Former U. of I. leaders put much of blame for clout list on trustees

From the Chicago Tribune:

Former presidents and chancellors of the University of Illinois are laying much of the blame for the current admissions scandal at the feet of trustees, calling for sweeping changes on the board and the way it is appointed.

A letter from four former U. of I. leaders to the commission investigating admissions abuses falls just short of calling for the governor to fire the trustees, but says that some of them are more interested in personal gain than the well-being of the university…..

The four former leaders served over a 26-year period combined, from 1979 to 2005.

They blamed the current situation on the patronage culture that evolved during the administrations of Govs. George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich. But they didn’t exonerate U. of I. President B. Joseph White or Herman.

Weir, chancellor from 1988 to 1993, said he would have quit before caving to political influence.

“I would have objected strongly and hoped that would be enough,” he said. “If they said, ‘Admit or else,’ I would have taken ‘or else.’ I wouldn’t have stood for it.”

He said he cannot recall an instance in which a trustee pressured him to accept a student or even mentioned a particular admissions case. Neither Gov. James Thompson nor Gov. Jim Edgar involved themselves in admissions beyond sending letters of recommendation, he said.

As chancellor, Weir said he never tracked students or asked for status reports of politically connected students, as documents suggest Herman has done for years. If university lobbyists forwarded requests from lawmakers, Weir said, they never crossed his desk.

“It’s hard to imagine how this has happened,” said Weir, now a trustee at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. “It’s very important for universities to be high places of integrity. That’s about all we have to go on.”

Ikenberry said “none of us can remember an instance” in which they pressured an admissions officer to change a decision.