New Allegations in Admissions Controversy at U. of Illinois Suggest Ex-Provost Played a Role

July 03, 2009

The shoes keep dropping as the Chicago Tribune digs deeper into allegations that politically connected applicants have used a range of techniques to gain admission to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Today the newspaper reported that a Greek Orthodox priest got help from the state treasurer in putting a family friend on the list of applicants with clout. As a result, the Tribune reported, the student was admitted and the priest helped raise money for the state treasurer, who was running for higher office.

This latest disclosure resembles other tales, unearthed by the Tribune, of how political ties — often to Illinois’s ousted governor, Rod Blagojevich — helped applicants whose mediocre credentials made it impossible to admit them based on what they knew, only on who they knew.

The difference in today’s news is that the episode appears to tie the university’s former provost, Linda P.B. Katehi, to the leg up given to the priest’s family friend. Ms. Katehi, formerly the engineering dean at Purdue University, supervised the admissions office as provost at Illinois but has insisted she was kept in the dark about the special treatment accorded certain applicants.

She was named in May as the new chancellor of the University of California at Davis and is scheduled to take office next month, but since the Tribune started its series of articles on the alleged admissions abuses, one California lawmaker has questioned her appointment. The University of California’s president, Mark G. Yudof, told the San Francisco Chronicle two weeks ago, however, that “I have 100-percent confidence in her.” —Andrew Mytelka