University of Illinois Law School Accused of Trading Admission for Unqualified Student in Exchange for Five Jobs for Graduates

chancellor142px-UIUC_seal.svgThe scandal involving University of Illinois Law School is getting worse by the day. We previously discussed the scandal involving the admissions process and the use of “special admits” where deans circumvent the usual process to guarantee admission for certain well-connected students.The Chicago Tribune continues to uncover shocking examples of manipulation of the admissions process at Illinois by politicians and donors. This may be an example of why admissions are like sausage and legislation — things that you should not watch being made.

The latest disclosure involves an unqualified student who was given admission in exchange for a quid pro quo arrangement — a promise of five jobs for graduates if the student was admitted.

Once again, the main culprit appears to be University of Illinois Chancellor Richard Herman who comes across more like a patronage boss than an academic. The other party is again former dean Heidi Hurd, who objects but does not appear to fight particularly hard for the academic integrity of the process or school. 0718Hurd,Heidi_w

In one e-mail exchange, Herman forces Hurd to admit an unqualified applicant backed by former (and now disgraced) Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Herman appears to have been negotiating with Blagojevich political operative and Trustee Lawrence Eppley. The student was a relative of major political donor Kerry Peck. Herman acts like a petty party functionary. When Hurd objects, Herman responds that the request came “Straight from the G. My apologies. Larry has promised to work on jobs (5). What counts?” Hurd responds with “Only very high-paying jobs in law firms that are absolutely indifferent to whether the five have passed their law school classes or the Bar.” Hurd then goes not to suggest that the five must come from the “bottom of the class” — presumably a way of increasing the school’s placement figures for the annual ranking by U.S. News and World Report.

Hurd treated the process as inevitable and, instead of refusing such admits, she promised to get a good deal, telling the admissions staff in 2003 “I’ll do my best to keep the number of Provostian admits to a minimum, and extract payment for them.”

The fact is that such special admits occur in some form in most, if not all, schools. Schools like to pick legacy admissions for families with multi-generations at the school and also favor the children of major donors. However, deans are expected to guarantee that such factors are given some but not determinative weight — requiring that the students be otherwise competitive and not substantially below admissions standards.

While Hurd can be criticized for failing to fight harder, she clearly did object to the process. Yet, the quid pro quo arrangement was an outrage and Hurd should never have participated in such an arrangement. There is a time when a dean should resign rather than allow such a corruption of the process.

The person most at fault is obviously Herman who should lose his job over this controversy. Herman abandoned any semblance of academic integrity and independence. He actively worked to corrupt the admissions process, even after the objections of the dean. The trading of unqualified admissions for jobs is an outrageous act for both Herman and Hurd. Eppley also needs to be removed from any continued position as trustee and barred from any later position of authority with the university.

I just spoke at the University of Illinois to a group of judges and I ran into a member of the Illinois faculty who expressed his utter disgust with both Herman and Hurd. What is sad is that this is one of the finest law schools in the country and both the students and faculty deserved far better treatment.

These emails demean the entire teaching academy and haggling over price like jobs does little to improve the situation. It brings to mind Winston Churchill’s famous exchange at dinner with a woman when he asked her if she would sleep with him for one million dollars. When she said that she would, he asked her if she would sleep with him for one dollar. She was deeply insulted and asked “What do you think I am, a prostitute?” “Madam” Churchill replied, “We’ve already established what you are, now we’re just haggling over the price.” It appears that the price at Illinois is five jobs. While I do not believe that many deans or provosts would have accepted such an exchange, there are many deans and provosts who are all too willing to haggle over price.

While some defenders suggest that this is an inevitable factor for any public school subject to legislative authority, I disagree. First, as a public institution, the provost and dean has an added obligation to guarantee the citizens of Illinois that these valuable slots are being awarded fairly and openly. Second, if the dean had fought this corruption, she would have had a large and powerful alumni in the state to back her. The Illinois graduates are fiercely loyal and hold powerful positions in the bar and the courts. Some of the judges who I spoke with last week were Illinois graduates and expressed outrage at the manipulation of the process. Finally, regardless of whether you are a public or a private institution, you have an independent obligation as an academic to protect the integrity of your school and the academy at large.

I am not surprised that a bottom feeder like Blogojevich would degrade this process, but it is the participation of academics like Herman and Hurd that is a shocking addition to this scandal.

For the full story, click here.

50 thoughts on “University of Illinois Law School Accused of Trading Admission for Unqualified Student in Exchange for Five Jobs for Graduates”

  1. Jill writes: Grades don’t necessarily correlate with real accomplishment or work. Evaluations of our work are important but have nothing to do with grading. There are many ways of evaluating ourselves and others– letter grades are one of the worst. I must point again to the many examples in our current ruling elite of there being no correspondence between doing good work in one’s life and grades or graduation from prestige universities. I do agree that college isn’t for everyone. People like GWB, Dick and friends as well as he current crew wasted the resources of a good education. They learned only how to manipulate the system and gain power. They did not gain knowledge or wisdom and they have only added misery to the lives of others.

    me: again, I disagree. If you don’t study, you should not pass the test. Math for example, or spelling, or reading comprehension or english composition, or history exams are all tools for assessing if a student has done the work learned the material and can demonstrate that accomplishment. Kids who do not turn in their homework do not do as well as kids who do.

    GWB was a C student and had he not belonged to a powerful family would never have been ladled from one vat of privilege to another. who knows, had he not been a scion of wealth and privilege he might have been motivated to get better grades.

    how adults use their knowledge has little to do with their GPA. ever wonder why after x number of years in the workplace no one asks you what you got on your SAT’s ? That’s because once you enter the workplace you have the annual evaluation which is largely a subjective assessment of one’s capabilities and accomplishments sometimes crafted by someone who may not like you personally and thusly gives you a lower eval. Your pay raises are tied to this system.

    now. which do you like better?

  2. Jill:

    “In this groundbreaking book, Alfie Kohn shows that while manipulating people with incentives seems to work in the short run, it is a strategy that ultimately fails and even does lasting harm. Our workplaces and classrooms will continue to decline, he argues, until we begin to question our reliance on a theory of motivation derived from laboratory animals.”

    W. Edwards Deming has been talking about this for years, since the 50’s I imagine. So the work you site is neither new nor cutting edge. And in fact your idea about grades was a Deming proposal from many years ago. It is one of the few things I disagree with him about.

  3. “I think every school should have admission by lotto, and I’m serious. Anyone can apply, put the name in the hopper and draw out the number of slots open. This would make for a much more diverse population at our universities. The schools should have extensive remedial help to anyone that needs it because their schooling occurred in areas that were underserved, or they are rich, well served but stupid.”

    Jill:

    you have to have some sort of standard for entry. While I agree that you dont have to be a rocket scientist to attend law or medical school and that Poli Sci and Zoology may not be the most rigorous academic pursuits, there still are those pesky LSATs and MCATs that one needs to get decent scores or attending is out of the question.

    Your way would allow too many unprepared people to attend and would most probably lead to a huge attrition rate, and would definitely cost a staggering amount of money.

    You cannot take a sows ear and make a silk purse out of it. As much as you may want to believe in egalitarianism, the very nature of the human condition is some people are more equal than others. I for one would love to have the looks of Cary Grant, the brains of Steven Hawkings and Bill Gates’ money and Michael Jordans athletic ability.
    But unfortunately I do not.

    When you try and make someone something they are not, it leads to emotional trouble. Taking a person that is mentally unable to handle the rigors of law school will not lead to an egalitarian society. The best way is to allow equal and fair access to all based on merit, which is typically a combination of hard work and intellectual aptitude.

    There is nothing wrong with digging a ditch for a living if one does it well.

  4. Nothing surprising here. Harvard, Yale, Stanford have been trading admissions for money and prestige for decades and longer.

    In New York City, the 20-something owner of The New York Observer newspaper, Jared Kushner, was admitted to Harvard not long after his family had donated over $2 million. He was then admitted to NYU for law and business degrees after a chair was endowed.

    When the time comes, Barack Obama’s daughters will admit universities, not the other way around. They will tell University X that it will have the privilege of accepting them. There academic performance will have nothing to do with it.

    This phenomenon is only becoming more severe as the United States becomes ever more a society of two classes — the new nobility and the new serfdom.

  5. Grades correlate best with family income, which is one reason our nominal meritocracy is self-perpetuating.

  6. Here’s a well researched book to back up what I’m saying:

    “Our basic strategy for raising children, teaching students, and managing workers can be summarized in six words: Do this and you’ll get that. We dangle goodies (from candy bars to sales commissions) in front of people in much the same way that we train the family pet.

    In this groundbreaking book, Alfie Kohn shows that while manipulating people with incentives seems to work in the short run, it is a strategy that ultimately fails and even does lasting harm. Our workplaces and classrooms will continue to decline, he argues, until we begin to question our reliance on a theory of motivation derived from laboratory animals.

    Drawing from hundreds of studies, Kohn demonstrates that people actually do inferior work when they are enticed with money, grades, or other incentives. Programs that use rewards to change people’s behavior are similarly ineffective over the long run. Promising goodies to children for good behavior can never produce anything more than temporary obedience. In fact, the more we use artificial inducements to motivate people, the more they lose interest in what we’re bribing them to do. Rewards turn play into work, and work into drudgery.

    Step by step, Kohn marshals research and logic to prove that pay-for-performance plans cannot work; the more an organization relies on incentives, the worse things get. Parents and teachers who care about helping students to learn, meanwhile, should be doing everything possible to help them forget that grades exist. Even praise can become a verbal bribe that gets kids hooked on our approval.

    Rewards and punishments are just two sides of the same coin — and the coin doesn’t buy very much. What is needed, Kohn explains, is an alternative to both ways of controlling people. The final chapters offer a practical set of strategies for parents, teachers, and managers that move beyond the use of carrots or sticks.
    Seasoned with humor and familiar examples, Punished by Rewards presents an argument that is unsettling to hear but impossible to dismiss.”

    http://www.alfiekohn.org/books/pbr.htm

  7. GWL,

    Grades don’t necessarily correlate with real accomplishment or work. Evaluations of our work are important but have nothing to do with grading. There are many ways of evaluating ourselves and others– letter grades are one of the worst. I must point again to the many examples in our current ruling elite of there being no correspondence between doing good work in one’s life and grades or graduation from prestige universities. I do agree that college isn’t for everyone. People like GWB, Dick and friends as well as he current crew wasted the resources of a good education. They learned only how to manipulate the system and gain power. They did not gain knowledge or wisdom and they have only added misery to the lives of others.

  8. GWMom,
    I agree with you that grades are a good indicater of the work being done. We are not all the same and the system works for the most students who are willing to work for it.

  9. Jill writes: There should be no incentive for grades, only learning. The horrible pressure on young people to get good grades impedes knowledge. These young people are often narrow and focused on rote knowledge. I feel our whole system needs to change. It doesn’t foster understanding, it demands mindless obediance. It shows no compassion or desire for beauty and creativity. It’s not about fostering children, it’s about controlling them. The sooner it goes, the better off we’ll all be.

    People want to learn, feel, explore, and experiment. We should go with that and quit being concerned about grades.

    me: I totally disagree. grades whether they are letter grades or narrative evaluations are crucial for students ability to mark their own path through academia. in this way they are able to compare their progress not only with their peers but with themselves and are a great motivator. The academic path is a narrow one for some students who know what they want to do educationally speaking, like my kid, who was accepted to law school right out of high school and graduated high school with a 4.6 gpa (lots of AP classes). The grades she got in high school got her into the university she wanted to attend and its law school and the grades she gets in law school among other areas of evaluation will get her into a job she wants.
    for students who are not academically motivated, who don’t care about learning or grades, releasing them from the process won’t do anything except underscore the meaningless of education and there are lots of kids who just don’t see the value in going to school and don’t have the love of learning that my kid has. my nephew is a great example of this.

    academia does not limit ones appreciation for beauty, truth, creativity or imagination. those things live well and flourish in the ivory tower of one’s choice. I don’t see that mindless obedience you mentioned at all. I see kids who care and kids who don’t and I see parents who care and parents who don’t.

    Frank Zappa wrote in the liner nots of one of his albums in the 60’s that teachers work for you. literally. they are our employees and are answerable to us.He wrote that it is responsibility of the student to educate him/herself and the adult standing in front of the room is only a facilitator. don’t like the curriculum? do additional reading. not enough art and music classes offered? get them after school. take your kids to museums in our town. travel abroad during vacations. make an appointment with the teacher, the principal. Once your kid gets to college you don’t get parent teacher conference but you kid gets to go to office hours and by the time s/he gets to college should have developed the ability to advocate for oneself.

    grades are the only way we have of communicating the successes or failures of the student, not the system. if kids don’t do the work, they should not be rewarded with places in college or professional schools. the thing is this: college may not be for everyone. Some kids might benefit more from time spent in the working world or in some alternative path of gaining experience. college is always there for those who find a need/reason to go at last not at once.

  10. rafflaw,

    There should be no incentive for grades, only learning. The horrible pressure on young people to get good grades impedes knowledge. These young people are often narrow and focused on rote knowledge. I feel our whole system needs to change. It doesn’t foster understanding, it demands mindless obediance. It shows no compassion or desire for beauty and creativity. It’s not about fostering children, it’s about controlling them. The sooner it goes, the better off we’ll all be.

    People want to learn, feel, explore, and experiment. We should go with that and quit being concerned about grades.

  11. This is a very important examination of preventative detention. In the reality based community PD is known as imprisonment by fiat. It’s just another hideous injustice brought to you by those who studied at our finest institutions of “learning”.

    http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/

  12. Jill,
    I understand your concern for diversity, but that can be achieved and is achieved at many schools, without a lotto for all students. What incentive do students have for good grades in high school and college if they are Valedictorians and unable to get into a good Law Schools like the University of Illinois, John Marshall Law School ( I had to include my alma mater! ), Loyola University of Chicago, Northwestern, Univeristy of Chicago, Harvard, or George Washington University Law School? These schools are increasing their diversity, but they are not giving away the farm. I hope Professor Turely doesn’t get upset that I put GW last on my list?

  13. rafflaw,

    I don’t think it works fine. The elite schools produce way too many people like Yoo et al. These schools don’t have enough class diversity. They also don’t select for ethical diversity. There’s a real reason why many of our current moral monsters come from our most elite institutions. I interact with many of these types and I have to say their thinking is ignorant and limited. If people are forced to deal with others who don’t come from their own background, it can open up minds and hearts. Our society tends to look way down on people who don’t come from the “right” kinds of family, schools, neighborhoods etc. We seem unwilling to recognize intelligence, except in a very narrow, shallow form. This is a loss to our society. There’s a lot of talent in this world. I see it all the time. We should be open to that talent. Instead, we waste it.

  14. Jill,
    I don’t agree that a lotto would be the best process to admit students into a law school. The process that is already in place works fine when the politicians and the donors are not allowed extraordinary “clout” as was the case in this University of Illinois case.

  15. I think every school should have admission by lotto, and I’m serious. Anyone can apply, put the name in the hopper and draw out the number of slots open. This would make for a much more diverse population at our universities. The schools should have extensive remedial help to anyone that needs it because their schooling occurred in areas that were underserved, or they are rich, well served but stupid. If a school can’t teach almost anyone, they should be in another business. This could break down class barriers and really bring new perspectives to our universities. It also gives everyone a chance. Give scholarships based on need with all the money saved from the admissions process. Tell the donors to get stuffed.

  16. The stench that follows Blago just won’t go away. It amazes me tht the University of Illinois does not have enough “clout” of its own to rebut these legislative admissions. I think the only alternative that HH had in this situation was not to quit her job in defiance of the sick process, but to go to the Tribune herself. That would have been the only “threat” that would have had some muscle to it. Such a sad situation for current students and faculty. Is there any information if this admitted student has been successful in his classes at the Law School?

  17. it is time for affirmative action of all stripes to end. Sub-qualified minority and wealthy students should not be admitted to colleges and professional schools by the “force” of government mandate nor by the “force” of their parents pocket book.

    let all compete on an even playing field with hardwork and intelligence being the currency for admission not genetics or wealth.

  18. Hopefully they do not go the way of Paul Quinn in Dallas. They have lost all accreditations and are appealing the decision. But let us not forget that one Judge of the US Sct stated that only certain law school students would be selected to clerk. Whats the difference if the process is is not wide open.

    Money and Bull S** goes a long, long way. Look what Texas has done for the rest of the US.

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