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