Smile Politely

Come on U of I, we’re better than this

Maybe you’ve been out of town on summer holiday and you haven’t caught the latest wave of news taking Champaign-Urbana by storm: scandal at the U of I. Whether it be football, women’s basketball or soccer coaches who have allegedly abused athletes or a chancellor and several administrators who used personal email accounts to hide conversations about university matters – campus has been dominating the headlines lately. Chancellor Phyllis Wise has resigned among the scandal, with perhaps more to come.

As cries to “clean house” and “fire them all” arise, it’s clear that frustration with the university’s administration have reached nearly peak levels – at least in recent memory. While I wish I could say this was an odd phenomenon, scandal has plagued the University of Illinois for a significant portion of the last five years. At the risk of cramming too many sports references into one article, we are to academia what USC or Ohio State are to college football recently – a program that always seeks to find ways around the rules

I mean who could forget all-stars like former President Michael Hogan (pictured above) who merely served from 2010 to 2012, who was caught instituting massive administrative pay raises. His subsequent firing was supported by more than 130 faculty in an open letter to the administration, and shortly thereafter, he was fired, thrusting power to interm-President Robert Easter for the past three years.

As if it couldn’t get worse than corruption at the highest level, the University of Illinois’ Law School was also embroiled in another scandal before the Hogan fiasco – this time in 2009, involving the manipulation of grades to make their ranking appear higher than it actually was. According to The Chicago Tribune, the law school also instituted what The Chicago Tribune referred a “clout list,” (officially referred to as Category 1) which allowed children of politicians and those in power to be placed on a special list for admission, something a public institution is not allowed to do.

At the risk of sounding elitist and holier-than-thou, the University of Illinois should be hold itself to a higher standard than recent history would suggest. Every year, U.S. News or The Princeton Review release their rankings, and shortly after, Facebook is populated with proud alumni, posting about the university’s high ranking. Sometimes, in these rankings, the University of Illinois is referred to as a “public ivy,” a rare and honorable distinction. This is all good and well, but as scandal increases surrounding the university’s name, our accolades will surely recede.

Maybe I’m naive in thinking that, of all places, higher education should be completely free of corruption – but honestly, education shouldn’t be something that is subject to manipulation by those in administrative roles. I hope that the U of I’s recent string of scandals is a fluke, much like I hope our football team would go undefeated next year, but for both, the recent track record leads to a different conclusion.

Perhaps these instances are more common across other campuses as well, or maybe it’s not odd to have constant administrative shakeups, but it certainly seems like this shouldn’t be the norm. I’m a proud alumni of the University of Illinois, and that will never change, but it sure would be nice if we could stifle this suffering reputation before it becomes too deeply attached.

(Photo by The Chicago Tribune)

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