Illinois Public Media News
The University of Illinois is facing its first lawsuit stemming from the role clout played in the school's admissions policy.
The scandal has already forced the University's President and the Urbana-Champaign campus chancellor to step down. Now a Taylorville man, Jonathon Yard, is taking the school to court. Yard's suit could become a federal class action case. He alleges he was unfairly denied access to the U of I.
The court papers go on to say Yard had a solid academic background, which was part of admissions requirements the university cited. But the suit points out the school failed to mention the existence of a clout list, which favored those with political connections.
Yard's attorney Larry Drury says he is are alleging the university has criteria on which they accept applicants other than that which is stated in their catalogs and brochures.
An investigation determined some on that clout list were accepted even though they lacked other qualifications.
A university spokesman says the school anticipated such actions and is prepared to vigorously defend the U of I.
The chairman of the U of I Board of Trustees says chancellor Richard Herman's decision to step down was not made overnight.
Chris Kennedy says trustees had conversations with Herman about voluntary resignation since the first meeting containing all six new trustees last month. But he says Herman and outgoing president Joseph White determined their own schedules over the past few weeks.
"I would like to say that was a part of a master plan, but in fact it really came out of Chancellor Herman and out of Joe White individually, both of whom I think really saw their life's work as protecting the best interests of the University of Illinois," Kennedy said.
Kennedy believes the transition in leadership will be orderly, even though starting Monday the U of I will not have a permanent president, chancellor or provost. He says there will be no interim chancellor, and interim president Stanley Ikenberry will handle some of the administrative duties along with interim provost Robert Easter.
University of Illinois Board of Trustees Chairman Christopher Kennedy says Richard Herman will be hard to replace as chancellor of the Urbana-Champaign campus.
Herman says he'll resign next Monday after months of pressure over the university's admissions scandal.
Trustees are to meet Friday to accept Herman's resignation and revise his employment agreement, since Herman will stay on as a faculty member. Kennedy says the next chancellor will have to bring a strong vision for science and research to the job.
In his resignation letter, Herman says he's been honored to work at the university. He came to Illinois from the University of Maryland in 1998 and became permanent chancellor in 2005.
Herman's name appears often in e-mails detailing preferential treatment the school gave well-connected student applicants. The Faculty Senate voted last month to call for Herman and university President B. Joseph White to step down. White will leave his post in December.
The community college system in Illinois has recorded its biggest enrollment increase in years, and Danville Area Community College leads the statistics.
DACC's headcount jumped by almost 32 percent this fall compared to the same time last year, to nearly 36-hundred students. More than 21 hundred of them are taking the equivalent of a full-time class load, which is a nearly 28 percent increase.
President Alice Marie Jacobs says the school is handling the student boom, in terms of both space and teachers.
"We do utilize a number of part-time faculty, many who have years of experience teaching at Danville Area Community College, so that's one way we're able to add sections," Jacons said. "We also have faculty who have been very cooperative and were willing to add extra sections to their loads."
Most community college administrators cite the sluggish economy as a factor in their strong enrollments, with many people going back to school for more job training. But Jacobs says DACC is also getting more recent high school graduates, including honor students.
Graduate student workers at the University of Illinois Urbana campus are not about to strike. But a vote that members of their union took Thursday night lays the groundwork for a walkout. Peter Campbell of the Graduate Employees Organization says the vote was unanimous to approve an intent to strike notice. He says the notice "gives our union the legal ability to prepare for a work action, if our membership decides that a work action would be necessary at some point in the future."
The GEO and the administration have been meeting since April over a new contract for about 25-hundred teaching and graduate assistants on the Urbana campus. The old contract ran out about seven weeks ago. And Campbell says the university has failed to respond to financial changes made in the union's latest proposal. He says the responding offer from the administration at a bargaining session Thursday failed to address the union proposals, and only offered "semantic" changes that were "virtually identical" to their previous positions.
The next bargaining session is set for October 23rd, and Campbell says he hopes a federal mediator will be able to attend. In the meantime, he says the GEO will try to increase pressure on the administration through rallies and demonstrations. Union members will hold office hours at the Illini Union on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week --- the "work-in" and "grade'in" is meant to draw attention to the amount of work graduate employees do for the university.
U of I spokeswoman Robin Kaler says they won't comment on ongoing labor negotiations with the GEO. But she says they always negotiate within the university's financial constraints.
A former defense secretary says President Obama is right to carefully think over a decision on military commitment in Afghanistan - but he shouldn't think about it for too long.
Former Senator William Cohen of Maine served as secretary of defense for much of the Clinton Administration. Cohen told Focus 580's David Inge Thursday that in the Presidential campaign Obama encouraged greater concentration of troops in Afghanistan over Iraq, citing it as the home of al-Qaeda. Cohen says any decision to pull back there could further destabilize the region, and he needs to convey that to the American people and the nation's allies.
"Polls will change depending on what they (the voters) see and how he articulates the rationale for why we are there," said Cohen. "Can he persuade the American people that it is in our interest to prevent al-Qaeda from coming back in or the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan? Because if they do that, it may mean the destabilization of Pakistyan, which has many nuclear weapons."
Cohen believes the US military is not equipped enough to fight a long-term counter-insurgency in Afghanistan because it's not winning hearts and minds there.
Governor Pat Quinn says he's committed to keeping lawmakers in Springfield this month until a grant program for low-income college students is extended through next spring. Quinn and some of the students who rely on the Monetary Awards Program, or MAP Grants, urged the legislature restore that funding at the University of Illinois' Urbana campus Wednesday. But the Governor says he's hoping to avoid any special session days beyond the six on the legislature's fall schedule.
"We've got to go back and make sure this program is safe," says Quinn. "I had to do this with Human Services over the summer - we went 45 days of overtime but we got that improved. But we are in a tough economic time. So it calls for sacrifices by the General Assembly to do hard things." Proposals to fund the grants include a tax amnesty program and 1-dollar tax on cigarettes. But Quinn says he also wants to look at loopholes in the Illinois Tax Code, including a tax break the state provides to oil companies for offshore drilling. About 200 students and faculty were at the rally on the campus quad, where freshman Edward Washington said he stands to lose 25-hundred dollars before next semester.
"If we do not take action and reinstate the MAP grant, the General Assembly will send a message to prospective college students all across the state," says Washington. "That is - that college is for rich folk. Prospective students shouldn't even bother to apply because they just can't afford it. Does this sound right to you? I urge the members of the General Assembly not to make this a political issue." U of I Director of Financial Aid Dan Mann says if there's no new revenue for the program by November, his office will work with every student relying on the MAP Grant to see what options they might have for the spring semester - but Mann admits those choices will be limited. About 5700 students on the Urbana campus use the MAP Grants.
Gov. Pat Quinn is keeping attention on a college financial aid program for low-income students.
Lawmakers cut funding in half for the Illinois Monetary Award Program, also known as MAP grants. About 145,000 low-income students get financial assistance through the program.
The Chicago Democrat wants to see the money restored and he will rally at colleges around the state later this week, including the University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University and Bradley University. The UI rally takes place Wednesday at noon at the Illini Union.
But Quinn's Democratic primary challenger, Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes, has said Quinn signed off on the cuts to the program. The cuts were part of lawmakers' efforts to deal with a gaping budget hole.
Quinn has had other MAP grant rallies at Northern Illinois University and the University of Illinois at Chicago.
With Stanley Ikenberry selected to step in as interim president, the University Of Illinois Board Of Trustees is going ahead with a search for a permanent president to succeed Joseph White.
At their special meeting Saturday in Urbana , the Board approved the structure for a search committee. The panel has seats reserved for every sector of the university community --- faculty, staff, students, alumni and the university's foundation. And interim president designate Stanley Ikenberry says something new has been added that makes this U of I search committee different from ones in the past.
"And that is the recommendation in this case that three trustees join that search committee. I think personally that is a very wise move, given where we are at this point --- and I think will be an important factor in helping us attract first-rate candidates."
The committee will spend the next several months conducting a national search for a new president.
U of I Board Chairman Chris Kennedy says he wasn't worried that October might be a little late in the year to be able to find a strong candidate for the job.
"I don't think in fact that we're behind the eight ball at all. I think that we should have great confidence that we can find the best candidate. I think this university represents the best option for career change for anybody in the educational environment in America today. And I'm confident we'll end up with the best person in American to run the University of Illinois."
That confidence was echoed by the representative of the executive search firm that will help the search committee in its work. Michael Baer of Boston-based Isaacson Miller says the prime season for recruiting university presidents is just beginning. But he notes that other major universities are also conducting presidential searches --- including the University of Virginia, Texas A & M and North Carolina State.
U of I trustees hope to select a permanent president by next May, in order for that person to be on the job in time for the start of the next fall semester.
The University of Illinois Board of Trustees Saturday voted to name Stanley Ikenberry the interim president. He'll succeed B. Joseph White, who announced last week he would step down in the wake of the university admissions scandal.
Ikenberry was the U of I's youngest president when he started his 16 year stint in the position in 1979. He later served as president of the American Council on Education, before returning to the U of I as Regent Professor. Now 74, Ikenberry says he's ready to lead the university through what he calls a brief but important transition period.
"I had a love affair with the University of Illinois that started 30 years ago and hasn't abated since that time", says Ikenberry. "I've said all along that if I could help and the university needed my help, I would be happy and actually honored."
Until his term begins January 1st, Ikenberry will be the U of I's interim president-designate --- working alongside President White and other administrators to make an orderly transition.
Ikenberry had been considered as a possible interim president as far back as September 23rd, the day White announced his resignation. But university board chairman Chris Kennedy says they actually considered 30 or 40 possible candidates, and Ikenberry "stood head and shoulders above the rest".
Kennedy had little to say about the future of Richard Herman, except to say that that Urbana Chancellor was a "great leader" and the board needed to discuss his future in executive session. Like White, Herman was criticized by the governor's Admissions Review Commission for his role in the admissions scandal.
Also Saturday, trustees formally approved White's resignation and approved his new position as professor of business administration on the Urbana campus. Trustees also approved a structure for a search committee to find a permanent U of I president to take office in time for the fall semester. They selected the executive search firm of Isaacson Miller to help in the process.
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