What does it cost to get an unqualified student into the University of Illinois law school?
Five jobs for graduating law students, suggest internal e-mails released Thursday.
The documents show for the first time efforts to seek favors -- in this case, jobs -- for admissions, the most troubling evidence yet of how Illinois' entrenched system of patronage crept into the state's most prestigious public university.
They also detail the law school's system for handling "Special Admits," students backed by the politically connected, expanding the scope of a scandal prompted by a Chicago Tribune investigation.
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 go-between that five law school graduates would get jobs. The applicant, a relative of deep-pocketed Blagojevich campaign donor Kerry Peck, appears to have been pushed by Trustee Lawrence Eppley, who often carried the governor's admissions requests.
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. Larry 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. ...
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.
In private, law school officials showed their disdain for the special admits and even worked behind the scenes to campaign against them. At one point in March 2007, Hurd asked staffers to collect data about how the clouted students performed at law school to provide a weapon against their admittance. ...
But their dislike of the program didn't stop administrators from accepting the students. "I'll do my best to keep the number of Provostian admits to a minimum, and extract payment for them," Hurd wrote to her admissions staff in 2003.