US Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s wealthy investment banker husband used his influence to help an underqualified student get into the University of California, Berkeley, according to a new report.
Richard Blum, a UC alum and regent since 2002, penned a letter to the school chancellor’s office on behalf of the unnamed student, who was waitlisted and had just a 26 percent chance of getting into the prestigious university, the San Jose Mercury News reported Thursday.
Blum’s letter was forwarded to UC’s admissions office, which prioritized the student’s application over more qualified applicants, the outlet said.
“It is therefore likely that the applicant whom the regent recommended would have been on a list that received priority admission from the waitlist,” an audit of Cal’s admissions practices released Tuesday said.
“Given the low likelihood of this applicant’s admission and the prominent and influential role that regents have within the university, we conclude that the decision to admit this applicant was likely influenced by the regent’s advocacy.”
The audit did not identify the regent by name, but university spokeswoman Margarita Fernandez confirmed to the Mercury News it was Blum.
Reached by phone by the paper, Blum said he’s written letters of recommendation for years, and never thought they “ever had much influence.”
“This is the first time I’ve heard that maybe I did something that wasn’t right,” he said. “I think it’s a bunch of nonsense.”
The UC audit found that the school considered “inappropriate factors” in admitting 64 applicants over more qualified students. Twenty-two got in with beefed-up athletic resumes, while 42 relied on ties to wealthy and influential donors and staffers.
The majority of the students were white and at least half came from families with annual incomes of $150,000 and above, the audit said.
The review comes on the heels of the unrelated, massive college admissions bribery scandal that ensnared the California university.
Among the parents busted in the scams were “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman.