Illinois Public Media News
University of Illinois Chancellor Richard Herman has apologized for his role in the university's admissions scandal, but says he has no plans to resign.
In a brief interview Tuesday with the Chicago Tribune, Herman said he was sorry for his role in the scandal and intends now to work on creating a new admissions process.
It was one of Herman's first public remarks since a state commission concluded last week that he acted unethically in admitting politically connected students with less-than-standard academic records.
The noted mathematician has been chancellor of the Urbana-Champaign campus since 2005, and was provost before that. Herman said he has received very few calls for his resignation and instead is relying on a letter of support signed by 48 of the university's most distinguished faculty members.
University of Illinois administrators will be meeting Wednesday afternoon to look at ways to fix the school's admissions process.
U of I President Joseph White called for the meeting, after a state panel concluded that the university bowed to political pressure in admitting under-qualified students.
University spokesman Tom Hardy says they want to do what they can to fix the problem before the new admissions cycle begins next month.
"The plan is to hit the ground running," says Hardy, "and work immediately --- as the president indicated last week -- on recommendations that came out of the Admissions Review Commission, on how to reform aspects of our admissions procedures, to put up a firewall around admissions, so that we don't have the same kind of problems that were experienced before."
A university statement says the firewall will include a new Code of Conduct for Admissions ... clear and complete details on admissions policies and processes ... and a clear policy for appealing admissions decisions.
The closed-door meeting is set for 1:30 PM, Wednesday afternoon, at the Business Instructional Facility on the Urbana campus. Officials at the Chicago and Springfield campuses will take part via teleconference.
Hundreds of Illinois boards and commissions have members serving on expired terms, vacant positions or no members at all.
Advocates say that can result in delayed decisions and ineffective advocacy for millions of Illinoisans, organizations and businesses. The state Banking Board, for example, hasn't had enough members to meet since 2003.
State officials and advocates place much of the blame on former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, saying he often ignored or delayed appointments.
Gov. Pat Quinn says he hasn't caught up on the appointments because of more pressing state issues and the desire to be extra careful after his predecessor was accused of trading some appointments for political favors.
Quinn says he plans to make many appointments in the next 90 days, and he's set up a Web site so people can apply online.
A new law signed this week sets aside clear boundaries for cities and villages in downstate Illinois to plan their future growth.
Those towns sometimes come into conflict with county zoning plans when they plan or annex new developments -- such as when Champaign approved an annexation agreement with a new Illinois American Water treatment plant two miles outside the city limits. The new law sets a one-and-a-half mile buffer around city or village limits before the county can restrict certain parts of those annexation agreements.
Champaign's deputy city attorney Trisha Crowley says local governments are fine with those limits.
"Basically it adds some certainty to the land use planning, so that's pretty important when you're making decisions that might involve development in 10,15, 20 years," Crowley said.
Smaller villages had also supported the new limits over worries that their planning efforts could be hurt by those of larger nearby cities. The new law doesn't affect counties in the Chicago or Metro East areas.
The Champaign School Board passed resolutions, and introduced new policies last (Monday) night related to the recently concluded Consent Decree for racial equity.
The school board had promised to enact the resolutions and policies as part of its settlement with the Consent Decree plaintiffs. And Unit Four spokeswoman Beth Shepperd says board members are keeping their word.
"It means that our board is committed to equity and excellence for all students, and that we don't require court oversight to do what we believe is right," Sheppard said. "We want to show the community that we mean what we say."
The resolutions were passed unanimously. One reasserts Unit Four's commitment to the Consent Decree promise of adding new classrooms on Champaign's north side. The other resolution promises to continue the Academic Academy alternative program for at least two more years.
The policy proposals commit Unit Four to equity in its special education program, and in deciding school opening and closings. There will also be a new committee to monitor the school district's success in providing equity in education. The Champaign school board votes on the policy questions next month, after a 30-day public comment period.
Candidates for Illinois governor are making their initial trips across the state as they gear up for a crowded race next year.
Republican state senator Matt Murphy visited a Champaign restaurant early Monday morning in an attempt to get his name out among GOP faithful outside the Chicago suburbs. Murphy says his ability to win a close race three years ago in the Palatine area proves he's a worthy competitor for his party.
"I was outspent 2 to 1 in a horrible Republican year and won by 6 (percentage points). In a rematch in '08 I tripled that margin to 18 during the President Obama wave," saod Murphy. "So I'm a proven winner in elections and have the right message and the credibility to offer it."
As a relative newcomer to Illinois politics, Murphy also claims distance from disgraced former governor George Ryan as well as Democrat Rod Blagojevich. Fellow state senators Bill Brady of Bloomington and Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale are also in the Republican race, as well as DuPage County GOP chair Bob Schillerstrom, Dan Proft and Adam Andrzejewski.
The Admission Review Commission's final report points to the practices of another U of I school as a guide to how political clout can be taken out of the process.
It says the College of Medicine received letters of interest from trustees or political leaders over at least six prospective students in the last six years, but none were admitted and the inquiries didn't affect the integrity of the process. Dean Joe Flaherty says the faculty committee that chooses med students is not accessible to outside influence - not even his.
"I couldn't get one of my own kids admitted even if I wanted to, which I wouldn't of course do it that way," Flaherty said. "They see all the grades, the scores, all the non-cognitive evaluations, everything that comes in. They make their decisions collectively every month. There isn't a way of sneaking a candidate in from the outside."
The report quotes Flaherty as telling inquiring trustees who asked about students that admitting people with political favor of any kind is the third rail of medical school.
University of Illinois President Joseph White says university officials will be meeting in Urbana next Wednesday, to decide how best to implement the recommendations of a state panel that investigated the school's admissions process.
In a news conference Thursday , White said he embraced the report's recommendations, and wanted to use next week's conference set the path for making the University of Illinois "the national leader in quality admissions process".
"I think that's the opportunity that has been literally handed to us by this painful chapter," says White. "Things went wrong in our admissions process. It is an opportunity for us, first, to fix the problems and then to set the standard with news."
White responded to a report that found unqualified students were admitted to the U of I because of political connections. Those students were followed by use of a shadow tracking system called Category I. White says the use of Category I is ended immediately.
The newest University of Illinois trustee has become the third to step down in recent days.
Greenville businessman Ed McMillan has only been on the board since May, but he submitted his resignation letter to Governor Pat Quinn Thursday, saying he wanted to comply with the recommendations of the Governor's Admissions Review Commission. McMillan says it's in his judgment that the most important thing is to put in place people, policies, and a culture that will let the U of I start regaining the confidence of the people.
But McMillan says he would like to continue in the role of Trustee if the governor sees him fit. "If I can, in his judgment play a role in developing a strong plan for the future, I stand ready to continue in the role that he originally intended when he nominated me," says McMillan. "But if not, I will support his decision. I stand ready to help the future leaders of the university move forward in a positive and progressive direction." Like the recent resignations of Trustees Lawrence Eppley and Naranjan Shah, McMillan's is effective in 90 days, or when a successor is found. At this point, McMillan says Governor Quinn will take good counsel from the recommendations made by the commission.
A Champaign County Board committee is recommending that voters be allowed to decide if the county auditor should remain an elected office.
The underlying issue at Wednesday's Policy Committee meeting was not the auditor's office but the auditor himself. Tony Fabri has been under a cloud since the News-Gazette analyzed phone records to conclude that the Democrat was often away from his desk. Democrat Carol Ammons argued that the performance of one office-holder was not reason enough to switch to an appointed auditor.
But Republican Alan Nudo said it was the people who should decide the future of the auditor's office. And he said the mid-term appointments of both Fabri and his predecessor Mike Frerichs to the county auditor position in past years amounted to political cronyism meant to bypass the voters.
"We've had two hand offs in-between elections in the auditors positon', says Nudo, "to high-powered officials within the (Democratic) party. Is that thwarting the will of the public? Is that this magical things that people bring up of how the elected is much better than appointed.
The Champaign County Board will consider the proposal August 20th. If they approve, the ballot question would come to voters in November of 2010. And if voters approve, the auditor's post would be appointed by the county board or perhaps the county administrator, starting in 2012.
Policy Committee rejected proposals to ask voters if they want to make the county coroner and recorder of deeds appointed as well.
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