University Of Illinois Trustees Refuse To Resign Over Scandal

Lawrence Eppley resigned Tuesday

A day after a central figure in the University of Illinois admissions scandal resigned his position on the school's governing board, few if any of his fellow trustees are ready to follow. One, in fact, warns against the mass exodus that Lawrence Eppley called for in his resignation and backed by some lawmakers.

The state commission examining the influence of political clout on admissions at the University of Illinois, meanwhile, heard Wednesday from a state senator who said legislators and trustees shouldn't be judged collectively by the panel, and from the head of the university's College of Medicine, who said connections don't benefit applicants looking for a place at the school.

Trustee David Dorris said Wednesday that Eppley's resignation was "personally sad" but professionally overdue. University e-mails show Eppley pushed candidates backed by ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

But Dorris, a lawyer from the small central Illinois town of LeRoy, warned that if the board were swept clean by either resignation or ouster by the governor, the university would lack good govern ance for months or longer.

Having nine new trustees at one time would be a disaster for that university that would harm it for a long, long time," said Dorris, a graduate of the university's law school who was appointed to the board by Blagojevich in 2005. "For at least six months but probably a year, you would have people that would probably not be able to make sound decisions for that university."

"It may seem bad right now," he said, "(but) you can make it worse."

Dorris and trustee Ed McMillan, who was appointed earlier this year by Gov. Pat Quinn, both say they don't plan to step down. A spokesman for board Chairman Niranjan Shah says he has no immediate plans to resign.

Another trustee, Robert Vickrey, says he hasn't ruled out resignation but doesn't plan to do anything until the Illinois Admissions Review Commission issues its report to Quinn, which it's expected to do by Aug. 8. The other four trustees could not be reached for comment by The Associated Press.

Eppley is the first figure to resign in the examination of university admissions that began two months ago. Thousands of pages of e-mails and other documents revealed the existence of a list of hundreds of politically connected students, known as Category I, and the admission of a handful of those students despite lackluster credentials.

Quinn formed the commission to investigate links between university admissions practices and political influence.

Eppley, in his resignation letter, also urged unnamed administrators to "assume responsibility for their roles in this matter."

He notified university President B. Joseph White of Blagojevich's interest in at least some candidates.

Commission Chairman Abner Mikva said before the panel's latest meeting in Chicago on Wednesday that, while he supports trustee resignations, he doesn't believe the commission should recommend that the governor ``fine-tune'' the administration.

"I leave it to them to straighten out their own house," he said in an interview.

Mikva has also said he doesn't plan to focus on General Assembly members, though the vast majority of candidates on the Category I list landed there after inquiries from state legislators.

But Dorris, who has urged White to resign, argued that the commission is unfairly focusing on trustees while allowing lawmakers to walk away from a mess of their own creation.

One of those lawmakers, state Sen. Kwame Raoul, testified before commissioners in Chicago that five inquiries from his office were for students affected by Hurricane Katrina. Raoul said he doesn't believe in pressuring the university to admit unqualified students.

All legislators and trustees should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, Raoul said.

"Don't use a broad brush to characterize them all," he testified.

Also Wednesday, medical school Dean Joseph Flaherty told the commission that the school has a 25-member admission committee, leaving no room for outside influence.

"You'd have to have a conspiracy of 25," Flaherty said.

The only trustee to so far escape calls to quit from lawmakers and others is McMillan, a veteran of dozens of governing boards.

He said he doesn't know much yet about the degree to which trustees let state politics color their judgment or stepped into direct university management _ a charge leveled this week by two past university presidents _ but says neither should happen.

"If it gets to the point that the trustees are delving into the day-to-day management and operation of a business," he said, "something's wrong."

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