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University of Chicago at Urbana-Champaigne admissions policy allows use of “clout”

29 May, 2009

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign evidently has two entrance tracks one for the general public and one for students who have “clout.”  Clout, in this instance, means anyone who knows someone who can pull strings to get you into the University even if you are a substandard student.  No doubt we can point fingers at other Universities who have a similar process; otherwise, how did George Walker Bush get into college?

Today’s Tribune story (here) has documentation rather than pure speculation.

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.

Over 800 students in the past 4 years were granted acceptance despite having substandard grades and test scores, thereby eliminating qualified candidates enrolling in the prestigious university.

Some students do not do well on traditional tests and many do not do well in traditional classrooms, so there must be a way to provide quality education for these students.  It must not, however, be at he expense of students who have done well according to the standards they were told to achieve in order to further their education. The end result of the current system hurts students, the University, and the public who is denied the educated and moral leaders we so desperately need.

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.”


The system has affected the quality of the student body, records show. In 2006, the Law School’s admissions dean argued that admitting a Category I applicant would require the admission of two additional students to offset the impact it would have on the school’s ranking.

“There is no track record of success and when [the applicant] is faced with the rigor of our program there is absolutely no reason to expect anything other than failure,” wrote Paul Pless, the law admissions dean.               [bold emphasis mine]

Kudos to The Tribune for pursuing this story.

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