Chapel Hill admissions error unfair to Tar Heel hopefuls

Last week, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill heartily congratulated 2,703 freshman applicants on their acceptance to one of America’s foremost learning institutions. Tears, cheers and spasms of joy erupted in living rooms across the country as the long-awaited e-mails from the admissions department rolled in. Looks like little Jimmy is a Tar Heel.Oops. Guess again. In possibly the biggest case of broken promises since George H.W. Bush and his “no new taxes” fiasco, two employees at the UNC system’s flagship school sent the congratulatory notifications to the wrong batch of students.

The e-mails in question were intended to request mid-year grade reports from students who had already been accepted to Chapel Hill, beginning, “Congratulations again on your admission to the University.”

Instead, they were sent to hopeful applicants nationwide. The university has since notified the freshman applicants and apologized for the mistake. Sure the e-mails contained the phrase “Congratulations again,” and some might argue the recipients should have smelled something fishy from the start. Some probably did, but I guarantee that more than a considerable number didn’t suspect a thing. When someone sees the words “congratulations” and “on your admission” in the same sentence, paranoia and human error are the furthest thing from their minds. Plus, many of these students have never received an acceptance letter before. How are they supposed to know what a real one looks like? Nothing the office of undergraduate admissions can say will ever soothe the situation. They screwed up.

How could this have happened? How can two people whose very clicks of the mouse determines the fate of nearly 20,000 yearly applicants make such a careless error?

Maybe they were in a hurry to get down to Applebee’s for Margarita Madness. Maybe they were tired after a long night of “Grey’s Anatomy” reruns. Maybe they just don’t care about others.

Sound selfish? It should. There’s no excuse for such a grievous error. If there’s any time during your day to be focusing on the welfare of others and not zoning out, it would be the five seconds when you send out a bulk e-mail entailing admission to roughly 3,000 people.

This isn’t a waitress dropping a tray full of food at a restaurant. It’s not a salesman failing to close the deal of the year. The consequences of this poor performance affect thousands of futures from coast to coast.

While we’re on the subject of compromising futures, what do you think would have happened if these employees had worked the Vietnam draft lottery? “Sorry Mr. Smith, your draft number was originally 215, but due to employee error, it turned out to be three. Have fun in Da Nang!” Different situations, same basic principle: radically altering the lives of thousands through the incompetence of one.

The people responsible for this grievous error should be fired immediately. It doesn’t matter how or why it happened. All that matters are the crushed dreams of 2,700 people, about 80 percent of whom won’t get into the hyper-competitive school when the real acceptance letters begin rolling in. This will leave one of America’s top public universities with a black eye for years to come and put a degree of doubt into all future applicants. But the best Chapel Hill can do is issue a mere apology for the actions of said employees. It’s time to up the ante.

David Hall is a freshman news-editorial journalism major from Kingwood. His column appears on Wednesdays.