June 29, 2009
Did the University of Illinois Barter Jobs for Law School Grads in Exchange for Law School Admission of Under-Qualified, Politically Connected Students?
Factors other than GPA/LSAT scores ought to be taken into consideration when it comes to law school admissions but what was happening at the University of Illinois College of Law is not an example that illustrates this point. The Chicago Tribune is reporting that former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich pressured University of Illinois Chancellor, Richard Herman, and the former dean of the University's College of Law, Heidi Hurd, to admit under-qualified students who were politically connected. In exchange for admitting those students, university officials attempted to obtain jobs for College of Law graduates.
How many politically connected students? According to the Chicago Tribune article, the College of Law admitted at least 24 so-called "special admits" during a four-year span. "[T]hey had lower grades and standardized test scores than the general applicant pool and they lagged behind their classmates once admitted. On average, they maintained a 2.86 grade point average during their first year compared with the 3.2 grade point average for the overall class ... One faced formal disciplinary charges and left the school." The Chicago Tribune article also reports that "law school officials showed their disdain for the special admits and even worked behind the scenes to campaign against them."
What did it cost to get under-qualified politically connected students admitted to the University of Illinois College of Law? Five jobs for graduating law students suggest internal e-mails released last week and published here by the Chicago Tribune. Quoting from an email attributed to then Dean Hurd by the Chicago Tribune, the College of Law allegedly bartered admission for "very high-paying jobs in law firms that are absolutely indifferent to whether the five have passed their law school classes or the Bar." As noted by Brian Leiter (Chicago), the Chicago Tribune glosses over the sarcasm in this particular email. In a letter to the Chicago Tribune that denies any jobs-for-admission scheme, former Dean Hurd writes, "While my sarcasm was clearly lost on the tin ears of some, my e-mail exchanges in response to queries about this were on their face facetious." However, there is more damning evidence that U of I and its law school were active, if relucant, participants in a corrupt admissions scheme.
Corruption in law school admissions, "Chicago-style." Chicago Tribune reporters Jodi S. Cohen, Tara Malone and Robert Becker write "the e-mails paint a picture of how law school officials operated a parallel admissions review for clouted students. They withheld denials until the year's end, cleared decisions with top university administrators, and debated whether to accept candidates with stronger credentials -- or stronger connections. Several clouted students received full-ride scholarships." Commenting on the content of the incriminating emails, Above the Law writes, "Warning, these emails are not safe for naive people who are unaccustomed with the 'Chicago-style' of getting things done."
This snip from the Chicago Tribune's Sunday editorial entitled "U. of I.'s cynical breach of public trust."
We don't know how many U. of I. and government officials participated in -- or, by their silence, tolerated -- corrupt admissions. We trust that federal prosecutors and the gubernatorial commission chaired by retired Judge Abner Mikva will uncover each betrayal of the public trust, and identify the schemers and witnesses.
Illinois citizens must turn to the feds and Mikva because, with the most recent revelations, U. of I. trustees and administrators have lost whatever last shred of credibility they had. We hope the independent investigators also demand to know why this most recent batch of devastating e-mail didn't surface -- despite the Tribune's request under Illinois' notoriously weak Freedom of Information Act -- until the feds began raining subpoenas on state universities.
Think this through: How deeply did the influence of money and politics corrupt U. of I. admissions? Deep enough that the U. of I. apparently would foist its cynical game on the rest of Illinois by attempting a barter: If we have to take these weak applicants, you have to put some of our grads into public or private law jobs. Thanks, U. of I.
First, it sounds like Boss Blagojevich was taking tips from the first Mayor Daley's playbook in Blagojevich's attempt to acquire absolute control of Illinois state government. Those of us who call Chicago our home have seen this sort of thing happen time and time again in Illinois politics. Now where did I put my old copies of Len O'Connor's Clout: Mayor Daley and His City (1984) and Mike Royko's Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago (1971)...
Second, I seriously doubt U of I or its law school are the only public institutions of higher education that have been "persuaded" to admit under-qualified students from politically connected families. Granted the full scholarships are a bit over the top but some IHE administrators are probably envious that they didn't think up a jobs-for-admission scheme. Or maybe they have... [JH]
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