Erroneous College Acceptance Letter Spark Crisis

Jonathan Bernstein crisis management, Crisis Prevention, Erik Bernstein, Jonathan Bernstein, reputation management, school crisis management Leave a Comment

Flawed process devastates 800 eager students

About 800 applicants to Carnegie Mellon’s elite master’s program for computer science had a brief moment of excitement before their hopes were dashed after receiving erroneous acceptance emails from the university. The emails were sent on a Monday, and by mid-day Tuesday Carnegie Mellon’s crisis management messaging was in place:

About 800 applicants to one of SCS’s master’s programs, the Master of Science in Computer Science program in the Computer Science Department, on Monday were erroneously sent acceptance letters via email. This error was the result of serious mistakes in our process for generating acceptance letters. Once the error was discovered, the university moved quickly to notify affected applicants.

We understand the disappointment created by this mistake, and deeply apologize to the applicants for this miscommunication. We are currently reviewing our notification process to help ensure this does not happen in the future.

Applicants can direct any questions or concerns to Tracy Farbacher, program coordinator, via email at

While the school’s message was concise, apologetic, and expressed compassion, this is one where you can’t help but feel for those affected. This issue isn’t going to put a major dent in the reputation of one of the nation’s top ranked schools, but it’s certainly an example of the trouble one flawed process can create for your organization.  A vulnerability audit is one method of identifying and mitigating flawed processes, systems and protocols which can lead to or exacerbate crises.

Erik & Jonathan Bernstein

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