Ex-Dean at Illinois Criticizes Chancellor -- and Leaves Voicemail of Support

August 6, 2009

One focus of the investigation into the University of Illinois admissions scandal has been the way the Urbana-Champaign chancellor and others pressured the law school to admit politically connected applicants who wouldn't have stood much of a chance without that help. Now the state panel conducting a probe of the scandal is examining a letter by Heidi Hurd and an apparently contradictory voicemail message by Hurd, a law professor who was dean at the time, the Chicago Tribune reported. In the letter to the panel, Hurd calls the law school a "victim" in the situation, and describes her efforts to minimize the damage. She also criticizes Richard Herman, the chancellor, who relayed the requests for admissions help. But the Tribune reported that she also left a voicemail on Herman's home phone -- turned over by the university to the state panel -- in which she calls Herman a "knight in shining armor" and says she is his "most ardent admirer." She adds in the message: "I just know someday ... when we are kicking around in heaven, we will be able to drink and laugh about this the whole time.... But to the extent that I have played a role in a scenario that should not have unfolded for you, I am beyond, beyond belief sorry." Hurd's lawyer issued a statement Wednesday saying that she wanted to thank Herman for his help in advancing the law school, and that they disagreed about the admissions requests from "selfish, meddling politicos." The lawyer added: "The humanity she displayed in a private moment should be respected and applauded, not criticized."

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