Monday, January 4, 2010 1 Comment
Originally published June 8, 2009.
After the Chicago Tribune broke its story on U of I’s admissions clout list over a week ago, several parties expressed mild dismay. The Sun-Times requested that the university eliminate the list (which has, at least for the time being, been suspended). Illinois House representative Mike Boland called for legislative hearings and the resignation of all University officials and trustees who encouraged the continued usage of the list. And of course, the DI’s Web site presented the opinions of several students and graduates, whose responses were mostly variations of “I worked hard to get here, and I would be upset if an under-qualified applicant had gotten my spot.”
Among all this talk, students haven’t really expressed much anger, let alone any demands that the specific people involved with the clout scandal take responsibility for their actions. Even journalists seem afraid to demand that the people who need to be punished the most are state legislators.
For many students, it seems that the sheer fact that they were admitted is enough to balance the blatant inequity created by the clout list. They can view their acceptance as clear proof that the admissions process was fair in their circumstances. Few seem inclined to pursue the matter of responsibility for the clout list any further.
Even the Daily Illini has hesitated to rile anyone to action over the matter. Its news coverage of the list has included a generic AP article somewhat absolving U of I administration and staff of blame for its actions since it’s not the only University that engages in them.
To top it off, we’ve also given a full article’s worth of space to paraphrasing the mass e-mail Chancellor Herman sent the day the Tribune story broke, as if he needed more of an opportunity to offer his perspective. His letter, I might add, attempted to obscure the matter at hand in the Tribune article by offering unrelated data as a response (including the total number of applications received for next fall and their average ACT score) and essentially approved of the implementation of the list.
Aside from a single editorial, the DI’s coverage selection seems to admit that well, yeah, the University did a bad thing. But it’s not like we’re the only ones! It’s not that big of a deal. And even the editorial only generically requests that University officials and state legislators get their act together.
It’s as if students are convinced that even explicitly mentioning, much less blaming, Richard Herman and B. Joseph White will incur some horrible administrative wrath.
I don’t think anything should be able to match the wrath of a student body that’s discovered even one applicant was admitted to the University based on political leverage.
But more importantly, everyone—journalists included—needs to legitimately consider the involvement of state legislators in this entire clout process. Should White and Herman have caved in to political pressure? No. The trustees? The admissions staff? No. But as employees of the state’s flagship public institution, they are at the mercy of the murderous circus that is Illinois politics. Our politicians, after all, hold the purse strings.
Rep. Boland needs to turn his pointed finger of blame elsewhere, toward people like the all-powerful Michael Madigan, speaker of the house and, according to the Tribune’s follow-up article, the clout behind more U of I applicants than any other legislator in the last five years.
Before heads start rolling among University administrators, we must confront those politicians who have essentially created the clout list and administer swift and decisive punishment. And we—the tuition- and tax-paying student voters—must lead the charge.
Chelsea is a senior in LAS.