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More details emerge

Tuesday, Jun 30, 2009

* So, the U of I “formalized” its alleged clout-driven admissions process in 2002, just before Rod Blagojevich became governor and took full advantage. Unlike Jim Thompson’s request, I’ll bet Blagojevich’s touts weren’t summarily rejected

The University of Illinois formalized its system for tracking clouted applicants after an unqualified student with ties to ex- Gov. Jim Thompson was rejected, angering a top administrator who reversed the decision, a former admissions worker testified Monday.

Thompson said he had no recollection at all about the denied admission request and claimed he has written “scores” of letters on behalf of university applicants over the years.

* It also appears that there weren’t all that many “mopes” being pushed for the U of I…

He said the number of such cases grew in the last seven years from about 110 applicants per year to about 160. He said most came from affluent suburban schools, and that those students’ appeals were much more likely to be successful than ones coming from the general applicant pool.

But there were some…

[Former U of I admissions worker Abel Montoya] said there were between a dozen and 20 applicants a year who received the lowest possible admissions ranking, yet had denial decisions reversed after pressure from above.

* This is a clue to what was going on…

…Montoya said he chafed at e-mails and meetings that directed him to give special consideration to the students from high schools like Marist and New Trier who sometimes didn’t have qualifications as good as those of other students.

Those schools are known for parents who are almost fanatical about making sure their kids get into the best schools possible. Those parents are also more sophisticated than the average bear, and were probably more likely to call their legislators in a panic.

Montoya apparently was upset about the Category 1 admissions because he was working to recruit economically disadvantaged students

[Montoya] said it was a priority to enroll students from Chicago public schools, many of whom were at an economic disadvantage to students from the suburbs, in order to create “a talented, diverse freshman class.”

“We tried everything we could to get more students to apply” from public schools, he said. Montoya said he had complained to Marshall about the Category I admissions but was overruled by administrators.

* And a U of I lobbyist at the center of the controversy, Richard Schoell, denied laws had been broken and said there was never a quid pro quo with legislators…

Asked whether there was quid pro quo with legislators, he said “that would be totally inappropriate.”

More from Schoell

During testimony Monday, Richard Schoell, executive director of the university’s Office of Governmental Relations, said his office kept a log of between 150 and 200 requests made each year by lawmakers on behalf of students. Schoell said his office forwarded requests to the appropriate university department and some of those students made the “Category I” list, some labeled “important” or “very important.”

He said receiving input from public officials is important and students have the right to appeal to a legislator if they believe a wrong decision was made. But if a student was admitted “purely because of clout, it shouldn’t have happened,” he testified.

Schoell suggested that instead of lawmakers contacting his office directly, the school hire an ombudsman or create a panel to field those inquiries.

* This, I’d love to see

[Admissions Review Commission Chairman Abner Mikva] also said he’d like to hear from some legislators, including House Speaker Michael Madigan, who sponsored at least 40 applicants in five years, more than any other lawmaker. “I would like to hear his explanation,” Mikva said.

I’d also like to see all commission members reveal in public whether they had ever written a letter of recommendation or made a phone call about a prospective college or law school student.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jun 30, 09 @ 11:37 am:

    Unless you’ve experienced it, you can’t imagine the fury of a New Trier parent whose child has been turned down by a university.

  2. - DuPage Moderate - Tuesday, Jun 30, 09 @ 11:44 am:

    This is so unbelievably stupid and a total waste of time and money. Rich, your last comment hit the nail right on the head….I’m sure the “honorable” Mikva has made plenty of calls. In fact, I would bet on it.

    And, does anyone else see the irony in Montoya’s comments that he was upset with Category 1 because he wanted to economically “disadvantaged” students to apply. I assume he meant economically “disadvantaged” that met all of the requirements for admission notwithstanding economic condition, race, etc…..because what would be treating the more “qualified” students unfairly.

    What the hell has this State come to.

  3. - Ghost - Tuesday, Jun 30, 09 @ 12:06 pm:

    And to think Meeks dared suggest that new Trier students were treated better then inner city chicago students and such inequalities should be fixed.

  4. - anonymous - Tuesday, Jun 30, 09 @ 12:07 pm:

    Maybe Mikva could explain this while he’s at it

  5. - shore - Tuesday, Jun 30, 09 @ 12:09 pm:

    On the north shore you start doing sat prep in 3rd grade and if by 6th grade you aren’t on honors track, 1st chair oboe and trilingual(at least one language must be non romantic/germanic), your life is over and you are going to indiana, or god forbid a school not ranked in top 50usnwr. All kidding aside this is a vast galaxy that needs exploring, who got the scholarships? What were the political connections? This thing deserves to be explored to the fullest (and spare no republicans lauzen and roskam were on there) if only because education corruption is a new kind of corruption (what’s next?) and much more sensational than the mayors buddy getting some deal!

  6. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jun 30, 09 @ 12:10 pm:

    LOL. I forgot about that

  7. - sal-says - Tuesday, Jun 30, 09 @ 1:04 pm:

    Ex-gov/Big Jim/Rutan Thompson: “I don’t have any clout or influence at any school.”

    Ha Ha. Being a ‘former gov.’ and ‘Big Jim’ doesn’t give him ANY clout. He probly’ said that with a straight face too, being an attorney.

  8. - Quinn T. Sential - Tuesday, Jun 30, 09 @ 1:48 pm:

    {because education corruption is a new kind of corruption (what’s next?)

    Well considering Blago & Co. cornered the market on health care corruption, and jobs for $$$$$, it’s hartd to imagine just what other new form of corruption might evelove her in Illinois, but I do have faith that it has not only already been concocted, but it is actually being executed as we speak.

    We just haven’t hear about it yet.

  9. - Lynn S - Tuesday, Jun 30, 09 @ 11:19 pm:

    Amen, QTS, amen!!

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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