A few days ago I phoned a friend who just graduated from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this past May. I wanted to wish her luck on her first day of teaching high school physics. I asked her how the work environment seemed, and she admitted that she was warmly welcomed into the district by a positive teaching staff, but she was bothered by the fact that none failed to ask, “So did you get into U of I on your own merit or what?”
Now if she really had connections high enough in the political chain to be able to swindle her way into U of I without being able to academically back it up, she would probably be sliding into some top position at a Fortune 500 company — let’s be honest.
For the huge majority of those who veritably have been admitted into the university as a result of their academic integrity, it’s a heavy burden and a shame to have to bear the brunt of the scandal from the roughly 0.4% of the students admitted through the “Category 1” route since 2004. That’s really not a lot of students, so what’s the big fuss? U of I isn’t the only school with a thin clout cloud hanging over it, so why pick on C-U and not the others?
I’m just going to go out on a limb here and say that this entire situation is the clenched fist of a firm punch packed for Obama’s side. Taking a look at the headlines over the past few weeks in Chicago as Obama’s healthcare campaign has heated up, we see stories covering the Chicago Public Schools admissions scandals, U of I’s admission scandals, transparency issues in the Illinois government — from Rod Blagojevich’s reign, and Blagojevich’s predecessor Pat Quinn signing in a new law to try to clear up the opaqueness. The law seems to have only been a nice gesture, not a solution, and these scandals are all just distractions. Chicago and anything affiliated with Chicago politics (like the high-profile public university U of I) is getting lambasted with criticisms targeted to take away from Obama’s credibility and public appeal as he continues his campaign for a public healthcare option. Hitting Chicago hard is knocking the environment in which our President grew as a politician — it’s strategic, it’s low, it takes away from what issues really need to be focused on.
As the new and returning students wade through the hot and moisture-laden air of central Illinois while carrying boxes of books, furniture, and temporary home-appliances, the enthusiasm of being affiliated with the prestigious U of I has dwindled. To my fellow classmates, I say we take this hit as a kid in a big family being reprimanded for pinching a sibling; we’re not the only ones that have done it in the history of people, but we learn from our mistakes, move on, and realize there are bigger issues on the plate like the arm we just broke while bike riding.