CHICAGO — University of Illinois Chancellor Richard Herman
resigned Tuesday in the latest fallout from an admissions scandal that has
rattled the Urbana-Champaign campus and upended its leadership.
Herman’s resignation is effective Monday, Oct. 26, according
to University of Illinois spokesman Tom Hardy.
Herman, 67, was the principal enforcer of a shadow
admissions system that allowed subpar but well-connected students to get into
the state’s premier public school. His resignation follows that of University
of Illinois. President B. Joseph White, and six university trustees also have
been replaced in the wake of the scandal.
Herman will continue to receive his current salary in a new
position: special assistant to the interim president, Hardy said. But he will forgo
a $300,000 retention bonus that was due in June.
In June, when his chancellor contract would have been up, he
will take a one-year paid sabbatical at a new faculty salary of $244,444. The
following year, he will be required to teach two courses a year as a tenured
mathematics professor, fewer than his original contract that called for
teaching four courses a year.
“This is per the revised employment agreement,”
Hardy said. The revised agreement is to be acted on Friday during an executive
committee meeting of the university’s Board of Trustees, Hardy said.
Asked about Herman’s arrangement with the university, Gov.
Pat Quinn said: “I don’t know all the details of that. He’s not going to
be the chancellor; I think that’s a good step forward today. With respect to
those arrangements, I think the board should examine all of that and decide
“Clearly we have a challenge,” the governor added.
“Our job now is to live up to working as hard as we can to make the
University of Illinois the best it can be.”
His office did not ask or pressure Herman to step down, he
Quinn said he can’t speak for board, but assumes a search
committee will be held for replacement. He will attend the Nov. 12 school board
meeting in Springfield “to vote yes in favor of making sure we keep the
university going in the right direction in terms of leadership.”
“We wish Chancellor Herman well. I commend him for
taking this step. I think it’s important for the university to keep moving
forward,” Quinn said. “I just think the university will do well with
Herman was arguably more involved in preferential admissions
than any other administrator.
He oversaw the special undergraduate admissions process,
known internally as “Category I,” beginning when he was provost and
continuing when he moved into the chancellor’s office about five years ago. He
overruled his admissions staff in deciding to admit students connected to
university trustees, lawmakers and other powerful people.
Herman said in a speech last month that he had
“seriously considered” resigning during the summer, but instead
decided “to fight doggedly for the chance to stay at my work.” He
said he believed he “was serving the greater good” of the university
by not alienating powerful people who wanted favors and “went off course
with good intentions.”
In August, a state commission that investigated the
university’s irregular admissions practices found that Herman was “the
ultimate decision-maker” for clouted applicants. The commission’s report
stopped short of calling for Herman’s resignation, instead leaving his fate in
the hands of a newly reconstituted Board of Trustees.
The student and faculty Senate then voted to urge the
trustees to replace him. Prior to the Senate vote in September, Herman asked
the group to judge him on all of his accomplishments. Still, he acknowledged:
“I let you down.”
He said that when he considered his accomplishments against
his failings, “it pained me to realize that I will likely be as much
remembered for having helped the offspring of the privileged few as for having
put hundreds of poor children through college.”
As chancellor, Herman started the Illinois Promise, a
financial aid program that covers tuition, fees, housing and books for students
with family incomes below $50,000. More than 1,000 students have been part of
the Illinois Promise program.
In 2008, Herman was elected to the prestigious American
Academy of Arts & Sciences.
Among the revelations about admissions abuses was that about
800 undergraduate applicants received special consideration, at times getting
their denial decisions overturned.
Dozens more graduate school candidates benefited from their
political connections, university records show.
Herman described such favoritism as “not equitable and
transparent” when he testified before the state panel. But he initially
downplayed the process, saying Category I applicants had a higher rate of
admission — 77 percent versus 69 percent for the general applicant pool last
year — “simply because we have more information about them.”
Internal e-mails and university documents reveal the extent
to which Herman was involved. He tried to appease the law school dean, who
didn’t want to admit the subpar students, by offering scholarship money to
recruit better students and jobs for students at the bottom of the class.
He forced the 2006 admission of an unqualified law school
applicant backed by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich while seeking a promise from the
governor’s go-between, then-trustee Lawrence Eppley, that jobs would be
provided for five low-ranking law school graduates. Herman described the
proposal as an attempt to mitigate the admission’s impact on the law school’s
“This was a bad moment for me personally,” Herman
testified before the commission.
In 2007, Herman helped secure a high-paying university job
for former board Chairman Niranjan Shah’s future son-in-law, a Dutch citizen
seeking work in the United States. Herman dipped into campus reserves to cover
the $115,000 annual salary.
Earlier this summer, several dozen faculty and community
members signed letters supporting Herman. One of the letters, signed by 48 of
the campus’ most recognized faculty, called Herman one of “the country’s
top academic leaders” and lauded him for “his extraordinary
leadership in promoting education, research, outreach and economic development.”
It praised his abilities in recruiting and retaining faculty
and securing large donations and grants.
Herman came to Urbana-Champaign in 1998 to serve as provost
and vice chancellor for academic affairs.
Prior to joining the University of Illinois, Herman was dean
of the College of Computer, Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the
University of Maryland at College Park from 1990 to 1998. He was chairman of
the Department of Mathematics at Pennsylvania State University from 1986 to