gifts and in cooperation with the government.

We take these issues deeply seriously, and we will continue pursuing them mindful of our obligations as stewards of this institution, on behalf of everyone associated with Stanford.