Christopher Paslay’s work appeared on the placement tests Temple administered to hundreds of incoming freshmen, but the university said that same work is not quite enough to secure him admission to its graduate school.
Paslay, who teaches English and journalism at Swenson Arts and Technology High School in Philadelphia and has had work published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, applied to Temple’s graduate school once for creative writing in 1999 and again for journalism in 2004. Both times, he was denied admission on the account of his 2.55 undergraduate grade point average from 1995.
In the spring, he learned from one of his students that a commentary he wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer was adapted and used by Temple for placement testing.
Upon learning this, Paslay immediately contacted President Ann Weaver Hart and Dr. Aquiles Iglesias, the dean of the graduate school. They replied by sending him what he said was yet another rejection letter.
“[Iglesias] said my writing had some merit, but that my GPA held me back,” Paslay said. “The letter didn’t even acknowledge anything I said.”
Iglesias said Paslay was denied admission based on other standards in addition to his GPA.
“We have sent him a letter explaining that we liked his writing,” he said. “[But] the reason for denial is the department’s decision. Obviously the department did not feel he was qualified.”
Though Paslay brought Temple’s use of his work to their attention, graduate school officials could not be swayed from their decision that he did not meet their standards.
“The first time I applied and didn’t get in, I could understand that because I didn’t have a good portfolio then,” Paslay said. “But [the second time], I had everything down the list of requirements, and I thought if anybody was going to get in, it was me.”
He said he was angered by the response he received when he questioned Temple’s use of his work against his rejected portfolio and application.
“I felt like it was a third rejection,” Paslay said. “I thought [Iglesias] would at least acknowledge that maybe they made a mistake, but he didn’t.”
Paslay said when he referred to his other credentials, which include some 20 works published in the Inquirer, a self-published novel, a 3.8 GPA from non-matriculated University of the Arts graduate courses, and the student newspaper he established at Swenson, Iglesias told him that these things were all independent of his application.
“If a professor doesn’t realize that the real world is connected with an application, then that professor has lost touch with all the things education is about,” Paslay said.
Margaret M. Pippet, an assistant dean of the graduate school, said students can be denied admission to the school based solely on their undergraduate GPA. She also said that Paslay’s GPA and writing skills had no relation.
“Does [writing well] elevate his GPA to the standard we need? No,” Pippet said.
She said the school is willing to make exceptions based on specific criteria, but that she was unsure whether Paslay had taken these steps.
Paslay said he will not reapply to Temple unless the university contacts him directly.
“If Temple were to read something and they were to make contact with me again, I might consider it,” Paslay said. “But at this point in time, I’m just done with Temple.”
Paslay plans on going back to Holy Family University for his master’s degree in counseling so he can extend his teaching beyond the classroom.
“That might be the next step,” he said. “I feel like I’m going to go down different avenues now.”
Morgan A. Zalot can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.