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University of Illinois: Allegations that the school gave admissions treatment

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  • University of Illinois: Allegations that the school gave admissions treatment

    Blago’s Back: Illinois Admissions Scandal Widens to the Law School

    The situation out at the University of Illinois keeps getting stranger — and more damning, it seems, amid increasing allegations that the school gave preferential admissions treatment to hundreds of college applicants who had help from insiders.

    Last week we touched on the situation, after the Chicago Tribune sued the university to gain access to student records.

    The latest news cuts even closer to our heart, because it involves law-school applicants. And we can practically guarantee the latest allegations will send a shudder up the spine of anyone who’s applied — or even thought of applying — to law school.

    According to the Trib, in one e-mail exchange, University of Illinois Chancellor Richard Herman forced the law school to admit an unqualified applicant backed by then- Gov. Rod Blagojevich while seeking a promise from the governor’s liason that five law school graduates would get jobs. The applicant was reportedly a relative of a deep-pocketed Blagojevich campaign donor. The request was reportedly pushed by a U of I trustee named Lawrence Eppley. According to the Trib (brace yourselves, LBers):
    When Law School Dean Heidi Hurd balked on accepting the applicant in April 2006, Herman replied that the request came “Straight from the G. My apologies. [Eppley] has promised to work on jobs (5). What counts?”

    Hurd replied: “Only very high-paying jobs in law firms that are absolutely indifferent to whether the five have passed their law school classes or the Bar.”

    Hurd’s e-mail suggests that students getting the jobs are to be those in the “bottom of the class.” Law school rankings depend in part on the job placement rate of graduates.

    Let us pause and catch our breath. In other words, in exchange for admitting a less-than-qualified applicant, the law-school dean demanded five “very high-paying jobs” to students regardless of whether those five passed their classes or the Bar.

    Gov. Pat Quinn has convened a commission to investigate the situation, and has tapped retired judge Abner Mikva to chair it. On Thursday, Herman declined to discuss the exchange with the Trib. “In the future, I expect to be talking to the Mikva commission and I believe I owe them my first public statement on these matters,” he said.

    On Thursday in Chicago, university trustees met in emergency closed session for more than three hours before releasing the documents. After the meeting, Trustee David Dorris expressed his concerns about what he read. He said exceptions can be made for some applicants with subpar academic records, such as athletes, but “the fact that Rod Blagojevich puts pressure on is not an extenuating circumstance.”
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