Law School Deans

Change of Policy at University of Illinois College of Law

University of Illinois College of Law logo.JPGLast week, professors from the University of Illinois College of Law launched a spirited defense of their law school against the against allegations of improper admissions policies reported in the Chicago Tribune. Part of the professors’ argument was that the kind of influence connected people put on public law schools happens all of the time.
But today the Illinois College of Law Dean, Bruce Smith, announced a new policy aimed at taking political influence out of the admissions process. The National Law Journal reports:

In a letter to staff, faculty, students and alumni, Smith said the new policy will also require the college to respond only to inquiries on the status of an application if the inquiry is made by the applicant. In addition, the school will now accept only formal letters of recommendation that are made to the admissions office and placed in the applicant’s file.
“Under my deanship, the college will give no ‘special’ consideration, treatment, or procedure to any application,” Smith said in the letter. “All applicants will be treated equally.”

So, is that a tacit admission of guilt? More details after the jump.

Does changing the school’s admission policy suggest that the previous law school policy was unethical? Former College of Law Dean Heidi Hurd seemed to equivocate on the point last week:

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn last month set up the special admissions review commission to investigate the matter and has called on various officials to testify.
Smith and former College of Law Dean Heidi Hurd testified at the commission’s hearing last week. Hurd said that when she became dean in 2002, there was a “machine” in place through which her superiors required certain applicants to be admitted to the college. She estimated that about 15 students were accepted in that manner over her five-year term, though some would have been admitted in any case and there weren’t any in her last year.

Last week, Hurd argued that her emails — which seemed to exchange law school spots for jobs for under qualified graduates — were purely sarcastic. But now she seems to be admitting that at least some students with low qualifications were admitted during her tenure. Is her argument now that the school admitted these people, but received no special favor in return?
The new policy from Dean Smith has a Mark McGwire-esque “I’m not here to talk about the past,” ring to it. Is Illinois right to try to focus on the future, or do we need more accountability for the past?
Illinois Law Dean Announces New Admission Policy in Wake of Scandal [National Law Journal]
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of the University of Illinois College of Law (scroll down)

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