UofI Cloutgate's Family Plan

U of I created job for trustee chair son-in-law

If it hasn't been clear enough up to now, the latest revelation arising out of the University of Illinois admissions scandal seals the deal on the proposition that the board of trustees at the school considered their berth there a playpen of clout.

And it wasn't just using their position to push politically connected but underqualifed students into their institution: it was about personal gain.

And once gain, chancellor Richard Herman was right in the middle of the action.

"University of Illinois board chair Niranjan Shah used his connection with the chancellor in 2007 to get a high-paying university job for his future son-in-law, a Dutch citizen seeking work in the United States," the Tribune reports.

"Campus officials went to great lengths to comply with his request, creating a position for Maarten de Jeu without conducting the usual search, securing a visa so he could work in the country and paying him a salary of $115,000 a year - more than most other employees with the same title."

Nice deal if you can get it. Which you can, if you know the right people.

Like chancellor Richard Herman.

Herman "dipped into campus reserves to pay his salary because the position wasn't otherwise funded in the department that hired him," the Tribune reports.

In an act of courage that shows Herman and Shah have nothing to hide and nothing to fear from reporters' questions, both of them refused interviews and agreed only to respond to the newspaper in writing.

"Trustee Shah urged us to explore a job for Mr. de Jeu," Herman wrote to the paper. "Accordingly I made efforts to see if there was an appropriate position within the university community for which he was well-suited."

And when he found none, he created one.

"I thought he would be an excellent hire for U. of I. as it expanded its international research and consulting programs," Shah wrote.

So they did. Just for his future son-in-law; not other applicants accepted.

Shah is expected to appear today before the state commission examining the admissions scandal. He came to his position through an appointment by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, for whom he had been a major fundraiser.

Shah "lobbied for nine applicants in the last three years. In a January 2006 e-mail to Chancellor Richard Herman, he inquired about 'the son of a key employee of mine'," notes the Journal-Courier of downstate Jacksonville. "'I wonder if you might be able to see if anything can be done here.' In a 2007 e-mail, he asked Herman to 'take a second look' at two applicants who had been denied admission."

Trustee David Dorris is also scheduled to appear today, as is the chairman of the state House Higher Education Committee, Mike Boland (D-Moline), who was among the first to call on the board of trustees to resign en masse, a call that is now sure to grow louder.

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

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