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Documents back Katehi in Illinois ‘clout’ case

By Dave Jones on June 26, 2009 in University News

Documents examined by the Chicago Tribune for its “Clout Goes to College” series “do not suggest” UC Davis Chancellor-designate Linda Katehi played a key role in an alleged “shadow” admissions system at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she now serves as provost.

She did not overrule any decisions or push for subpar applicants, the Tribune reported June 19, basing its conclusion on a review of some 1,800 documents — of which 14 are e-mails going to or from Katehi.

On June 17, the San Francisco Chronicle quoted UC President Mark G. Yudof as saying: “I have 100 percent confidence in her.”

He said much the same thing in a June 18 statement, adding: “Dr. Katehi was not mentioned in the Tribune report and she is not on the witness list (for the state inquiry). In addition, I have spoken to Dr. Katehi directly and have been in communication with President (B. Joseph) White at the University of Illinois and have received assurances from both that she had nothing to do with the questionable admissions.”

The UC Board of Regents voted May 7 to appoint Katehi as UC Davis chancellor, effective Aug. 17, succeeding Larry Vanderhoef, who is stepping down after 15 years.

“Of course we are aware of the allegations in the Chicago Tribune about the University of Illinois admissions process,” Yudof said June 18, “and we are aware of the state investigation that has been opened in response to that report. But we have seen nothing to persuade us that we should open our own investigation at this point.”

The Tribune series, which began May 29, delves into the Urbana-Champaign campus’s “Category I” admissions list — hundreds of names put forth by legislators and university trustees. The alleged shadow system led to the admission of some applicants with “subpar” academic records, according to the Tribune.

The June 19 Tribune reported that Katehi had been copied “on at least 14 Category I-related e-mails over the last five years, and her name appears on a spreadsheet of offices inquiring about clouted students.” (The “five-year” reference apparently refers to the time frame for the 1,800 documents that the Tribune reviewed; Katehi has been at the University of Illinois only since 2006.)

Until the June 19 article Katehi’s name had not appeared in any of the Tribune’s coverage, though as provost she is in charge of admissions.

“I do not believe that Provost’s Katehi name has appeared in the press for the simple reason that she had no involvement in admissions cases that are fueling the controversy,” White wrote in his June 16 e-mail to Yudof.

On June 12, Katehi sent an e-mail to UC Davis’ Fred Wood, vice chancellor of Student Affairs, saying: “In my position as provost at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, I do have responsibility for student admissions. 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.”

President White backed her up in a June 16 e-mail to Yudof: “What I want you to know is that Provost Katehi, to my knowledge, was and is not involved in this controversy. The reason is that the chancellor handled these matters directly with the admissions director and, in some cases, deans.”

The Tribune reported that U of I documents show that Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Richard Herman and an associate provost, Keith Marshall, handled the Category I admissions. Marshall, in charge of enrollment management, testified before the state’s new Admissions Review Commission on June 16, telling the panel that he had “a fair amount of disdain for the process,” the Tribune reported.

The newspaper stated that Marshall described himself as a paper-pusher who was following directions from above. “I take my instructions from Chancellor Herman,” he said several times, according to the Tribune.

On the same day of Marshall’s testimony, Katehi told the San Francisco Chronicle: “It is unusual for somebody to go down a few levels and be involved in admissions, but that’s what happened here. I was not informed.”

Earlier this month, Katehi told The Sacramento Bee that she would have questioned the special admissions process had she known about it.

In her e-mail to Vice Chancellor Wood, the chancellor-designate said she is pleased to know that the UC system and UC Davis have “a well-established process that does not allow for special categories outside of what is defined by the campus admissions process.”

Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,