About 2,700 applicants for fall 2007 admission to Carolina were notified mistakenly on January 23 that they had been accepted. In fact, decisions on these applications have not been made, and the students were not expecting decisions until March 31.
The Office of Undergraduate Admissions said two simultaneous human errors involving e-mail messages were to blame. Its staff began apologizing to applicants the next day.
“We are still mortified that this happened,” admissions Director Steve Farmer said Thursday, nearly two days after the error. “I hate that it happened. We try to make sure the candidates under our care are treated fairly and humanely, and it’s heartbreaking in this case there were 2,700 students we’ve failed.”
Farmer said that he had heard from about 100 of the students and that the majority had been “just amazingly gracious – almost all said they understood it was an error.”
Most of the applications weren’t yet complete. The deadline for getting them in had been extended from January 15 to Jan. 22, 2007.
According to an explanation posted on the admissions office Web site, at 3:50 p.m. on January 23, the office mistakenly sent e-mails requesting mid-year grades from applicants. But the e-mail also read, “Congratulations again on your admission to the University.”
One staff member used the wrong distribution list for the mid-year grade request, Farmer explained. Within a span of five minutes, another staffer, apparently independently, modified the original message to include congratulations on acceptance.
Farmer said that the mistake was discovered almost immediately and that the staff tried to delete the messages. The error was believed to have been limited to some 500 students. The next morning, it was discovered that the total number affected was 2,703. Of that number, 773 were North Carolina residents; the rest were from out of state.
Electronic apologies were on the way soon to 9,500 candidates whose applications are pending decisions.
“We will continue to express our deep regret for this error,” the admissions office statement read. “We are also developing internal controls that we believe will prevent this error from recurring. While our official admissions decisions are communicated only through mail and through students’ UNC homepages, we understand that many of the students who received the mistaken message have been disappointed to learn that we have reached no decision regarding their candidacy. We deeply regret this disappointment, which we know is compounded by the stress and anxiety that students experience as a result of the admissions process.”
Farmer said he expected to post some response from applicants on the Web site later Thursday.
“I hate we have disappointed people,” he said. “We will do everything we can to see it doesn’t happen again.”
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