Law Professors, Law School Deans, Media and Journalism

University of Illinois Faculty Strike Back

University of Illinois College of Law logo.JPGThe University of Illinois College of Law is embroiled in a scandal over admitting politically connected students under government pressure. But the school’s faculty is done taking it on the chin from the Chicago Tribune.
At the end of June, the Tribune posted emails from a former College of Law Dean, Heidi Hurd. The emails suggest that Hurd was trying to bargain for jobs for her graduates, in exchange for admitting underqualified students.
But last week, Hurd claimed she was just kidding. In an open letter to the Chicago Tribune, Hurd writes:

Contrary to recent headlines, the College of Law did not seek or receive any jobs from anyone in exchange for the admission of students. It did not enter into a “jobs-for-entry scheme” or engage in quid-pro-quo exchanges of admissions favors for employment favors. Indeed, it takes very little to make clear that the employment challenges of students who are not academically successful could never be overcome by anyone’s promises to furnish the College with job opportunities, as the recently published exchanges should have made clear. While my sarcasm was clearly lost on the tin ears of some, my e-mail exchanges in response to queries about this were on their face facetious.

You can go back and read the emails here. Is that sarcasm or quid-pro-quo?
But Hurd is not the only person writing open letters to the Chicago Tribune. There are 16 University of Illinois professors who are mad as hell, and are not going to take it anymore.
Details after the jump.

In an exciting little bit of meta-analysis, the Chicago Tribune summarizes the open letter blasting the Chicago Tribune’s powers of analysis:

The 16 professors who signed the letter say the Tribune’s coverage has been biased and question whether the “Clout Goes to College” series has merited the frequent front-page attention it has received….
The letter accused the Tribune of being overly harsh in its reporting on university officials: “University administrators make easy targets. They are after all academics — mathematicians, philosophers, business scholars — who must attempt to navigate the choppy waters of Illinois state politics. They themselves have no clout, and can be attacked in the press with relative impunity.”

The paper does publish the full, nine-page letter from the University of Illinois professors. The professors have three main points:
UofI Open Letter 1.jpg
The most intellectually troubling point seems to be the first one. The professors argue that the kind of political pressure the University of Illinois was subjected to happens all of the time — and is therefore a “non-story.”
UofI Open Letter 2.jpg
Perhaps there are numerous infamously corrupt governors who exert pressure on public universities to admit politically connected students. And in those situations it is certainly possible that law school deans sarcastically cave to the pressure, in a tongue-in-cheek exchange for good jobs for the school’s poor performing graduates.
But the 16 professors do not name names, nor do they provide any evidence suggesting that “everyone does this,” at least not in the way that Illinois “does this.” One suspects that if the professors did provide such evidence, it would be front page news as well.
Regardless, the professors’ second point seems totally fair. University officials caving to political pressure is one thing, but what about the politicians that apply the pressure in the first place?
UofI Open Letter 3.jpg
Finally, the professors question the Tribune’s motivation for publishing these stories:
UofI Open Letter 4.jpg
I don’t know, newspapers are on the rocks in this country. Perhaps the University of Illinois professors are confusing “starry-eyed journalists” with critically malnourished journalists in desperate need of a sandwich. You can’t eat a Pulitzer Prize.
UofI Open Letter 5.jpg
Do you think that the University of Illinois College of Law has been unfairly maligned by the Chicago Tribune? Whether or not the College of Law was unduly influenced by political pressure, it is clearly not afraid of the Chicago Tribune.
University of Illinois law professors criticize Chicago Tribune’s ‘Clout Goes to College’ series [Chicago Tribune]
On U. of I. accusations [Chicago Tribune]
A response to the Tribune [Ideoblog]
Another View of the Illinois Admissions Situation [WSJ Law Blog]
Earlier: University of Illinois College of Law Scandal: Now With Emails

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