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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.

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