Tuesday, June 30, 2009

School for Scandal: The Chicago Way

Chicago political corruption (which has been exported to the nation's capital) has been generally well publicized, but who knew that it would compromise graduate school admission--in this instance a top-tier law school?
What does it cost to get an unqualified student into the University of Illinois law school? Five jobs for graduating law students, suggest internal e-mails released Thursday. The documents show for the first time efforts to seek favors -- in this case, jobs -- for admissions, the most troubling evidence yet of how Illinois' entrenched system of patronage crept into the state's most prestigious public university. They also detail the law school's system for handling "Special Admits," students backed by the politically connected, expanding the scope of a scandal prompted by a Chicago Tribune investigation.
Most of us who contemplate law school in general concentrate on practicing for the LSAT, writing good application essays, and burnishing other credentials. Columnist John Kass, who has also been following the Inspector General scandal, writes that this latest scandal has the "old school" stink:
If there were any doubts that Illinois is the diseased poster child of political corruption, those doubts are long gone. Friday's story in the Tribune exposes a widening pattern of corruption at the University of Illinois. This time, with the trading of law school admission for patronage-style jobs. So any doubts about where this state stands should be erased. What remains is the smell.
The state stinks, from Rich Daley's City Hall to Springfield, and now all that's left, for taxpayers, is the smell and the stain. Corruption and patronage, once thought to be the exclusive province of greasy politicians, now reach into the law school of the state's premier public university...
If you've read carefully here and elsewhere, you know about corrupt politicians, corrupt cops, corrupt businesses. But the last line of defense for the corrupt are kinky judges. How do you get such judges? You begin in law school, with university officials establishing corrupt practices, leveraging unqualified lawyers into jobs. Lawyers become judges, don't they?
According to Obama advisor David Axelrod, says Kass, political patronage "is the grease that helps government run smoothly."