Trustees Take the Fall

But Illinois's pols are the heart of the problem.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    So a state panel recommended the Board of Trustees at the University of Illinois resign en masse. That's no surprise, and it'll never happen.

    What is surprising is that some of worst actors in the affair appear to get off scot free.

    The review board saved its harshest words for the University President B. Joseph White and Urbana Chancellor Richard Herman, while the politicians at the front end of the scandal - several of whom have claimed they were merely performing a service for their constituents - are left to go about their business as if none of this ever happened.

    The worst of the lot - House Speaker Michael Madigan, for example - simply declined to appear before the review board, as if explanation and accountability were beneath them.

    But Illinois's pols are the heart of the problem.

    As the Chicago Tribune puts it, "an eight-week investigation found that the state's culture of political dealmaking seeped into the admissions process at the University of Illinois."

    In fact, the admissions saga resonated with the public not only because one of their kids could have been screwed out of admission in favor of an unqualified but politically connected peer, but because it illustrated just how many nooks and crannies of the state are filthy with our infamous, corroding brand of clout.

    "This is a wake-up call for higher education," said commission attorney Ted Chung, the governor's general counsel. "Now, universities across the country will never be able to claim plausible deniability, like we have no idea this was improper."

    Did anyone really believe this wasn't improper? 

    Yes.

    Herman, for example, testified before the commission that the whole thing only looks bad in retrospect.

    Others maintained to the end that doing favors for the pols who could potentially affect your funding is just good politics and good for business.

    So if figures that, as the Tribune reports, "The commission's 45-page report blasts the law and business schools for their admissions abuses. The law school, in particular, was cited for 'some of the most egregious lapses of ethics and judgment discovered by the commission'."

    And yet, former law school dean Heidi Hurd declared this week that she was a "victim," even though she went along with the program. By contrast, current law school dean Bruce Smith says, according to the Trib, that he would quit before caving in to clout.

    If only White, Herman and our elected officials felt the same way.

    The headline on the Tribune's story today: "Panel: Leaders failed the U. of I."

    Exactly right.

    They, too, should go now.

    Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.