Boalt Hall Welcomes You. Nah, Kidding.

The first line reads like a police report: “At approximately 3:00 p.m. California time last Friday, February 17, an e-mail was generated and sent in error to a portion of our applicant pool.?

The erroneous message, sent by the admissions office at Boalt Hall School of Law, congratulated thousands of prospective students on their “recent admission to Boalt Hall and cordially invite[d them] to one more special event.? Admissions director Edward Tom sent another e-mail 16 minutes later to notify recipients of the error. Then he sent a carefully-scripted, 250-word explanation the next morning.

Unfortunately by then, as many as 7,000 Boalt applicants may have already seen the e-mail. Tom only intended the message to reach about 500 students who were accepted early to the school, according to the Associated Press.

One of those who saw the initial congratulatory message was Rachel Gardiner, a legal assistant at the San Francisco law firm Vanderhout, Brigagliano & Nightingale. Gardiner said she contacted family and friends with the good news, and she hasn’t yet been able to tell them it may all have been a mistake. Gardiner said she’s concerned about how other prospective students will handle the emotional roller coaster ride.

“To get an e-mail that validates your acceptance can be overwhelming,? Gardiner said. “And then to get an e-mail saying your acceptance was a mistake is devastating.?

A statement on the Boalt Hall Web site says admissions officials plan to change their computer software so “such mistakes are less likely in the future.? But this mistake has become commonplace in recent years as university officials have begun communicating with prospective students by e-mail. Cornell University made headlines three years ago for mistakenly “accepting? 550 students who had already been rejected. And the Associated Press reports that four years ago UC-Davis did the same to 105 high school students, while UC-Berkeley had its own admissions e-mail glitch 10 years ago.

UC-Berkeley spokeswoman Janet Gilmore dismissed the notion that Boalt Hall might somehow be liable for damages. (Did we hear someone say cruel and unusual punishment?)

“It was discovered pretty much as soon as it happened,? Gilmore said.

Gardiner said she gave thought to suing the school but ruled it out rather quickly. “Had I decided to send in my decline to accept [statement] for other law schools, then I think I would have taken legal action, potentially. But since I didn’t send those in — thank God — I don’t think I’d have a very good case,? she said.

Matthew Hirsch

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