The University of Illinois official whose head seems most likely to be hoisted on a pike in the ongoing clout admissions scandal on Monday testified to a state commission investigating the mess - just as the list of questionable practices allegedly under his direction has gotten hinkier.
Chancellor Richard Herman - not to be confused with President B. Joseph White - said he had the best interests of the school in mind when he pushed for the admittance of politically connected, less qualified students, but he said that he plans to recommend that the university get rid of the clout list and enact reforms such as requiring all requests on applicants' behalf to be made in writing.
Herman testified before a state commission formed by Gov. Pat Quinn to investigate the role political clout played in the university's admission process.
The known scope of those with enough clout to pull such strings grew over the weekend when the Tribune reported that athletic department boosters were able to wield influence with non-athletes as well as the avenues used to get recruits with poor academic records into the school.
"[Athletic director Ron] Guenther and other athletic officials described an informal system where a donor might mention an applicant, often a relative or child of a family with strong ties to the Urbana-Champaign campus," the Tribunereported. "The athletic department then vets the student's credentials and passes along those candidates who 'we really think is worthy of becoming a student,' Guenther said. He said they recommended two or three students a year.
"This year, half of the six candidates backed by the athletics department were initially recommended for denials by admissions officials. The outcomes for five of the six are known. Three were admitted off the wait list, one was deferred and one denied, according to a campus log of Category I requests."
And yet, Guenther told the paper that ""It would be a misunderstanding if someone thinks the athletic director can apply pressure to the admissions process." (Which is oddly reminiscent of former Gov. Jim Thompsondisavowing any influence he has despite writing numerous letters of recommendations for prospective students.)
Herman can also expect questions about today's Tribune report that 11 students were clouted into the university's liberal arts college in 2007 ahead of 149 others who ranked ahead of them.
Herman "routinely overruled his admissions staff to admit clouted students," according to the Tribune.
In a May interview, Herman defended the practice, saying "We are a public institution and I think we have to answer to the state and that means those who support us."
Which, of course, is nonsense given that taxpayers support the institution with the assumption that their kids will be given a fair shake to attend it. Maybe that will come up at today's hearing.
The commission, led by former federal Judge Abner Mikva, is due to issue a report next month.
Steve Rhodes is the proprietor ofThe Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.