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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Political Favors at the University of Illinois

The Chicago Tribune has done a major investigation indicating that politicians often use influence to help constituents and friends gain admittance into the University of Illinois in Urbana/Champaign.

The Tribune on Friday reported evidence that subpar applicants gained admission to the U. of I. with the sway of state lawmakers and university trustees. The investigation revealed that acceptance decisions at times occurred over the objections of admissions officers in deference to power brokers.

University officials issued statements saying they "mostly get it right," but welcome the opportunity to address inequities outlined in the Tribune coverage.

Further analysis of the 1,800 documents reveals how intertwined admissions decisions were with political maneuverings in Springfield. The Tribune found instances in which the school's lobbyists overrule rejections, "blow up" at admissions staff and forward veiled threats from politicians who want candidates admitted.

The report named members of both parties engaging in this practice. Furthermore, the long term and powerful speaker of the Illinois House, Michael Madigan, was found to have asked for the most favors. The students who were backed by politicians wound up on their own list,Category I. The point people from the University for this list were its two top lobbyists, Richard Schoell and Terry McLennand. More importantly, because the University of Illinois is a state school, the very same politicians asking for these favors were often also in a position to control the purse strings on the school.

On one occasion, a relative of Tony Rezko was treated with favorability on the behest of then Governor Rod Blagojevich. Furthermore, the chancellor of the University, Richard Herman, not only approved of the process but on at least one occasion approved a student personally.

She won't hurt us terribly, but she certainly won't help us," then-Dean Heidi Hurd wrote to Chancellor Richard Herman. "She will almost certainly be denied admission if the process unfolds as we predict. But she can probably do the work. If you tell me we need to do this one, we will. We'll remember it though!"

The Tribune has made a renewed effort to expose the corruption both in the city of Chicago and in the state, and this is their best work, in my opinion, so far. It also gives everyone an idea of just how much corruption there is to uncover.

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