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Education Bug

Carnegie-Mellon Sends Hundreds of Acceptance Letters By Mistake 131

An anonymous reader writes As reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Carnegie-Mellon University mistakenly sent 800 acceptances for its Master of Science in Computer Science program. They're not saying "computer error," but what are the other explanations? High irony all around. The program accepts fewer than nine percent of more than 1,200 applicants, which places the acceptance level at about a hundred, so they're bad at math, too.
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Carnegie-Mellon Sends Hundreds of Acceptance Letters By Mistake

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    censored version of die hard on TV

  • Dammit Jim! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ukab the Great ( 87152 ) on Thursday February 19, 2015 @09:33AM (#49087073)

    I'm a PhD in CompSci, not a software engineer!

    • by omfg-no ( 1848750 ) on Thursday February 19, 2015 @09:44AM (#49087163)

      I'm a PhD in CompSci, not a software engineer!

      Code Monkey get up get coffee...

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Um, you would never want to use code from a PhD student...

        • Funny, but untrue - it's a common misconception that academics' code is bad. I think you would be pleasantly surprised at the quality of the code if you worked with them directly. There are bad apples of course, but the vast majority are very capable programmers with solid fundamentals.
          • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
            The academics I deal with are more worried about doing it "pure" and "right" and less about getting it done. And "right" in the real world is often wrong, for all things. There's a reason why engineers are banned from PE status until after a real-world apprenticeship. They have learned theory in college, then have to learn the real way to do it from the real world before they can be an engineer.
  • hmmm... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Thursday February 19, 2015 @09:37AM (#49087103)

    I suspect those that turned down other university offers for this one, only to find out they weren't accepted and no have no-where to go have basis for a lawsuit. And what about those that had scholarships at other schools and lost them? Mistakes like this, and such a critical point in your life, affect the whole of the rest of your life. It could change the entire trajectory of your career.

    • Re:hmmm... (Score:5, Informative)

      by sribe ( 304414 ) on Thursday February 19, 2015 @09:43AM (#49087151)

      I suspect those that turned down other university offers for this one, only to find out they weren't accepted and no have no-where to go...

      The email was corrected within 7 hours--pretty unlikely there are any damages to anyone other than the huge disappointment.

      • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

        I guess that's Carnegie-mellon's luck then, that they're unlikely to get sued.
        7 hours is plenty of time to both recieve multiple acceptances and send back replies politely turning them down.
        With hundreds of people, there are bound to be a few.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Nope. I turned down all my other scholarship offers immediately. Now I have nothing...time to begin a life of crime. Now I now how Batman villains feel.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

        I dunno, I handed in my notice about five minutes after getting my new job confirmed. Didn't wait 7 hours just to make sure there wasn't a follow up email retracting the offer. Could have been screwed pretty badly if I had been forced to stay at a company that knew I was trying to leave imminently.

        • by khallow ( 566160 )
          A company I was going to work for lost funding a day before I was to start working there. That was damned exciting.
      • by jpapon ( 1877296 )
        Not to mention that I doubt the university you turned down would give you grief if you called them and explained the situation.
    • Re:hmmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Thursday February 19, 2015 @09:46AM (#49087179) Journal

      Wait though, given its February I assume these are early acceptances for Fall 2015 semester? I don't recall ever "turning down other offers" of acceptance is that even a thing do people do that? I thought you just let the other offers expire. Those letters usually say you have until a certain date to contact the school about enrolling. Given that its still only February, I suspect most students still have the ability to exercise any other offers they might have gotten.

      Well unless they did something stupid like dial up the admissions office at $STATE to say "Suck-it fools I got accepted at Carnegie!"

      • I agree for the most part. I did, however, have a small grant based on the school I picked when I went. I had to say "yes" or "no" to, etc... I could see myself calling them and telling them to give it to someone else, etc... I think it's rather unlikely any particular person would find themselves in a situation like that. But there were 800 affected people... the chances go way up once you see that.

        Too be honest, it's been decades since I went to school, so I'm probably not the best resource in knowing how

      • Wait though, given its February I assume these are early acceptances for Fall 2015 semester? I don't recall ever "turning down other offers" of acceptance is that even a thing do people do that?

        I did when I went to grad school. I called the admissions office and politely declined their offer once I got into my #1 choice. I must admit, since the school was our #1 rival at my undergrad it was a bit enjoyable to turn them down; but I felt I ought to let them know as they had people on the waitlist.

    • by ranton ( 36917 )

      I suspect those that turned down other university offers for this one, only to find out they weren't accepted and no have no-where to go have basis for a lawsuit. And what about those that had scholarships at other schools and lost them? Mistakes like this, and such a critical point in your life, affect the whole of the rest of your life. It could change the entire trajectory of your career.

      The article says people who can show actual harm like the situation you just gave (which was also given in TFA) would probably have a good case for a lawsuit. Although they also mention that because the apology email was sent only a few hours after the mistaken acceptance letters were sent, it is unlikely anyone was harmed. Hopefully most students smart enough to get into Carnegie-Mellon are also smart enough to follow due diligence and verify their financial aid is in order before contacting other colleges

  • Come on baby! make it hurt so good!
    sorry, blame my dendrite that reached over to the 80's section
  • Submitter can't be so dim that "human error" doesn't occur to him, can he?

    (Females in the 21st century are too sainted to make this kind of mistake...)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Reminds me of an experience I had with a university. I had submitted an application for a scholarship. Some time later, I received a letter saying they were missing some piece of information that I had to mail back before they could continue processing my application. A few days passed, and before I mailed in the information, I received a second letter saying that they now had all the information they required, so I didn't bother mailing it.

    Weeks passed with no updates. After the deadline for when the
  • "Computer errors" in these situations usually mean a human entered data incorrectly or someone pushed the wrong button; not that a software bug turned 600 rejections into acceptance.

    As HAL said: It can only be attributable to human error.

  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Thursday February 19, 2015 @10:05AM (#49087337)

    FUCK YOU, Rob, you sad McJob manager! I just got into Carnegie-Mellon's CS program for grad school! So you can SUCK MY DICK, Rob! And that goes for you too Stacey! This motherfucker right here is GOING PLACES, BITCH! So you can shove this smock right up your tight asses! And don't look to see me again, 'cause I'm going to be in Pittsburg getting my Masters on!

    Oh look, I just got another letter from them. Must be to congratulate me AGAIN! Let's open it up, so I can shove it right in your FAT FACES!

  • When I applied there for undergraduate, I was sent two rejection letters, four months apart.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They wanted to be damn sure you didn't show up!

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      When I applied for early admission for my first-choice, I never got a rejection. Or acceptance. I was rejected. No to CM. After the notification period had passed, I had to call them and ask.
  • If the applicant is seriously underqualified and likely to fail, they should say so, give the specific reasons, and advise them not to enter the program.

    Nevertheless, if they've actually sent out an acceptance--if it wasn't a forgery--they should honor the acceptance.

    It's the right thing to do.

  • Why are we turning away applicants when MILLIONS (no citations provided) of STEM jobs remain unfilled? We just need MORE STEM graduates to stay competitive (no citation provided). Schools are turning away qualified and motivated applicants just to fill affirmative action quotas (No citation provided). We must do something! Think of the children[1]!

    (In case you missed it that was sarcasm)

    [1] Disclaimer; proper health care, nutrition, primary and secondary not included.

    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      They're only selecting girls? *ducks*

      The problem is that there are too much applications for most "prestigious" schools to fulfill. Everyone with a scholarship or enough money is going to apply to Harvard, Yale, MIT, Carnegie... Even less-prestigious schools have to turn down thousands of applicants yearly. There are simply too many kids and not enough space to educate these kids.

      There is no shortage of employees in these fields, I know plenty of people in those fields that are unemployed, both freshly educ

      • by plopez ( 54068 )

        Simple, just let anyone teach and the number of students that can be educated will increase. And unemployment will be reduced. A win-win!

  • CMU isn't going to do anything about this to those affected by this mistake. Their accrediting agency, Middle States Commission on Higher Education, http://www.msche.org/ [msche.org] will make you jump through numerous hoops before doing nothing. If you can get them to pony up a t-shirt, you'll be doing well. Take the t-shirt and move on to Plan B.

  • Accept all 800 students in a newly established online degree program. Inform those who successfully achieve an 3.75 their first year will be granted acceptance onto the campus.

  • They're not saying "computer error," but what are the other explanations?

    There is no such thing as a computer error. Either it was user error or the computer was programmed improperly or the computer's hardware was designed/built improperly. ALL of those are human errors. Computers do exactly what they are told to do. Nothing more, nothing less. If the instructions are faulty then the computer will execute those faulty instructions faithfully.

    • If there's no such thing as "computer error", then why do we have all this error-correcting stuff in our memory etc.?

      • by sjbe ( 173966 )

        If there's no such thing as "computer error", then why do we have all this error-correcting stuff in our memory etc.?

        Because the computer was designed in such a way as to require it. While there are a few problems due to noise in communications channels and unstable storage, these are known physics problems with known solutions. Because we know about the problems any errors are for all practical purposes human mistakes. If you know a problem can occur and don't bother to design around it then that is a human error.

        • The term "computer error" doesn't imply that the computer made a mistake on it's own, since computers obviously have no independent judgment. Rather, it's simply used to subdivide all errors between "user errors" and errors found within the hardware or software, or "computer errors". Your argument is akin to saying "There's no such thing as a human, because all humans are actually mammals".

        • Okay, what do we do when cosmic rays decide to change the contents of memory into something else that still has the right checksoms or whatever the heck the memory has? No matter how much redundancy you build in, it's possible for cosmic rays to flip the bits just right. It can occur, and it is impossible to completely design around.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Wrong acceptance email happens every year (watch for them from March through April). Often at private K-12 schools, but also at colleges as well.
    It has nothing to do with nefarious plots; and it doesn't take an especially stupid person.

    Here's a few obvious reasons::
    The programs are only run live once a year. An annual relearning exercise
    "Accepted Applicants" and "All Applicants" reside in the same database. It's easy to export the wrong selection.
    The staff chan

  • "The program accepts fewer than nine percent of more than 1,200 applicants, which places the acceptance level at about a hundred, so they're bad at math, too."

    Does this joke depend on some fact in TFA? (Which i am unable to read at work.) Are they actually supposed to be accepting some number that is significantly higher or lower than 100? As it is that statement stands out as a total non-sequitur.
  • This one hits a bit close to home for me. I'm actually just finishing up my PhD in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon. Within a month, I should be Doctor Atog. Getting an acceptance letter like that can be life-changing. I've spent the past six years of my life in Pittsburgh because of being accepted to CMU. This has been an amazing place and I feel very fortunate for the opportunity to have been here. I've had doors opened because of being here, and I've been able to have some very rewarding

  • You'll have to hire some new professors but it will all work out.

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