Thursday, August 06, 2009

UI admissions panel: The leadership failed

By Maureen Foertsch McKinney
A separate office of the inspector general should be established for CORRECTIONthe state's universities, Gov. Pat Quinn’s Admission Review Commission recommended Thursday. (We had it as the U of I only. So sorry for the mistake) As expected, the commission also recommended that Quinn seek the resignations of the entire board of trustees.

The new inspector general would act as an ombudsman and would review problems with the law or the university’s own policies.

Regarding resignations, Commission Chairman Abner Mikva, a former federal judge, said earlier this week: “Obviously, [the governor is] free to accept those he wants and reappoint or refuse the resignations of those he thinks are doing a good job or can continue to do a good job. It is clear, as an institution, the board of trustees has not been governing in a way that the university needs or [that it] has the kind of governance it should have.”

Both the chairman and immediate past chairman of the board of trustees — Niranjan Shah and Lawrence Eppley — resigned within the past 10 days as the commission wound down its deliberations.

The Chicago Tribune reported in early June that over five years, about 800 students were admitted to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign after receiving special treatment because they had obtained recommendations from clout wielders such as former board of trustees chairmen, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, legislators and university donors. The Tribune reported that the names of those students, including some applying for admission to the law school, were marked in red on so-called “Category I” lists and received special consideration.

Other recommendations the panel agreed to send to Quinn include:
  • A firewall be placed around the admissions process so that no one except a designated individual in the admissions office be allowed to influence admissions decisions.
  • Only a high school guidance counselor, individual student or parent should be allowed to check on the status of an admission.
  • The university should have a clearly stated policy on what information — such as testing scores, grade point average or class standing — would be used for consideration of admission.
  • The university should establish a clearly stated, transparent process for appeal of admission decisions.

Quinn’s panel interviewed more than 30 people over a six-week period.

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