Former University of Illinois law school dean Heidi Hurd is scheduled to testify today to the commission examining the school's clout admissions, and the key question for Hurd may turn out to be this: Was she joking?
From Hurd in a letter published in the Tribune and elsewhere:
"Contrary to recent headlines, the College of Law did not seek or receive any jobs from anyone in exchange for the admission of students.It did not enter into a ;jobs-for-entry scheme' or engage in quid-pro-quo exchanges of admissions favors for employment favors. Indeed, it takes very little to make clear that the employment challenges of students who are not academically successful could never be overcome by anyone’s promises to furnish the College with job opportunities, as the recently published exchanges should have made clear. While my sarcasm was clearly lost on the tin ears of some reporters, my email exchanges in response to queries about this were on their face facetious."
And truthfully, they sure sound that way. To wit:
"In reply to a question about what jobs would count to meet the employment needs of students with poor academic predictors but powerful personal connections, I wrote: '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'."
As Hurd goes on to note, there are likely no such law firms indifferent to whether prospective hires have actually passed their classes or the bar exam.
"And when asked whether such students might find employment in government positions, I was being equally sarcastic when I replied: 'I'm betting the Governorship will be open. One of them can have that job. Other jobs in Government are fine, since kids who can't pass the Bar and can't think are close enough for government work."
Verdict: Reporters had tin ears.
Now, does that exonerate Hurd?
"During testimony Monday, an assistant dean said that over four years, the university forced the law school to accept 24 students with political connections who wouldn't have been admitted otherwise," AP reports.
Seasoned Illinoisans might think that Hurd, in fact, blew it: It seems she participated in clouting students into her school without even getting jobs in return.