Chancellor Herman: admissions is complex, Tribune didn’t tell full story

University Chancellor Richard Herman expressed some unhappiness Friday morning with the Chicago Tribune’s article, which he said only tells part of the story.

“These isolated things tend to not show the full context,” Herman said. “It’s only a part of the picture.”

The Tribune article reports that certain applicants placed in “Category 1” were given higher priority for admission, even when their qualifications were not in line with University standards. Often these candidates had close relationships with state politicians or University trustees. The article also reports that some of these students were admitted after pressure from members of the Board of Trustees and other high ranking University officials.

Herman said the admissions process is very complicated and competitive. The University admissions office admits students at two time periods during the year, at the end of December and the end of February and that more than 60 percent are admitted during the second wave.

“There is not a formula where you plug in the data and out comes the answer. The more information you get the better off you are,” Herman said. “These folders are seen by lots and lots of people and they get a lot of review.”

He added that there is often more to an applicant than what is seen in his or her basic application folders and that through further reviews, admissions officers can learn information they may not have known.

Herman cited examples such as a student who lost a parent or went through some other life change, as an explanation for a drop in GPA or low test score.

In a massmail sent Friday afternoon, Chancellor Herman said he has “full confidence” in the admissions office and its staff.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has an admissions process based on integrity and fairness,” Herman said in the e-mail. “One that produces an incoming class that ranks among the best academically in the nation.”

He also said that the University strives to uphold the academic quality it is known for, while still being committed to inclusiveness.

“Admissions is not a science,” Herman wrote. “However, we welcome the challenge the Tribune story presents to make every possible effort to ensure the integrity our admissions process.”

Herman also said he has gotten calls from parents he has met, asking them to check on the admissions status of their son or daughter at the University, showing this is not an unusual instance and that “sometimes people follow up.”

“It is important to recognize that we have people who are supportive of this University and we need to be responsive,” Herman said.

One positive change to the admissions process for those students applying in fall 2009 will be a much easier appeals process, Herman said, which was already in the works before the Tribune investigation.

Students will be able to appeal their admissions decision through an online template in the upcoming year, which he added will make the process much simpler and more widely used.

Herman said he did not yet know the next course of action for the University or the admissions process.

“Admissions is not a science,” Herman said. “We’re in the middle of absorbing this and figuring out the best way to proceed.”