Time for members of board to resign

On Tuesday, Board of Trustees member Lawrence Eppley announced his resignation, effective in 90 days or when a replacement is selected, in the wake of the scandal over influence-peddling in University admissions. Eppley estimates that he forwarded about four inquiries a year on behalf of Governor Rod Blagojevich. We applaud Eppley for his decision to step aside and urge the other Board involved in the admissions scandal to follow suit.

All of the current Board members except Edward McMillan, appointed in May, submitted inquiries about applicants to the University. Board Chairman Niranjan Shah intervened on behalf of nine applicants over the next three years, in some cases specifically asking for favorable treatment. We believe that these inquiries were a breach of ethics because they constituted a form of pressure on the admissions office to admit well connected applicants regardless of their credentials. Over the past three years, over a hundred applicants referred by board members appeared on the Category I list, which boasted an admissions rate of 77 percent over the last four years, compared to 69 percent for applicants overall. The Category I list has had a tangible effect on admissions to the University. Not only did the Board contributed significantly to the list, but failed in its obligation to serve as a watchdog for the University’s conduct by allowing the list to endure.

The Board betrayed the trust of the students of the University and the people of the state of Illinois, and this cannot be erased by apologies or promises to act differently in the future. The members of the board have shown serious lapses in judgment, and all who were involved in inquiring about or recommending candidates should resign. Until they do, we have no reason to expect the University to change its admissions policies from the status quo.

The Board of Trustees was not the only group involved in recommending candidates to the list, and changing their membership alone will not solve the problems in the admissions process. But unlike the Legislature, the Board of Trustees is directly linked to the University, and change can not occur in the admissions process as long as we have a board that contributed to the problems in the first place. The University needs a governing body that can reform the admissions process. The conduct of the current board members shows that they are cannot undertake that task with any authority and legitimacy.