Thursday, July 23, 2009
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U of I dean says he admitted student pushed by trustee

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[July 23, 2009]  CHICAGO (AP) -- An MBA student at the University of Illinois was initially denied admission to the school, but the decision was overturned and the student was admitted after receiving support from the chairman of the school's board of trustees, according to testimony Wednesday before the state Admissions Review Commission.

HardwareBusiness School Dean Lawrence DeBrock told commissioners that he admitted the international student, who was supported by board of trustees chairman Niranjan Shah, to the graduate program for the fall of 2008.

Shah had e-mailed Chancellor Richard Herman, asking Herman for assistance with the student's admission. Herman responded, telling Shah he was following up on the request. Several days later, DeBrock e-mailed Herman to tell the chancellor that the student would be admitted.

DeBrock told commissioners Wednesday that he was assured by MBA program staff that the student was qualified. The student was not identified.

"We knew this person would be an academic success," DeBrock said. "We weren't going to put somebody in a position where they couldn't succeed."

The university has been at the center of a storm since the Chicago Tribune reported in May that the school maintained a list of politically connected applicants, known as the Category I list, and that some underqualified members of the list were admitted under pressure from former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, university trustees and others.

Gov. Pat Quinn created the Illinois Admissions Review Commission to investigate the role of political influence on the school's admissions process.

Illinois MBA admissions director Jaquilin Wilson testified later Wednesday that the trustee-supported student was denied admission in three different phases of the school's process. She said the student was denied based on concerns about a low grade-point average and because the university had trouble determining whether the last school the student attended was accredited.

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When asked to describe the applicant, Wilson said, "I would not say a great applicant and I would not say repugnant."

University records and e-mails indicate Shah made inquiries on behalf of certain applicants. Shah testified before the commission Tuesday, saying he never pushed to admit relatives or was pressured by public officials to support certain applicants.

University of Illinois Foundation President Sidney Micek also testified Wednesday, saying the school's fundraising arm found it important to forward admissions inquiries from donors.

"As we would get an inquiry, we think there's a value from the foundation's point of view for the admissions people knowing that we have a supporter of the university who's very important to us, for them to have that information," Micek told the panel.

The commission convenes again Monday at the University of Illinois campus in Champaign-Urbana.

[Associated Press; By CARYN ROUSSEAU]

Associated Press writer David Mercer contributed to this report from Champaign.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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