One might think that as a minister type, I am talking about how connected we all are, one to another, all over the world. Well, okay, there is this, “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part,” one of the Seven Principles and Purposes of the UUA, to which I ascribe. But that’s not what I mean.

No, I am talking about political connections that can get you into the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Like if you are related to Tony Rezko, for example (if you want more information about Rezko, just do a search at NQ – you’ll get plenty of posts on him and his connections to Obama). Oh, I am not making this up. It has been a big scandal in IL. Haven’t heard about this? Huh – there’s a surprise!! Ahem. Seriously, though, Board of Trustee members of the flagship university have been resigning like rats fleeing a sinking ship over this issue, including the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Niranjan Shah. Shah resigned earlier this month. Considering this story broke in MAY, it makes me wonder what took so long…

And about Tony Rezko’s relative, the Chicago Tribune reported:

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 another applicant.

White’s message to the university chancellor was passed on to admissions officials on the same day they entered a rejection decision for the Rezko relative. “He’s actually pretty low,” replied an admissions officer, referring to the applicant’s ACT score and other credentials. “Let me know when the denial letter can go out.”

Instead, the relative was admitted.

Since 2005, about 800 undergraduate students have landed on the clout list for the Urbana-Champaign campus. It’s unknown how many would qualify for entry on their own, but their acceptance rate is higher than average. For the 2008-09 school year, for example, about 77 percent were accepted, compared with 69 percent of all applicants.

Wow. It seems that maybe “Chicago-style” politics are actually “Illinois-style” politics. Especially considering what this means in terms of academics, and what the University President had to say about all of this:

That’s in spite of the fact that patronage candidates, as a group, had lower average ACT scores and class ranks than all admitted students, records show.

In 2008, for example, freshmen on average ranked in the 88th percentile in their high school class, while clouted students ranked in the 76th percentile.

High school counselors and admissions experts said letting clout affect admissions compromises the integrity of the university.

“Whether it’s [a Rezko relative] or any other kid who takes a spot, he typically takes a spot of someone who is more qualified. That’s the part that gets my blood boiling,” said Jim Conroy, a New Trier Township High School college counselor. “This is not a private institution. This is yours and mine. Our flagship state university should not be part of any political shenanigans.”

President White said it’s not unusual for selective universities to receive input on applicants from interested parties, and it’s important to have a system to track the requests. The additional information can help the admissions office make a more informed decision, he said – though the university discourages applicants from sending letters of recommendations, saying on its Web site that “sending unsolicited materials can be distracting.”

He declined to discuss specific cases, including the Rezko relative, but said: “I would never support admission of a student over better-qualified students simply because of connections and pressure.”

But the Tribune review of about 1,800 pages of documents shows politically appointed trustees and lawmakers routinely behave as armchair admissions officers advocating on behalf of relatives and neighbors – even housekeepers’ kids and families with whom they share Hawaiian vacations. They declare their candidates “no brainers” for admission and suggest that if they are not accepted, the admissions system may need revamping.

Um, well, yes – I would say that’s a Newsflash from the Department of DUH on the whole revamping thing.

Here’s what the investigation found: The investigation found:

–University officials recognized that certain students were underqualified – but admitted them anyway.

–Admissions officers complained in vain as their recommendations were overruled.

–Trustees pushed for preferred students, some of whom were friends, neighbors and relatives.

–Lawmakers delivered admission requests to U. of I. lobbyists, whose jobs depend on pleasing the lawmakers.

–University officials delayed admissions notifications to weak candidates until the end of the school year to minimize the fallout at top feeder high schools.

For example, this spring an applicant described as having “terrible credentials” by the undergraduate admissions office was denied admittance. She sought help from Trustee Frances Carroll, who encouraged her to appeal the denial – an option not mentioned in rejection letters or any university literature. Carroll forwarded the appeal to University Chancellor Richard Herman and sought his help. The applicant was admitted.

Then, to avoid drawing attention at the applicant’s high school, where her acceptance could raise eyebrows, documents show the university planned to wait until the end of the school year to notify the applicant.

Carroll said the Lincoln Park High School senior, whom she didn’t know, had a 3.2 grade-point average, participated in many extra-curricular activities and deserved a spot at U. of I. Carroll said she likes to help disadvantaged students who may not understand the system.

Patronage has become such an entrenched part of the admissions process that there’s even a name for the applicants with heavy-hitting sponsors: “Category I.”

While some trustees and lawmakers said they didn’t realize there was a separate category for their requests, the records showed they needed only to forward a name and a few vital statistics to have the student placed in it.

And many did so without reservation.

Doesn’t this all sound eerily familiar? Sure does to me…

  • Babs

    My girls went to the “townie” junior high, one of two feeding into the high school, the other being the “burbs” junior high. My daughters’ school did not allow calculators to be used in math classes, while the in the “burbs” junior high the kids used calculators in all grades. When they took placement tests for high school math, the administration was astounded at the difference in math comprehension between the two groups of kids, the kids using calculators greatly lacking in the logical reasoning skills that math demands.
    Want to bet that all kids are now using calculators in those grades? Of course they are. My personal experience with our wonderful American education system. If it were private enterprise, it would have been out of business years ago.

  • It makes me so proud to have lived in that state for so long (and to be a UIUC alumn!).

  • rose

    I am wondering why people haven’t been curious enough to check out the Chicago/Illinois corruption and it still rages on . these names of corrupted individuals and many are Obama’s and the rest of his crews’ buddies and the way they have risen in this political system amazes me. that was one of the first things I did during the primary and thought well this is it for Obama but it wasn’t covered much if at all.

    since so many are surprized, is there anyway you on NQ can get to some of the main stream media to bring it out,even maybe on DEMOCRACY NOW? to bring this to the average TV watching people. Whether someone approves or not ,so many don’t get what they THINK is news from any other source and don’t use pcs .they are still citizens who think the news is real. We need to get information about everything out. Hell, they don’t really even cover these wars that this administration is waging and when bush was in they raged non stop,which they should have.

    • Thanks, Rose.

      I know the Chicago Tribune has covered all KINDS of connections in Chicago, even during the primaries, but the MSM refused to acknowledge them. Hard to believe that a big-time newspaper can’t get their attention.

      It seems like Fox News is the only (cable) news station that pays attention to these things. If you have links, by all means, email it to them. They do seem to read their email (and I swear, sometimes it seems like they read NQ, too!).

      That goes for everyone – when you see/hear abt something that the MSM doesn’t seem to be covering, email, call, write your local news channels and Fox. SOMEONE wil pay attention (I hope).

  • helenk

    These is a site that I bookmarked. It does show some interesting connections.



  • Ginger

    HB has a story of yet another corrupt Obama associate to run for Obama’s old senate seat.

    • TeakWoodKite

      I am only somewhat surprised that Durbin is for it.

    • Ginger, thank you for this. I remember this guy from the Primaries, and the Blagojevich trial. Very telling that Obama is pushing him. Not surprising, just telling…

  • Diana L. C.

    As a public school teacher, I found several reasons for finally retiring earlier than I probably should have for my financial situation.

    One of the things that caused me to feel as though the whole system was not something I was proud of being involved in is this situation:

    One of my senior students, who had previously been a very good student, spent his senior year slacking. He failed my first semester senior English class because he simply didn’t attend much and didn’t turn in assignments or pass tests.

    He then whined and got himself transferred to another teacher’s class, a teacher who was very popular because of his ability to turn all his “lessons” into games and cause the teachers whose classrooms were next to his to have fits because they couln’t teach over the noise coming from his room. There was not much grading or real studying going on, so game participation amounted to passing. In other words, his transfer guaranteed a passing grade for second semester.

    He was supposed to meet with me to make up the first semester grade, but he never did. The counselor did not try to hide or make light of the bad grade first semester when she passed on his application.

    But the student’s parents convinced our second most important state college admissions office that he had been the “victim” of a vindictive teacher his first semester–after all he got an A the second semester.

    He was admitted. The school did not even call me or the guidance counselor to question their story.

    • Wow, Diana L.C. Thank you for sharing that story with us. Very powerful, very telling, very troubling.

      I can imagine the unfair representation of you by the student and family must have been a bitter pill to swallow, especially since you were never contacted. You deserved much better than that…

      Do you remember a while back when Doonesbury ran a whole series abt grade inflation? My younger brother was doing his doctoral work at a major state university then, and was SO frustrated that students, and their PARENTS, would lobby the dean of the dept. for grades they did not earn.

      • Diana L. C.

        Yep–I’ve also taught as an adjunct in several institutions of supposed higher learning. Those parents are called helicopter parents.

        I just got too old for the system, I guess, because I felt college freshman English course curricula I taught later in my careers were no harder than the junior high ninth grade English courses I taught when I first started teaching as a newly minted college graduate clear back in the 70’s.

        Grade inflation is pervasive.

        • That is mighty telling abt the curricula. Yikes. We keep hearing how much more advanced kids are now because they can use computers by the time they are 3 (that may be an exaggeration), yet it is HOW they are learning, and WHAT they are learning, that are the issues.

          I very much appreciate hearing the experiences of people who have done this work and “been there.”

          • helenk

            They may be able to use a computer but how many can use their brain? Isn’t the brain the first computer



            • Diana L. C.

              Yep–they use the computer to “copy/paste” supposed research papers and become nasty when you catch them at it. They use PowerPoint to make dazzling reports of almost no substance. I could go on and on.

              So many of my younger friends, many of whom are teachers, advise their friends to home school their children. I know one of my best friends who adopted a Chinese girl, who already is way more advanced than most kindergarten kids (because her mother provides her intellectual stimulation) has been convinced by many acquaintences and friends that she MUST not let that girl attend public school next year now that she is of age because it will bore her to death.

              I know if I were younger with school-aged children at this time, I would not let my kids attend public schools no matter what sacrifice I would have to make. Being truly educated was always the most important thing to me, not having material possessions.

              • Diana L. C.

                I should mention that I have always taught in Colorado schools. This state has always had a totally decentralized school system, so some districts are better than others. But the supposed state standards mean almost nothing because they are followed so differently by different teachers. There is so little curriculum control that its meaningless to talk about curriculum. I do believe some state education systems are better than others. But I think I can still say that I would not want my kids in public schools at this time.

    • helenk

      One of the sad things about this story is that both he and his parents do not realize he is the loser. If you are not held accountable for your actions you never learn.
      I was talking about a teacher I had in high school that if you played around in class you had to write a 500 word essay on nothing or a 500 word on how roses grow in the arctic. You better write them and he counted the words. NO one fooled around in his class.
      I learned a lot in his class. That was in the 1950s and I still remember that teacher.
      It is the student’s job to do the work, get the grades, ask for help if needed and do the best they can. Do they really think that the working world will give the a pass to do nothing?
      I am sorry because your students lost a good teacher and that is something society can not afford.



  • jbjd

    Practices like legacy admissions and patronage admissions come to mind when I hear the words, “affirmative action.” Who among us would not assert our alumnae status so as to give our children a leg up in the college admissions process? Of course, this means that, absent intervention, populations historically excluded from such educational institutions would forever remain on the outside looking in.

    • Peggy Sue

      I think that’s an important point, jbjd. And I think you’re right: the average parent is willing to take every advantage to ensure “their” child gets a leg up.

      I think the problem is the scale or numbers of people being admitted with less than sterling grades or adequate academic preparation. By lowering standards, we do no one any favors, least of all the country at large.

      We’re living in a fantasy world if we think every eighteen-year-old belongs on a university campus. Minimum standards should apply to everyone, regardless of who they are or where they come from. To do otherwise is to dilute the very meaning of “higher education.”

      I have great sympathy for affirmaive action kids, but I think we need to concentrate our efforts in bringing them up to snuff before they enter university, not after.

      Thanks for bringing the subject up, Amy. It’s just one more nail in the coffin we’re building for ourselves as a nation.

      • trixta

        I have great sympathy for affirmaive action kids, but I think we need to concentrate our efforts in bringing them up to snuff before they enter university, not after.

        Unfortunately, “bringing [such students] up to snuff” before entering the university environment is a near impossible task since many attend sub-par high schools that don’t even have acceptable facilities, much less college prep courses. Yet there are those affirmative action students who still perform well despite their sub-par schools, etc., and who are successful at the university level. In any case, for those students who need preparation the answer may lie in going to a two-year community college first and then transferring (based on gpa, etc.) to a four-year university for the last two years.

    • maniaco

      Hi jbjd
      Didn’t realize you’re female! For some reason you came off as a strong, confident male. Fooled me.
      [Clue: “alumnae” = female, plural]

      • trixta

        Hmmm, interesting comment, maniaco. (You talking to me?) If I come off too strong sometimes it’s because I’ve been in a bad mood since 2000. Grrrrrr…. ( I never thought things could get worse since the selection of GWB, but, alas, they have!)

        • trixta

          Oops, maniaco, you were talking to jbdb (but I used the term alumni/ae).

          • Trixta, AND jbjd, I think you both come off just fine. (I did the “huh” look at maniaco’s comment myself…)

            And I can sure understand being in a bad mood since 2000. Like you, it got way worse in 2008…

  • TeakWoodKite

    Rev.Amy does this infer what I think it does?

    “– even housekeepers’ kids and families with whom they share Hawaiian vacations”

    The redactions appear very telling. I am curious If either BO or MO would have made it to Harvard or Princeton based on merit.

  • trixta

    Thanks for the great article, Rev Amy. I must say, however, that the admission of “legacy” applicants (i.e. children of university alumni/ae) is just as scandalous. In fact, those admissions are rarely brought to our attention or scrutinized. Actually, I don’t see very much difference between the “patronage” admissions and “legacy” admissions. It’s all based on connections, regardless of actual qualifications. Some who fall under this category may or may not be qualified. In any case, it would be interesting to see what percentage of admitted “legacy” students is allowed in any given year for that university.

    • Good questions/comments, all. At least with the legacy program, a parent actually attended that university. But I hear you abt their qualifications, and it would be interesting to see those numbers.

      Don’t you love how some of the students had already been denied admission, and then their connections got them in? I wonder how those students who DID get in on their merits feel abt this? Kind of cheapens the whole process, doesn’t it>

  • don tufts

    hi amy thanks again for the kind words for my daughter topic a little i am watching specters town hall live and cant beleive how delusional specter is and how well he squirms do they have no shame.he was asked specific pg and line numbers and called the questioner a liar.

    • Don, thank you for rearing such a thoughtful child. No doubt, because of the accident that affected her mother (your wife), she has had to grow up faster than she should have, but she seems to be a lovely child…And I do hope for the very best outcome for your wife, and for your family.

      YES, I am watching the Specter Town Hall, too. I love how he gives these one line responses and cuts off any follow-up whatsoever. Squirming seems to be what he does best…

    • TeakWoodKite

      Don, you are most welcome. May Sarah keep an open mind, think critically and live long.