Adding a new twist to their heated rivalry, Princeton University admissions
officials accessed student records from rival Yale University’s online
admissions system, leading to a Yale complaint to the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI), according to reports.
The Yale Daily News, the New Haven, Conn., school’s undergraduate
paper, reported that Yale officials made the FBI complaint Friday over the
alleged security breach, in which the admission status of 11 applicants were
viewed by Princeton officials by using birth dates and Social Security
numbers taken from their Princeton applications.
Princeton confirmed the breach, calling it a “serious lapse in judgment” by the Ivy League school’s admissions department.
Yale set up the online system in December, allowing applicants to use their
names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers to determine their
admissions status. Only applicants were permitted to access the site,
according to its onscreen disclaimer.
According to the Yale paper, Princeton officials used students’ birth dates
and Social Security numbers from their Princeton applications to log onto
the site, which contained students’ records, profiles, and extracurricular
After Princeton officials mentioned the security holes to their Yale
counterparts at an Ivy League deans’ conference, the Yale Daily News
reports a Yale investigation found 18 unauthorized log-ins from Princeton
computers that accessed 11 students’ records. Princeton’s admissions
department said it was merely testing the security of such an online
notification system, although a Yale alleges the officials accessed some
records several times.
Princeton could face sanctions under the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act, including the loss of funding, as well as criminal charges.
As a result of the hullabaloo, Princeton hired William Maderer, a partner in a Newark law firm, to conduct an internal investigation. The school said it would cooperate with outside investigations.
“The investigation will attempt to determine exactly what happened, who was involved, and why it took place,” Princeton said in a statement. “We are moving to track down which computers were used to access a Web site in the Yale University admissions office and who may have been using those computers.”
Princeton also said placed Stephen LeMenager, an associate dean and director of admissions, on administrative leave. LeMenager, who has worked in the admissions department for almost two decades, admitted to the Yale Daily News that he took part in accessing the Web site.
Yale and Princeton have a longstanding rivalry, often battling to attract
the top students. The two schools also have the second-longest collegiate
football rivalry in the country.