Written by David Greenwald Friday, 03 July 2009 04:41
The revelations link a politically connected Greek Orthodox priest trying to get help for the daughter of a family friend so that she could attending the University of Illinois. In the course of doing so he reached out to a campaign adviser to State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. A few months later, that priest aided Giannoulias with a large fundraiser that needed him at least $120,000, according to the Tribune article.
"Internal campus documents released this week show Giannoulias' adviser Endy Zemenides sent information about the student to U. of I. Provost Linda Katehi in February 2008. He e-mailed from his law office, but copied his "Alexi for Illinois" campaign address on the exchange."
Katehi then directly sends the information to the vice provost and appears to direct him to help by stating who the email originated from.
"Katehi, who was born in Greece, then forwarded the information to her vice provost.
"Endy Zemenedis [sic] is the campaign manager for the State Treasurer," she wrote. "This is the application of the daughter of a fairly prominent Greek family in Chicago."
After Katehi's inquiry, admissions officers decided that they would admit the student in the spring, regardless of whether there was any wait-list movement at the Urbana-Champaign campus. Not every student on the wait list that year was accepted."
According to the Tribune, Katehi called her actions appropriate and suggested the reference to Zemenides' position were "not meant to carry any extra weight."
"It is absolutely appropriate for me to pass along such a status inquiry," she said in a statement. "I mentioned Mr. Zemenides' title, simply because that was how I knew him."
The article later mentions:
About a week after Zemenides inquired about the teen's application, the head of the admissions office told Katehi that the student had been placed on the wait list because she attended a competitive south suburban high school where, records show, 127 of her classmates earned admission that year.
Then-Vice Provost Ruth Watkins suggested accepting the applicant after the traditional deadline, a move often used by university officials to keep clouted admissions from raising eyebrows at major feeder schools.
"A late decision would probably be best given the nature of the high school," Watkins wrote.
Katehi was included in the e-mail exchange, but did not respond to Watkins. When Keith Marshall, the university's associate provost for enrollment management, agreed to the plan and said the student would be on the list for May admits, Katehi acknowledged the note.
"Excellent!" she wrote.
Finally they make reference to Ms. Katehi's situation in Davis:
Katehi's involvement in the inquiry again raises questions about her knowledge of the clout lists. She has declared publicly that she knew nothing about the Category I system, though she has overseen the admissions department since 2006. Katehi maintains she never pushed for a student's entry and did not interfere with this particular case.
The dust-up over Category I has followed her to the University of California-Davis, where she is set to become chancellor next month. U. of I. President B. Joseph White has told California officials that Katehi did not know about the practice, but state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) -- who has called for Katehi's contract to be rescinded -- said the newly released e-mail exchange "just creates more of a cloud."
"What this tells me is she clearly knew that there were, in fact, certain kinds of admissions that were given special treatment," he said. "It's an affront to every parent in Illinois."
Recall that the University's initial response to this incident was to forward an email from the incoming Chancellor.
In it she claimed no knowledge of the scandal or involvement in the process.
"However, I want to be clear to you and others at UC Davis that I was not involved in the admissions decisions that were the subject of the Tribune's "Clout Goes to College" investigation. Because of the governmental relations aspect and the involvement of University of Illinois System trustees, the so-called “Category I” admissions process was not part of the regular admissions system and was handled at a higher level in the institution."
When her name began to appear on emails and her direct line subordinate was shown on those emails directing preferential treatment, she responded:
"At the University of Illinois, there are officials above the Provost (including the Chancellor) who communicate directly with the admissions director without going through the Provost's office. Chancellor-designate Katehi has been clear that she was not aware of or involved in these matters."
However, the continued revelations show that if she was not aware or involved in these matters, she should have at least known about them.
The Vanguard is awaiting response from the University and Senator Yee's office. We will likely run a follow-up with those responses.
Senator Yee's office has issued the following statement:
“This is not the type of leadership we need at the helm of UC Davis. Again, I encourage President Yudof to uphold the integrity of the university and immediately put a hold on Ms. Katehi’s offer and determine if it should be completely rescinded.
“President Yudof needs to take his head out of the sand. Continuing this ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy will severely damage the University of California. The taxpayers and students deserve better from their public university administration.”
---David M. Greenwald reporting
There isn't anything in this story which shows Katehi did anything wrong, illegal or even unwise.
These are the salient quotes from the story:
Endy Zemenides sent information about the student to U. of I. Provost Linda Katehi in February 2008. ... Katehi, who was born in Greece, then forwarded the information to her vice provost.That sounds normal to me. I can't imagine what else you would have had Dr. Katehi do. No one asked her to admit an unqualified student or said that this student did not meet admissions standards.
Katehi, who is currently traveling in Greece, called her actions appropriate and said references to Zemenides' position were not meant to carry any extra weight. "It is absolutely appropriate for me to pass along such a status inquiry," she said in a statement. "I mentioned Mr. Zemenides' title, simply because that was how I knew him."There is no evidence that Katehi pressured anyone to admit this student. Instead, she forwarded the information to people who make these decisions.
Then-Vice Provost Ruth Watkins suggested accepting the applicant after the traditional deadline, a move often used by university officials to keep clouted admissions from raising eyebrows at major feeder schools.If anyone did anything wrong in this case, it was the vice provost, Ruth Watkins. Maybe Leland Yee can raise a fuss over her?
Katehi maintains she never pushed for a student's entry and did not interfere with this particular case. ... U. of I. President B. Joseph White has told California officials that Katehi did not know about the practice.Forwarding an inquiry to the appropriate desk seems to me an appropriate action.
Sen. Leland Yee (D- San Francisco) -- who has called for Katehi's contract to be rescinded -- said the newly released e-mail exchange "just creates more of a cloud." "What this tells me is she clearly knew that there were, in fact, certain kinds of admissions that were given special treatment," he said. "It's an affront to every parent in Illinois."Yee strikes me as a nut.
To me this statement is damning:
"Endy Zemenedis [sic] is the campaign manager for the State Treasurer," she wrote. "This is the application of the daughter of a fairly prominent Greek family in Chicago."
She claims it is for identification purposes, to me it suggests that she knows full well what is going on and she clearly implies that this is an influential and assumes without explicitly saying that the individuals know what to do with the application of a prominent citizen. To me the denials are not credible, we would have to assume she has absolutely no idea what was going on before or during her tenure there--and I just don't buy it.
Rich: Don't take this as a shot because I respect the work that you do, but in this case, you seem to be bending over backwards to accept her explanation. To me it's a bit too convenient. It's also difficult to understand how she could be involved with this stuff and not know what was going on. And finally, if she didn't know what was going on what does that say about her and her ability to be chancellor. It's all problematic.
I agree with Rich that there's nothing intrinsically wrong about her forwarding a status request to the right desk, but it's very difficult for me not to see a tacit "wink wink nudge nudge" in Katehi's email saying "this is the application of the daughter of a very prominent Greek family in Chicago."
I have a statement from Senator Yee that is posted.
Rich: I have met with Senator Yee a few times, he's not a nut at all, he's very intelligent and level-headed. He simply is passionate about the problems at UC, much as you and I are about employee compensation issues in the city of Davis. Does that make us nuts? (Don't answer that).
you seem to be bending over backwards to accept her explanation.I do agree that because so many folks who have posted on this topic appear to me to be presuming her guilty of some terrible offense, my arguments on the other side make it seem as if I am acting as Katehi's defense counsel. My normal approach is to give people the benefit of the doubt. That is what I have tried to do here.
It's also difficult to understand how she could be involved with this stuff and not know what was going on.I think it's important to keep in mind that the Clout admissions system goes back long before April, 2006, when Katehi left Purdue for the U of Illinois.
I don't doubt that (at least intuitively) she understood (in her three years in Champagne-Urbana) what others were doing. But it was the system in place before she got there and it wasn't her responsibility. No one has alleged that she ever told people in admissions to admit an unqualified student. Insofar as there were less-qualified students being admitted and she intuitively understood that was the U of I system but not her responsibility, I don't know what it is that her critics think she should have done. Is she unqualified to be the UC Davis chancellor because she didn't rock that boat or launch an investigation? I don't think so.
I think a much more important scandal with regard to Katehi, though certainly not her fault, is how much she was paid to be a provost at the U of I: $356,000 per year. Larry Vanderhoef made less money, $315,000, to be UCD's chancellor. Many have raised questions about why UC raised the chancellor's salary to $400,000, the amount she will get here. I'd far prefer to see 10 needy students get $8,500 per year scholarships than give that extra $85,000 to the new chancellor.
If the main responsibility of a chancellor is not administrative, but rather as a fundraiser (who brings in millions of dollars), then pay the chancellor a commission, not a salary. As I've said before on Vanguard, I doubt these high paid public university executives are especially good at fundraising. Yet they are being paid as if that is their great skill. Equally, all of the legions of provosts and vice provosts and all of their staffs are raking in big salaries, all the while a public university education is becoming more and more expensive (and unaffordable to many).
Don, thanks for that link. Don't you suppose that virtually every Democrat in the legislature has the same sort of contributor base? Those are the groups the elected Democrats do favors for. And while the contributors to Republicans may be slightly different, insofar as they are in positions to give favors to their contributors, they do the same thing. That's why our private campaign finance system is so expensive. The organized interest groups pay out a few million dollars each year to help elect candidates (like Yee) who share their beliefs, and then the elected officials turn around and reward their donors with billions in legislative action (or inaction). If we could figure out a good public financing plan (paid for by a dedicated tax), we could fund campaigns equally generously, but without the need to turn around and repay donors to the tune of billions of dollars in legislative acts.
When I examine my feelings on this matter, I have to admit that my disapproval of Katehi is based mostly on her salary, plus perks. I wonder if UC was paying her $250,000 instead of almost half a million, I would be as upset
In the current system, it is not what you know, but who you know, and more importantly, who you owe, and who owes you. Honesty and integrity are not the password to this fraternity, it is all about exchanging favors. This practice of "I'll Scratch your back if you'll scratch mine." makes what Katehi did almost inevitable. She obviously owed someone a favor. The large salary she is enjoying at our expense pretty much guarantees that she is indebted to someone out here, and that someone will come asking for a payback in the future.
It seems to me that if she didn't know what was going on, in the department of which she was in charge, she was an incompetent administrator. Or if she did know, then she was a corrupt official. The choice seems to be either corrupt or incompetent. What other reading is there? Incompetent or corrupt, either way she should no longer be considered qualified to ascend to one of the plum executive positions in the state.
Like I said, she participated in the "pay to admit" program that was well entrenched and active in her department.
It's always the cover-up, isn't it?
She denied her involvement, and continues to deny it.
She should resign from our fine local university.
The Federal and state investigation shoes are going to drop next ....
Is she unqualified to be the UC Davis chancellor because she didn't rock that boat or launch an investigation? I don't think so.
As yet another UC alum, I for one emphatically disagree with Rich's statement above.
My god, how far down the slope have we slipped if we're to accept that the senior leadership of the UC system can choose to "not rock the boat", and tacitly (if not explicitly) involve themselves in influence-trading? That is a simply revolting way to see these institutions.
As a young but relatively successful alum, I've donated nearly $20k to my alma mater over the last 10 years. But the more I read about the parasitic bureaucracy at the highest level, the more I'm increasingly disgusted by the entire system. I, for one, am done offering any more financial support to the "best public university in the world" until it lives up to a higher standard than the one Rich espouses here.
One thing that is really interesting about the hiring of Ms. Katehi is that UCD's search committee failed to properly vet her. The U of I's "pay to admit" program was obviously well known, as hundreds/thousands of people took advantage of it. The program even had a bureaucratic name for itself. So what that tells me is that the investigators and search committee actively decided to overlook the program, and to bring its administrator here.
DPD, what is UCD's experience with "pay to admit" in the past? Any evidence of well connected or wealthy parents getting their kids in, over and above the masses stuck on the waiting list?
Well, with Katehi, UCD's hiring her in spite of her "pay to admit" program, means that this campus was willing to participate in such a program. Perhaps not so blatantly or publically, but perhaps with a "wink and a nod." She certainly endorses the concept and practice, as we know from the U of I reports.
As I have stated earlier, both my mother and grandmother went to U of I. I went to UC Davis. I find it highly insulting that UCD would bring a "pay to admit" program advocate here to run our fine campus.
"I agree with Rifkin. This is a non-story. Blog Boy FAIL #349"
"Bobby (aka Blog Boy FAIL): if this is a non-story why was it the large headline in the Enterprise today? Why was it in the Chicago Tribune? Why will it be in the Sacramento Bee?"
It is a story that people will read and discuss because taxpayers want to know that their money is being spent well, and that everyone has a chance for access to higher education based on fair merit and hard work.
Katehi's story tends to run counter to those expectations on various levels. Even if Katehi stays in her position at UCD, she and other administrators are on notice that people are watching very closely. Perhaps they will act more carefully in their jobs as a result.
I've been thinking about this, Chancellor Katehi's problem basically boils down to the fact that she did not tell the FULL truth from the beginning. Initially she said the decisions were made over her head--well maybe they were, but she did not tell us that he subordinates were involved in their implementation and that she at the very least passed messages through to them. At best here, she is guilty of looking the other way and maybe that's okay, but I am skeptical at this point this is all she did and part of the reason is that she did not tell the full truth from the start. She has created her own problem here the same way most politicians do--she failed to come completely clean from the start and so now it looks like we are seeing new revelations--maybe we are not and this is all there is to it, but she lost the benefit of the doubt because we are finding out about this from the Chicago Tribune not from her own mouth with a believable explanation.
Mike, while the UC refuses to make this public - I have been told that the review committee actually recommended several candidates before Katehi. The first choice was an African American female (UC refuses to release the name) and Katehi was not in the top 3 of any of the 20 members of the committee. Who knows what connection she had with Yudof prior to deserve this position and ridiculous salary?!
Rifkin recently took Sonia Sotomayor to task in the Enterprise for upholding a summary judgement throwing out a test that favored white firefighters in New Haven but now is willing to excuse obvious favoritism in Illinois. While I agree that its not a big deal to move a connected wait listed person up, because I understand that these things are always subjective and happen all the time, it does seem odd that in one instance Rifkin is cool with favoritism but in another instance he seems outraged by it. Could it be that you don't know your own mind Rich? Could it be, as Ginsburg pointed out in her dissent,if I may paraphrase her, that a history of favoritism should not be overlooked. It is exactly because of cases like what happened in IL. that the Supreme Court got it wrong in Ricci.
"Could you please explain your comment about a "disappered" post. Thanks."
Don't know why my post disappeared. Essentially I vehemently disagreed w Rifkin and said something like:
If your child were up for admission to the university of his/her choice, and was passed over by come lesser qualified candidate, bc some admissions officer casually mentioned the title of the lesser qualified's student's parent, what say you then?
Anyone who believes Katehi's statement that she just happened to mention the parent's title bc "that is how she knew him" must believe in the Easter Bunny as well!
I expect much higher ethical standards from upper management, and especially at a 20% salary increase.
Rifkin recently took Sonia Sotomayor to task in the Enterprise for upholding a summary judgment throwing out a test that favored white firefighters in New Haven but now is willing to excuse obvious favoritism in Illinois.Ron, there is no evidence that the test favored anyone on the basis of race. New Haven failed to show that. We don't know why none of the black firefighters scored in the top 15 (out of 126) on that exam.
While I agree that its not a big deal to move a connected wait listed person up, because I understand that these things are always subjective and happen all the time, it does seem odd that in one instance Rifkin is cool with favoritism but in another instance he seems outraged by it.Ron, you are wrong on both counts. I strongly disapprove of the Clout system in Illinois. I believe public universities have an obligation to treat all applicants on an equal basis. I don't believe any public university should play favorites with those who are connected. My only point about Linda Katehi is that I don't know that she did anything wrong, here. I think the system was wrong. But it was not her system, and I don't fault her for what others in her midst did.
Could it be that you don't know your own mind Rich?Ron, if you are going to make personal attacks like that one, it's polite to at least let everyone know your name when you post these attacks on Vanguard.
Could it be, as Ginsburg pointed out in her dissent, if I may paraphrase her, that a history of favoritism should not be overlooked.I don't think Ginsburg or any of the four justices who dissented made any sense. Title VII says that employers such as New Haven shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Clearly, New Haven violated U.S. law, discriminating entirely on the basis of race. I strongly oppose racism. If you opposed racial discrimination, you would applaud the SCOTUS decision on Ricci.
It is exactly because of cases like what happened in IL. that the Supreme Court got it wrong in Ricci.No, Ron, the court was exactly right on Ricci. There is never a good reason to judge an individual on the basis of his race. All human beings deserve to be judged as individuals on the contents of their characters. It's a shame that leftwingers like Ron cannot get that straight.
" I strongly disapprove of the Clout system in Illinois. I believe public universities have an obligation to treat all applicants on an equal basis. I don't believe any public university should play favorites with those who are connected. My only point about Linda Katehi is that I don't know that she did anything wrong, here. I think the system was wrong. But it was not her system, and I don't fault her for what others in her midst did."
I fail to understand the logic of your reasoning. On the one hand you say you disapprove of a shadow admissions system of favoritism, but on the other hand don't have a problem w Katehi looking the other way, knowing it was going on. That is exactly the attitude that will allow such unethical activity to continue!
To give another analagy - in the world of criminal law - if you in any way aid and abet criminal activity, such as pass along emails to facilitate the shadow admissions system, you are just as guilty of the crime as the perpetrators. Also, pleast note, that in a court of law, which is where Katehi may end up, you are required to tell the truth, THE WHOLE TRUTH, and nothing but the truth.
We don't need Katehi here at UCD. Let her go find some other college to corrupt, if any other will take her. IMHO, she is now toxic.
I fail to understand the logic of your reasoning. On the one hand you say you disapprove of a shadow admissions system of favoritism, but on the other hand don't have a problem w Katehi looking the other way, knowing it was going on.Tell me exactly what you would have done, Mr. Perfect, had you been hired in April 2006 as the U of I provost, based on what you imagine Linda Katehi perhaps knew was going on?
Tell me exactly what you would have done, Mr. Perfect, had you been hired in April 2006 as the U of I provost, based on what you imagine Linda Katehi perhaps knew was going on?
I don't think I need to be "Mr. Perfect" to think up an alternative course of action.
If I didn't plan on staying in Illinois for the long-run, I would've taken advantage of whatever whistle-blower laws existed and revealed the existence of the program. Even if I chose to stay quiet, I would have asked for paper documentation from my superiors on the parameters of the program.
And if the program is as distasteful as it sounds, I'd be too disgusted to stay put (and even actively participate) within such an environment. She's not a migrant farm worker; she undoubtedly had other job options in the private and public sector that would would have kept her family fed.
And even today, no one is calling for her head on a stake, no one is calling for jail time... I'm only saying that she has not earned a promotion into yet another high-profile position of even greater responsibility.
Christ, I don't think we need "Mr. Perfect" at the head of UCD, but aren't we paying enough to at least a "Mr. Decent"?