American Bar Association / ABA, Law Schools

Illinois Law and the Lone Gunman Theory of Admissions Fraud

It’s time to check in on the scandal involving the University of Illinois College of Law and its false reporting on the qualifications of its admitted students. Every time we do look at Illinois, the school tells us that “this time” they’ve figured out the full extent of the problem — and it’s a bigger mess than the last time they piped up.

On that scale, today is no different. When the story first broke in September, Illinois claimed that admissions data had only been falsified for one year. Then, a few weeks later, Illinois said that data for four class years had been falsified. Today, Illinois says it has completed a two-month investigation that cost the school $1 million. Now they’re saying that the admissions data for six class years have been compromised, based on a report prepared for the school by Jones Day and Duff & Phelps.

I wonder how many years of lying Illinois would have discovered if they spent $2 million?

But people will be distracted from the ever growing number of times Illinois is self-reporting it lied to people. That’s because today, Illinois has offered up a sacrificial lamb. There’s a head on a platter, there’s a body on the pyre, and Illinois College of Law would have you believe that it has identified the one, the only, the sole person responsible for this entire scandal….

Dean of Admissions Paul Pless, please place your head on this Fighting Illini guillotine, because the College of Law is putting this on you, and you alone. Here’s the story from the Chicago News-Gazette:

The UI on Monday announced it concluded its investigation into inaccuracies found with the law school’s student profile data and issued a final report Monday. That report uncovered intentional inaccuracies in six of the 10 years reviewed, and a single individual was solely responsible for these inaccuracies. The report also found the College of Law lacked adequate controls to prevent, deter and detect such actions, according to a university release.

Paul Pless, the college’s former assistant dean for admissions and financial aid, “knowingly and intentionally” miscalculated key data, according to the university. The admissions dean was placed on administrative leave Sept. 7 and resigned from the university last week.

That’s not just for the press. Illinois Law is also pushing the “it’s all his fault” story internally to students at the school. Here’s part of the email Illinois Law students received from Illinois Law Dean Bruce Smith (email posted in full below):

The investigation found that a single individual – the College’s former assistant dean for admissions and financial aid, who has resigned from the College – was solely responsible for these inaccuracies. The investigation found no evidence indicating that any other person knew that erroneous data had been reported or disseminated by the College prior to the commencement of the investigation. The investigation also found no evidence of misreporting in any of the other areas examined during the inquiry: career placement, bar passage, and financial aid and scholarships.

Do you believe Dean Smith? Do you believe that there’s been a massive fraud by the University of Illinois College of Law for at least six years and only one person knew about it and participated in the deception?

At least one Illinois Law student isn’t buying it. From a tipster:

I find it a little hard to believe that this was solely the work of the former Dean of Admissions (Paul Pless). I just don’t see how he had the incentive to do this all on his own. Seems more likely to me that those in charge had plausible deniability.

What will the ABA do in response to all this? The organization doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to regulation/comprehension/effectiveness/justice/basic competence. Are they really just going to take Illinois’s word for it?

Maybe U.S. News should at least put an asterisk next to the Illinois College of Law’s ranking next year.

A University of Illinois law dean resigns after report details manipulations of admissions data [Chicago Tribune]
UI law school official resigns; investigation ends [The News-Gazette]

Earlier: Another Law School Caught In A Lie
Illinois Law Restates Its Numbers: The Deception is Deeper Than We Thought


UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS COLLEGE OF LAW — MESSAGE FROM DEAN BRUCE P. SMITH

Dear Alumni and Friends:

The University of Illinois has issued a final report upon the completion of its inquiry into student profile data reported and/or publicly disseminated by the College of Law. The report identified inaccuracies in LSAT and GPA statistics with respect to the class of 2008 and the classes of 2010 through 2014 and inaccuracies in acceptance rate data with respect to the classes of 2008, 2012, 2013, and 2014. The investigation found that a single individual – the College’s former assistant dean for admissions and financial aid, who has resigned from the College – was solely responsible for these inaccuracies. The investigation found no evidence indicating that any other person knew that erroneous data had been reported or disseminated by the College prior to the commencement of the investigation. The investigation also found no evidence of misreporting in any of the other areas examined during the inquiry: career placement, bar passage, and financial aid and scholarships.

The report includes a set of eight recommendations, including correction of the erroneous data, implementation of “best practice” processes and controls that include data monitoring, auditing, and segregation of duties, and steps to ensure a continued culture of integrity and ethical conduct. The College intends to implement the report’s recommendations promptly and comprehensively.

We appreciate the many expressions of support and encouragement that we have received from alumni and friends over the past weeks. As the report properly recognizes, the College of Law remains one of the nation’s premier law schools. We are confident that we will justify that assessment with data that are accurate, transparent, and unimpeachable.

Best regards,
Bruce Smith

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