A red stripe is what mattered on the folders of University of Illinois' applicants, a commission looking into complaints about the admission process discovered at a public hearing yesterday. The Tribune wrote about a former admissions counselor's testimony:
[Abel] Montoya said that when admissions staff were alerted that a student was "Category I," the internal term for clouted candidates, they placed a red stripe on the applicant's folder.
"They had to be important, basically. Or at least important to the person inquiring on their behalf," he said.
He said the number of such cases grew in the last seven years from about 110 applicants per year to about 160. He said most came from affluent suburban schools, and that those students' appeals were much more likely to be successful than ones coming from the general applicant pool.
How were they determined to be Category 1? If they had a personal with legislative clout asking on their behalf. Over the past eight years, House Speaker Mike Madigan has approached the U of I admissions department to assist with 40 applicants, more than any other legislator.
On Monday, GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Proft criticized politicians calling for top administrators at the University to resign. "If anyone should have to resign, it should be those who applied the pressure, not those who succumbed to it," he said.
Arguing that such calls "miss the point," Proft said that "our focus should be on how to end this shameful practice and guarantee to future applicants to the University of Illinois that the bar for admissions is based on merit, achievement, and hard work - not on who you know."
Rather, Proft said, the goal should be to remove the incentive to influence the admissions process. Calling his new policy a "Merit-Based Opportunity" standard, Proft proposed that all applicants' names be replaced with identification numbers.
No more red stripes on applicant folders?
"All that an admissions official will be able to discern from an application is the student's academic and extracurricular achievements - as it should be," said Proft. "This proposal means that even if a politically-connected individual demands special consideration for a particular applicant, the admission officials would be unable to comply."
The policy in place now, said Proft, allows politicians to use the threat of reduced funding to force university administrators to accept unqualified applicants with political connections. "Simply getting rid of university officials who went along to get along will not do that. It is not fundamentally a personnel problem. It is a system problem," he said.
Quinn's commission, chaired by Abner Mikva, has scheduled meeting dates for July 6, 8, 13 and 14. They plan to call to testify trustee Lawrence Eppley; board chair Niranjan Shah, Chancellor Herman, President B. Joseph White and former law school dean Heidi Hurd.