Admissions reform under way in wake of commission review
The UI has put an end to the “Category I” admissions tracking system and is implementing new admissions related processes that are intended to make the UI’s embattled admissions system “a model for the nation.”
In an Aug. 18 e-mail message to the campus community, Chancellor Richard Herman announced the appointment of an Admissions Task Force charged with producing proposals for the handling of appeals, third-party inquiries and other admissions-related matters.
In addition to the task force, a panel of experts in higher education will provide their perspectives on the guidelines and practices that the campus will be considering (see box). The members of the task force and the panel are being appointed by Herman, Interim Provost Robert Easter and Senate Executive Chair Joyce Tolliver.
Additionally, a Web-based appeals process, which has been in the works for a year, will go online this fall for applicants for the 2010-11 academic year.
“Since May when significant media coverage began to focus on the “Category I” admissions practice at Illinois, we have stressed that we have an exceptional group of admissions officers on campus,” Herman wrote. “The integrity and the validity of decisions made by this group have not been brought into question by the intensive review conducted by the Admissions Review Commission or by the extensive media coverage of ‘clout’ in admissions. …
“The Admissions Task Force is not asked to change the work of the admissions staff but to protect it and clarify it – to put, in the words of the ARC report, a ‘fire wall’ around it and insulate it from external pressures and undue influence from internal administrators. Those factors have been removed.
“Moving forward, I plan to take responsibility for ensuring admissions reforms here at the Urbana campus. I will work with our great admissions staff to create a process that is a model for the nation.”
On Aug. 12, a meeting with more than 100 top administrators and faculty and staff members was held at the Business Instructional Facility on the Urbana campus to review the report from the ARC, a seven-member commission led by former federal judge and U.S. Rep. Abner Mikva that had been appointed by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn in June to examine admissions practices at Illinois.
President B. Joseph White expressed gratitude to the commission for its analysis and called upon senior administrators to immediately implement the commission’s recommendations, which included creating a code of conduct that excludes undue influence in the admissions process; communicating all admissions procedures to applicants; drafting a clear appeals policy; creating a central and transparent means of dealing with inquiries about applications; and beginning a yearlong review to examine the effectiveness of the new policies and practices and adding additional reforms if necessary.
In addition to ending the “Category I” tracking system, the university has barred the Office of Governmental Relations from any role in admissions.
“Across the university system we must accept, embrace and implement reforms recommended in the final report of the ARC that will allow our admissions processes to work as they were designed to,” White said. “This means all three campuses and every college and school. There are no exceptions or exemptions.
“We must restore the trust of the people of Illinois, and all who apply to the university, that our admissions processes are fair and transparent with equal access to all. So I’m putting us on a forced march to get all this done in the next six to eight weeks,” before the admissions cycle for the 2010-2011 academic year begins in September.
The commission also recommended that all of the trustees resign, and three of them did within a few days: chairman Niranjan Shah, of Oakbrook, Lawrence Eppley, of Palatine, and Edward McMillan, of Greenville. Quinn is expected to retain McMillan, who had only been appointed in May.
Quinn asked the remaining six trustees to resign as well. If they did not, Quinn said he would “act with finality” the week of Aug 21. As governor, Quinn is an ex officio member of the board.
Four of the remaining trustees - Devon C. Bruce, Chicago; David Dorris, LeRoy; Kenneth D. Schmidt, Riverwoods; and Robert Vickrey, Peru – submitted their resignations Aug. 18.
As of Aug. 19, the last two trustees – Frances Carroll and James D. Montgomery, each of Chicago – had not stepped down.
The UI Alumni Association, which was asked to recommend potential replacements for two of the seats after Eppley and Shah resigned, and which solicited proposals through its Web site until Aug. 14, reported receiving “scores of impressive recommendations from alumni and friends” but declined to specify just how many.
In an Aug. 17 resolution, the Senate Executive Committee urged Quinn to work with faculty members in selecting new trustees by establishing a task force for the selection process that comprised the chairs of the three campus senates, leaders in higher education from other institutions and “additional citizens of integrity with a record of dedication to the UI.”
Quinn said Aug. 17 that 140 people had expressed interest in the trustees’ seats, and that he planned to make appointments before the trustees’ Sept. 10 meeting in Urbana.
- Abbas Aminmansour, chair, Senate Educational Policy Committee
- William E. Berry, associate chancellor
- Roy Campbell, chair, Senate Information Technology Committee
- Tanya Gallagher, dean, College of Applied Health Sciences
- Christine Hurt,* chair, Senate Admissions Committee
- Stacey Kostell, director of undergraduate admissions
- Keith Marshall, associate provost for enrollment management
- Joyce Tolliver, chair, Senate Executive Committee
- Bradley Tran, student body president and member, Senate Executive Committee
- Ruth Watkins, dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
- Richard Wheeler, vice provost
- Barbara Wilson, vice provost
*Admissions Task Force chair
Members of the Experts Panel
- William B. DeLauder, president, Delaware State University, 1987-2003
- Shirley Strum Kenny, president, Stony Brook University, 1994-2009
- Richard D. Legon, president, Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges
- M. Peter McPherson, president, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
- Gary F. Smith, director emeritus of admissions and registrar, University of Missouri at Columbia, 1971-2000
- John D. Wiley, chancellor, University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2001-2008