Monday, January 4, 2010 Leave a comment
Originally published July 27, 2009.
After getting the run-around from the chairman of the Board of Trustees last week, the Illinois Admissions Review Commission will see current University president B. Joseph White step up to the plate today.
But will a thorough examination of White’s involvement in the clout scandal really make that much difference in the outcome of the proceedings?
The daily reports from the hearings have been appalling enough on their own. Most recently they’ve included Niranjan Shah’s attempts to pin the blame on everyone from previous University president James Stukel to Shah’s own secretary at his engineering firm for meddling in admissions and housing decisions, not to mention scoring a six-figure job for Shah’s son-in-law.
The estimated 8,000 pages of documents submitted to the review commission have undoubtedly contained the numerous quoted e-mails White himself sent regarding the admittance of many clout-backed candidates.
It’s easy to see the huge scope of the clout scandal when reading any news related to the University these days.
What’s equally apparent are the deep roots of the scandal firmly seated in the Illinois legislature. And Governor Quinn and his Illinois Admissions Review Commission plan to keep a hallowed state tradition alive by turning a blind eye to obvious political corruption.
Thus far, the commission has required the University to send at least two dozen staffers to the admissions hearings. They’ve only asked nine legislators to testify. A grand total of two agreed—Rep. Mike Boland, whose name doesn’t even appear in any of the materials released by the U of I in relation to the Category I list, and Sen. Chris Lauzen.
The big dogs have all politely told Abner Mikva thanks, but no thanks: House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton, and House Republican Leader Tom Cross.
Madigan has acted on behalf of more applicants than any other legislator with a total of 43 over the last five years. According to his spokesman Steve Brown in a Tribune piece last Saturday, Madigan “believes he has little to contribute to the probe” as he was only acting on requests by constituents.
As if Madigan had no idea what his lil’ ol’ requests could do.
Mikva, head of the review commission, “seemed unconcerned about” lawmakers’ unwillingness to participate, saying in the aforementioned Trib article that “the heart of the problem is that the university had no policy of pushing back to the pressure that was exerted.”
Instead of commenting on the absurdity of this statement obvious to anyone with even a minimal knowledge of Illinois politics, I’ll follow up with an example that captures it exactly.
Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Republican candidate for governor, has already introduced a bill that aims to remove all nine members of the University Board of Trustees. And who better to demand swift, decisive action to restore public confidence in the university than someone who put his political influence behind seven applicants, three of whom were admitted?
No, we certainly cannot allow University officials to come out of this investigation unscathed, nor can we leave admissions practices unchanged. But, as with almost all of this state’s troubles, nothing’s going to change until we confront the real problem: Illinois legislators’ belief that nothing can touch them.
Chelsea is a senior in LAS.