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NU apologizes for fake database categorizing applicants by parents’ threats

Updated: July 2, 2013 7:10AM

Northwestern University officials apologized Wednesday for a phony internal database that categorized student applicants by their parents’ and guidance counselors’ complaints using barnyard epithets and raunchy descriptions.

Fake descriptions referred to parents’ and counselors’ efforts to exert influence, such as “I know Pat Ryan,” “I’ll call my %&^&ing senator,” “I’ll never give a $%#@ing dime to NU,” and “shove it!”

The accompanying abbreviations and so-called “portal captions” ranged from “screw” to “hell” to “bhead.” The list was headlined, “Student Custom Field Values.”

Screen shots of the database and emails about it were posted on an online message board called College Confidential earlier this week, according to a story Wednesday in the Daily Northwestern. The message board touts itself as the “leading college-bound community on the web.”

The posting showed Michael Mills, associate provost for university enrollment, sending the mock database to about 25 colleagues, the Daily Northwestern student newspaper reported.

Mills could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but Alan K. Cubbage, vice president for university relations, released a statement calling the database “an ill-advised attempt at humor by a member of our staff.”

“It was an internal email that misguidedly made fun of the abusive and threatening calls and emails our admissions staff occasionally gets from irate parents and counselors about our admissions decisions,” Cubbage said.

Cubbage called it “an error in judgment” and apologized, noting that the university “strives to treat all our admission applicants respectfully and appropriately.”

The screen shots disappeared from College Confidential by 11 a.m. Wednesday, the student newspaper reported. An independent search found no such posting.

Northwestern University spokespeople declined further comment.

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