Documents: UI denied admission to James Holmes in 2011


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The man accused of killing 12 people at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater this summer was denied admission to the University of Iowa’s medical school last year, according to documents released Thursday.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said now-24-year-old James Holmes was academically qualified to study neuroscience at the university, but officials did not see him as “a good personal fit for our program.”

Holmes allegedly opened fire during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in the Aurora Century 16 movie theater on July 20.

Two UI professors didn’t want to see Holmes admitted to the neuroscience program, according to the documents, which The Daily Iowan obtained through a public-records request. Neither professor mentioned in the documents provided the DI with any details about Holmes’ interview with UI officials.

“Do NOT offer admission under any circumstances,” UI Professor Daniel Tranel wrote in an email dated Jan. 30, 2011, regarding Holmes’ application. Tranel is director of the neuroscience graduate program and a neurology and psychology professor.

UI psychology professor Mark Blumberg agreed with Tranel, writing simply “Don’t admit.”

Blumberg told The Daily Iowan he didn’t have anything else to add to what information has already been released.

“I have no specific recollections to share,” he wrote in an email.

Tranel did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Moore said the release of Holmes’ application materials does not violate privacy laws and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act does not protect his application materials because “he never matriculated here.”

The UI released no official statement on the documents or the admissions decision.

According to those documents, Holmes applied for a position in the graduate neuroscience program for the 2011-2012 school year. He submitted his application in October 2010. Officials offered Holmes an interview for the neuroscience program on Dec. 16, 2010 and had an interview scheduled for Jan. 28, 2011. He was declined admission on April 8, 2011.

The University of Iowa Neuroscience Graduate Program was established in 1984. It holds three interdisciplinary research tracks available to students in the program: molecular/cellular, developmental/systems, and cognitive/behavioral research. A Ph.D. in neuroscience typically takes four to five years to complete, according to the program’s website. Tuition for the program is roughly $25,000 for in-state students, $41,000 for out-of-state students.

“I desire to attend graduate study at the University of Iowa, a leader and innovator in scientific research, because the university will provide opportunities to pursue my foremost passions, the science of learning, cognition, and memory,” Holmes wrote in his admissions essay to the UI. “… I believe graduate study at the University of Iowa will provide commensurate opportunities for a satisfying neuroscience research experience.”

Holmes’s application detailed past projects and accomplishments and said he aspired to become a cognitive neuroscientist.

“My lifelong goal is to increase the efficiency of how human beings learn and remember,” Holmes wrote, later adding, “In the field of cognitive neuroscience, researchers come from many different backgrounds and bring part of who they are to their investigations. I, too, will bring my past, specifically my strong moral upbringing.”

Holmes, who indicated he attended the University of California-Riverside from 2006-2010, listed five other schools to which he had applied for graduate studies: Texas A&M University, Kansas University, University of Michigan, University of Alabama, and the University of Colorado — the school he ultimately attended.

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