Paul L. Caron

Monday, June 1, 2009

Illinois Bends Admissions Standards to Admit Politically Connected

Chicago Tribune, U. of I. Admissions: How politicians Pressured University to Admit Students:

State Sen. Chris Lauzen believed a student deserved admission to the University of Illinois law school in 2005, and he let the university's lobbyists know.

The school's dean thought otherwise.

"She won't hurt us terribly, but she certainly won't help us," then-Dean Heidi Hurd wrote to Chancellor Richard Herman. "She will almost certainly be denied admission if the process unfolds as we predict. But she can probably do the work. If you tell me we need to do this one, we will. We'll remember it though!"

"Please admit," the chancellor replied. "I understand no harm."

The e-mail exchange, one of hundreds received by the Tribune under a Freedom of Information Act request, embodies an ongoing power struggle between educators who want to protect the integrity of the state's most prestigious public university and administrators who also feel compelled to appease powerful lawmakers.

The Tribune on Friday reported evidence that subpar applicants gained admission to the U. of I. with the sway of state lawmakers and university trustees. The investigation revealed that acceptance decisions at times occurred over the objections of admissions officers in deference to power brokers.

Inside Higher Ed, Blago-Style Admissions:

Paul Pless, assistant dean of law school admission, wrote in one of the uncovered e-mails that he was concerned a student being forcibly admitted with a GPA and LSAT score well below the 25th percentile mark of the incoming class would hurt the law school’s status.

The law school would have to “admit at least 2 additional students to ensure there is no negative impact on the profile, and I can’t say for certain that even that will be enough,” Pless wrote. “Since we are so late in the process it will be unlikely that I will be able to find any single candidate that would have both the LSAT and the GPA to counteract [name redacted] numbers. By admitting [name redacted] we are putting in jeopardy the goal of increasing our median GPA to a 3.5.”

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This is no revelation. The top tier is riddled with such communication. If we believe that the top law schools subscribe exclusively to meritorious admissions, then we are as diluted as a cheap bottle of scotch. The only exception is they don't get caught because they communicate via phone calls, on person, or postal service.

Posted by: CBrock | Jun 2, 2009 7:05:34 AM