Former University president reacts to admissions controversy

Former University President Stanley Ikenberry said he was surprised to read the article surrounding University admissions corruption in Friday’s Chicago Tribune.

The Tribune article reports that certain applicants 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 came from members of the Board of Trustees and other high ranking University officials.

“The fact that there are pressures around admissions issues is nothing new,” Ikenberry said. “How the University deals with those pressures is another matter.”

Ikenberry said that in a competitive school like the University, pressure is inherent to the admissions system.

“But it appears the system has suffered. It has been compromised and needs repair,” he said.

He added that these pressures, while apparent during his time as president, have increased over the years.

“The fact that there is a list and it has more than 100 people on it suggests an increase in the volume of that pressure,” he said. “My guess is that the president will take steps to strengthen and reaffirm the integrity of the system, to make sure it can resist pressures from politicians and individual trustees.”

Ikenberry said he had not spoken with University President B. Joseph White and did not know what the University planned to do to move forward from this investigation, but he did say he believed the University’s reputation would take a hit.

“I think anytime the integrity of the University is challenged, it’s harmful,” he said.

Ikenberry was president of the University system from 1979 to 1995.