Illini Clout Lout Grilled

UofIi official testifies: "This was not my finest hour"

The University of Illinois's chief clout lout testified to a state commission on Monday and it was clear that while his moral compass has been broken for years, his political compass is working just fine.

Richard Herman, the chancellor the Urban-Champaign campus at the center of the clouted admissions scandal, now says that "looking back on it in aggregate" he realizes the secret system he has administered is wrong and needs to be fixed.

Herman's testimony came amidst the release of still more e-mail exchanges about a trustee acting on behalf of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to pressure admittance of a substandard law school applicant. The e-mail exchange was not included among those provided earlier to the Tribune in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, despite President. B. Joseph White's vow of transparency.

But it was law school admissions dean Paul Pless whose testimony was perhaps the most revealing.

"[Pless] testified Monday that 24 underqualified applicants - about 3 to 4 percent of the student body - gained entry during a recent four-year period because of political connections," the Tribune reports. "If left to their own merits, the candidates would have been rejected, he said."

Pless, a U of I law school graduate himself, said he thought the practice was "wrong" and "distasteful," but did not report it to anyone because he didn't think it was illegal.

It's not clear how this squares with the law school's honor code.

Meanwhile, Herman told commission chair Abner Mikva that "this was not my finest hour."

Nor your finest 11 years; Herman arrived at the university in 1998.

"It was on his watch that the arm-twisting evolved into a formal process, with a seperate admissions track for well-connected applicants," the Tribune editorial page notes.

And Herman continued to defend being "responsive" to inquiries from very important people instead of treating all applicants equally.

"Chancellor shows he still doesn't fully grasp problem," says a headline above Mark Brown's column today.

The Sun-Times's editorial page called Herman "a bowl of bureaucratic Jello in a suit."

And maybe, soon, a bowl of ex-bureaucratic Jello.

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

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