There has been a long controversy over “legacy” admissions and the politically well connected applicants in law schools. The University of Illinois law school has been entangled in this controversy with the release of an embarrassing email exchange between former Dean Heidi Hurd, Chancellor Richard Herman, and Illinois State Sen. Chris Lauzen on a student Hurd believed was unworthy of admission — but then accepted.
Lauzen wanted a student admitted and, rather than a simple letter of recommendation, he called the school’s lobbyist.
Hurd wrote Chancellor Richard Herman saying “She won’t hurt us terribly, but she certainly won’t help us. 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!”
Herman was replied with “Please admit. I understand no harm.” That of course depends on the meaning of harm and whether you include fairness, academic excellence, or the avoiding of hypocrisy.
Admissions may fall into the category of legislation and sausage with things that you do not want to watch being made. However, the emails were discovered by the Tribune under a Freedom of Information Act which is exploring the admission of unworthy students to please powerful donors or politicians.
One such rejected student was a a relative of Antoin “Tony” Rezko, a shady character connected in a land deal with the Obamas and later convicted on public corruption charges. The student was admitted after the intervention of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is now under indictment himself.
What is astonishing is the Lauzen insists that he not only acted appropriately but that Hurd should be fired for the tone of her emails” “If it were me, I’d fire her, maybe for insolence.”
The fact is that this is hardly unique to the University of Illinois. However, the intervention of the Chancellor is not so common and might have led some deans to push back on the control of the law school over its own affairs. Nevertheless, Hurd is obviously not subtle in telling Herman that this is not a fair selection or good choice for the school. I expect many deans would feel uncomfortable with such a review of emails and messages — part of the benefits of being private rather than public schools.
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