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Illinois' very own college admissions scandal: Editorials from a shameful chapter in U. of I. history

Chicago Tribune

Thursday, March 14, 2019  |  Editorial  |  Editorial Board

Education--Higher (37)

Each college admissions scandal involves its own sordid offenses. But the March 2019 allegations of wealthy parents paying big bucks for their children’s acceptance letters provoke the same sense of outrage as a University of Illinois admissions scandal exposed by the Chicago Tribune a decade ago. Between 2005 and 2009, public officials sought to influence university employees and boost the prospects of some 800 clouted applicants. 

By examining public records, Tribune reporters identified many applicants with relatives who had political, financial or personal ties to Illinois politicians. University records suggested that, in 2008 and 2009, about 60 pols of both major parties backed applicants seeking admission to the U. of I.'s Urbana-Champaign campus. The applicants included relatives of lobbyists, fundraisers and a union official. 

Many lawmakers denied the obvious: that they sought special treatment in a zero-sum game. 

Here are a selection of Tribune editorials and opinion writing explaining how that scandalous behavior cheated cloutless U. of I. applicants who played by the rules.

  • The scandal at Rezko U.

    "In one case, a relative of Antoin 'Tony' Rezko, the now-convicted influence peddler for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, got admitted after U. of I. President B. Joseph White wrote an e-mail stating that the governor 'has expressed his support, and would like to see admitted' Rezko's relative and...

  • Rezko U., policing itself

    "This is a very important matter," said [University of Illinois] board of trustees Chairman Niranjan Shah, who supported several underqualified students. "We will be looking at more details from the [university] president about the role of the task force and who are going to be the members of the...

  • U. of I. won't come clean

    We were beginning to wonder if Gov. Pat Quinn understood how badly public confidence has been shaken by the University of Illinois' admissions scandal. Then he called in Abner Mikva. Good move, Governor. Mikva is a retired federal judge, legislator, congressman, White House official -- and one of...

  • 3 yards and a clout of dust

    What about the wealthy supporters of college athletic programs?

  • U. of I.'s cynical breach of public trust

    Evidence that University of Illinois officials sought to exchange admission of an inferior law school applicant in return for jobs for five U. of I. law grads has dropped the specter of public corruption into an increasingly infuriating scandal. That evidence, detailed in Friday's Tribune, included...

  • Dump the trustees and bring back Chief Illiniwek

    You know, if we can dump the University of Illinois Board of Trustees for clouting well-connected applicants into the school, maybe we can get back our beloved Chief Illiniwek. Seriously. Most of the current trustees are the same people who two years ago caved in to political correctness and the...

  • A scandal's impact

    Perpetrators of the admissions-rigging scandal at the University of Illinois damaged more than the school's integrity and reputation. Their schemes -- opportunistic adults conniving with one another -- cheated young applicants who had worked for years to earn their shot at U. of I. educations. In...

  • Quinn's next U. of I. strategy

    Can the governor deliver a brilliant political move and declare checkmate?

  • The clout scholarship

    Every few years, some enterprising reporter takes a good look at the college scholarships being passed out like party favors by Illinois lawmakers. This time it was David Mercer of the Associated Press, who found that in the last five years, 41 General Assembly scholarships went to students whose...

  • Wanted: 'New leadership'

    The University of Illinois campus community has spoken, and it didn't mince words. In a 98 to 55 vote, members of the faculty-student Senate for the Urbana-Champaign campus said they do not want to work for President B. Joseph White and Chancellor Richard Herman. The verdict from the campus leaders:...