University of Illinois Admissions

The University of Illinois admissions "scandal" has attracted a lot of coverage, including blog posts by Jon Adler, Brian Leiter, and Paul Caron. My friend and colleague, (former Dean) Heidi Hurd had a letter to the editor in the Chicago Tribune yesterday that is likely to be of interest to those following the issue. The key paragraphs are as follows:

Contrary to recent headlines, the College of Law did not seek or receive any jobs from anyone in exchange for the admission of students. It did not enter into a "jobs-for-entry scheme" or engage in quid-pro-quo exchanges of admissions favors for employment favors. Indeed, it takes very little to make clear that the employment challenges of students who are not academically successful could never be overcome by anyone's promises to furnish the College with job opportunities, as the recently published exchanges should have made clear. While my sarcasm was clearly lost on the tin ears of some, my e-mail exchanges in response to queries about this were on their face facetious.

In reply to a question about what jobs would count to meet the employment needs of students with poor academic predictors but powerful personal connections, I wrote: "Only very high paying jobs in law firms that are absolutely indifferent to whether the five have passed their law school classes or the Bar." There are, of course, no law firms that are indifferent to whether their attorneys possess law degrees (and one must pass law school classes to receive a law degree) or are members of the Bar (for one cannot practice law without Bar membership). And when asked whether such students might find employment in government positions, I was being equally sarcastic when I replied: "I'm betting the Governorship will be open. One of them can have that job. Other jobs in Government are fine, since kids who don't pass the Bar and can't think are close enough for government work." Inasmuch as I was a public servant at the time that I made these comments and have long been a scholar and teacher of political theory, my dismissive response was designed to convey the view that government, no less than private practice, requires the best and brightest.

A blue-ribbon state Commission is currently working to "review claims that certain applicants to the University of Illinois received special treatment based on political connections and recommend reforms to improve the fairness and transparency of the admissions process." Here is the agenda for the public meeting being held today.

One needn't be so stupid as to not beable to pass their classes or the bar, in-order to be able to benefit from special treatment in getting admitted to law school.

There are plenty of C average slackers at any college that are plenty capable, intellectually, of handling law school, that just didn't put the effort out as an undergrad to get admitted.

I myself as a partial example, graduated from high school with a 2.35 GPA, but my collegiate GPA was 3.78. I certainly could have benefited from preferential admission to a University that my level of effort in high school didn't entitle me.
6.29.2009 4:14pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
Another victim of the failure of sarcasm on the internet (or e-mails).

Did not Prof. Kerr have a post on this once?
6.29.2009 4:59pm
Heidi Hurd for Governor.
6.29.2009 5:01pm
Vladimir (mail):
Is there any other explanation for the failure of Dean Hurd's critics to pick up on Dean Hurd's sarcasm/satire than this one: they got their jobs strictly through the very political favoritism at issue in this dispute?
6.29.2009 5:29pm
If this is the same HH who weaseled into an undeserved post at uva b/c of who she married, then, I submit that I'm not surprised that her attempt at 'sarcasm' failed. From what I recall from her classes, nobody was very impressed with her intellect or wit.

Other than the individuals involved in these shenanigans chose to do business via email, this story is simply 'dog bites man.'

Powerful public officials and wealth alumni sought and received preferential treatment from a public school's administration? I am shocked... just shocked to learn of this. Particularly in Chicago of all places.
6.29.2009 5:30pm
Reality (mail):
I'm SURE it was sarcasm. Meanwhile I've got a great bridge connecting Evanston to Gary to sell you.

If you're a public employee in Illinois discussing blatant corruption on the part of senior politicians, it is assumed that you are being serious. Since Burris got the Sen post, something that should have been limited to The Onion, no Chicago corruption is beyond belief.

I hope that HH gets a full opportunity to demonstrate the intended sarcasm in a court of Law, facing felony charges for bribery and public corruption.
6.29.2009 6:34pm
I sensed it was sarcasm. But perhaps my experience with large firms was not broad enough to enable me to understand that some big-salary firms might hire without regard to success on the bar examination or passing grades for law school courses.

I hope you never get within two orbits of a prosecutor's position, Reality.
6.29.2009 7:20pm
Given how little funding the Illinois Law School receives from the state, HH should've told them to drop dead.

I read the 5 jobs at large law firms regardless of grades and bar results as sarcastic. But a lot of the other stuff she said in those e-mails shows that, as long as she had to admit some politically-connected students, she wanted something in return.
6.29.2009 7:28pm
MCM (mail):
bridge connecting Evanston to Gary

That's such a great idea, really. Getting to the Horseshoe in Hammond would be so much easier.
6.29.2009 7:51pm
Larry Lieberman (mail):
Anyone who ever came within 500 miles of a law school would have instantly recognized Heidi Hurd's comments as sarcasm. Former Dean Hurd obtained dazzling results in her tenure as Dean. I suspect that the current silly claims about the admissions process stem from the fact that he reputation of the Law School has grown so dramatically that many applicants who expected to be admitted are disappointed simply because they do not meet the criteria for admission at this time.

Larry Lieberman '63
6.29.2009 8:58pm
As an alum, I can tell you the recent letter I got requesting a donation to the law school went straight into the trash. The letter said the law school gets only 1% of its funding from the state. The tuition now is around $30,000 dollars. When I went there, 30 years ago, I paid $1800 a year. That's a much bigger increase than inflation. But if the clouted students are the ones getting the full-ride scholarships, the U. of I. can beg someone else for money.
6.29.2009 9:05pm
Yes, sarcasm entails the risk of being taken seriously when one intended exactly the opposite effect. And I suppose the consequences of one's sarcasm being misunderstood are greater when corrupt undertakings are the subject and the environment is as corrupt a one as everyone believes Chicago/Illinois to be. Hard to imagine that Ms. Hurd was being anything other than sarcastic with that call for 5 plumb jobs for the least qualified grads.

From a societal perspective, is it worse to admit an unsuitable applicant to law school or an unsuitable applicant to medical school? I think the latter is worse.
6.29.2009 9:53pm
MnZ (mail):
Sarcasm? Fine. I love good sarcasm.

However, where was the follow through Heidi? Why were you only brave enough to be sarcastic about the situation? Why not follow through and also call down to the US Attorney and say, "Can you believe this crap"?

Oh...that's right, you are a loyal Democrat. My party: Right or wrong!!!
6.29.2009 10:20pm
You would have to be very brain-dead, or have some kind of serious axe to grind, in order to think these comments were not sarcastic.
6.29.2009 11:01pm
Was the Illinois governor's apparent insistence that lesser applicants be admitted to law school worse than the "Regent and Liberty grads first" programs (such as that administered by Monica Goodling at the Department of Justice) that, until recently, placed many unlikely candidates in the service of the United States?
6.30.2009 9:30am
Bob Wiley:
I have a long history with UIUC Law and feel compelled to comment here anonymously.

She may have been kidding in certain portions of those emails but I am certain that this was going on and that she knew about it. After all, she herself is quite skilled at reaching high places solely because of her connections.

One more thing, she takes a lot of credit for the work of others. Unless you were there and know what you're talking about don't claim she was a good dean.

Many people don't know this but her under-funding of certain departments within the law school put UIUC Law's accreditation at risk. She also drove many esteemed faculty members away. Of course all of that is kept on the QT. But trust me, everyone knew when she was dean that the law school was not being run well and that's why she had so many problems filling faculty vacancies. Luckily, the many competent faculty members and administrators that are at UIUC Law picked up the slack and kept the law school's ranking from slipping. She had no business running a law school and was no stranger to granting favors. Thankfully, they now have Bruce Smith running things who I'm sure will be as competent as he is honorable.
6.30.2009 3:24pm

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