There have been a lot of people of late who have offered suggestions for "improving" the university system, mainly by putting the blame on the faculty. There's been criticism that the educational system produces "dull" scientists, and the more-or-less perennial calls for a heavier regulation of faculty members and an abolishment tenure. However, as a recent case illustrates, perhaps faculty members shouldn't be the only ones blamed for the quality of the system:
What does it cost to get an unqualified student into the University of Illinois law school?
Five jobs for graduating law students, suggest internal e-mails released Thursday.
The documents show for the first time efforts to seek favors -- in this case, jobs -- for admissions, the most troubling evidence yet of how Illinois' entrenched system of patronage crept into the state's most prestigious public university.
They also detail the law school's system for handling "Special Admits," students backed by the politically connected, expanding the scope of a scandal prompted by a Chicago Tribune investigation.
In one e-mail exchange, University of Illinois Chancellor Richard Herman forced the law school to admit an unqualified applicant backed by then- Gov. Rod Blagojevich while seeking a promise from the governor's go-between that five law school graduates would get jobs. The applicant, a relative of deep-pocketed Blagojevich campaign donor Kerry Peck, appears to have been pushed by Trustee Lawrence Eppley, who often carried the governor's admissions requests.
This is pretty appalling, and to me illustrative of a real problem with modern universities: the view that an education is simply a commodity to be sold, and more broadly that a university should be run just like any other business. Reading the full article, I feel bad for the Dean of the Law School, who resisted pressure to admit the sub-par candidates as much as possible.
While I sympathize with the view that a university has to keep itself financially viable, far too often it seems that administrations try and improve the prestige and success of the institution by every method except the one that counts: maintaining first-rate academic programs.
Is there any part of Illinois that Rod Blagojevich didn't corrupt?