Amid clout controversy, Trustee Shah resigns
August 4, 2009
The chairman of the University’s Board of Trustees, Niranjan Shah, resigned Monday morning amid an investigation into the use of political power to get under-qualified students into the University.
As recently as Friday, a spokesman for Shah said that he had no plans to step down.
The Admissions Review Commission, the state panel investigating the University’s admissions practices, held its first open deliberation Friday.
Despite hearing from approximately three dozen witnesses over the course of six weeks, the commission should limit its orders to what Gov. Pat Quinn’s executive order requested, commission chair Abner Mikva said.
“I don’t think the governor, therefore our recommendation from the governor, says we have jurisdiction beyond the Board of Trustees,” Mikva said at the commission meeting Friday. “The executive order was to look at the admissions policy.”
Based on this, the commission does not plan to make recommendations for Chancellor Herman or President B. Joseph White. Also, the commission should try to avoid commenting on questionable practices in athletics, Mikva said.
“Its a whole new can of worms,” he added.
Above all, Mikva stated the importance of establishing a firewall around the admissions department at Friday’s deliberation.
“Our mission is to do something about the admissions problem,” Mikva said.
The commission is scheduled to release its final report on Aug. 8. Mikva urged fellow members to aid him in keeping the report relatively short.
Following the public meeting on Friday, Shah released a statement Monday, stating that he decided to submit his resignation after members of the Admissions Review Commission said they think the trustees should step down.
In a letter sent Monday to Gov. Pat Quinn, Shah said that he would embrace any changes the Admissions Review Commission recommended.
“I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to accomplish many things in my six years as a U of I trustee,” Shah said in a statement,
“When I became a Trustee at U of I in 2003, many of the stakeholders in the University of Illinois system — trustees, university administrators and staff, legislators and others — operated under a set of rules and norms that seemed appropriate at the time. Today, I recognize that those rules are changing with the times, and I think that change is a very good thing.
“One of the first changes being proposed by the Commissioners is that the trustees should resign. I have said all along that I would welcome the Commission’s recommendations and would abide by them.”
Shah is the second trustee to resign, following former chairman Lawrence Eppley last week. Shah says his resignation is effective in 90 days or sooner if his successor is in place.
Shah’s resignation was an admirable action in the face of trying times for the University, student trustee Matt Reschke said.
“I think its admirable he stepped down at this point. Hopefully this will be able to give back some credibility to the University in the eyes of the critics and the citizens of the state,” Reschke said.
University spokesman Tom Hardy echoed this sentiment.
“The University respects Chairman Shah’s decision and appreciates his services to higher education in Illinois for more than two decades, including his work for the University of Illinois,” Hardy said.