University of Illinois Alumni Association issues letter on the admissions scandal

The ongoing review of admissions practices at the University of Illinois and accompanying media coverage have clouded our state's flagship institution of higher education, prompting us to speak out.

The work of the state Admissions Review Commission is extremely important, and we support its efforts – because admissions practices that allow special interests to displace excellence must stop. We commend Gov. Pat Quinn's establishment of the commission and also his recent partnership with alumni in his first and most recent appointment to the UI Board of Trustees.

Yet when we hear suggestions that the University of Illinois is a "clout school" or a place where top students should not attend, we strongly disagree. We remind our alumni and the citizens of Illinois that the U of I has a very proud history, spanning nearly 150 years. To be clear, we need to separate the issue of admissions practices from that of the outstanding reputation of this great university. The high regard in which the University of Illinois is held is based on the world-class faculty and students who have always comprised its makeup. Throughout its many decades, the U of I has been a beacon of academic and affordable excellence, and its future is even brighter.

The very roots of the university's founding in 1867 are steeped in the mission of enhancing the welfare of this state, the nation and the world. For more than a century, the U of I has steadfastly provided the opportunity for excellence in education - not for a privileged few, but for many. Today's University consists of 70,000 students, 23,000 faculty and staff, and the largest base of living alumni at 600,000. More than half of these alumni - some 350,000 - continue to call the state of Illinois home.

The University of Illinois prides itself on being a solid investment and strong economic driver for the state. The University pumps more than $13 billion into the state's economy each year. It is responsible for more than 150,000 jobs, with Illinois alumni adding more than $21 billion to the state's economic output.

But the University of Illinois is nothing if not for the people who discover and excel within it – people who have emerged transformed and empowered, appreciative and loyal. They have benefited from the vast richness of this institution's excellence – from its colleges and programs that rank among the top 10 nationally, including engineering, library and information science, accountancy, computer science, chemistry and physics, to the presence of the interdisciplinary Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and one of the largest public university libraries in the world. Soon the University will be home to the Blue Waters supercomputer capable of producing a quadrillion calculations per second, maintaining Illinois' role as a leader in computer science.

The hundreds of thousands of students who have passed through the University have gone on to become world leaders, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, astronauts, journalists, engineers, teachers and philanthropists, following myriad occupations and avocations. Their stories inspire great pride for this state as they remind us of the true mission of the University. The Alumni Association comes across thousands of such personal histories each year as part of our mission to share and preserve them.

Ours is a university that counts among its faculty and alumni 22 Nobel Prize winners and 20 Pulitzer Prize recipients. Its professors and alumni have invented or discovered the transistor, the LED, the integrated circuit and a third form of life. It is a university honored for its work in agriculture and the arts, campus internationalization, study abroad programs, disability resources and community engagement, to name a few.

The investigation into admissions practices at the University of Illinois is unfortunate but necessary. However, let us remember that this institution remains world-class, a university of which its alumni and the people of Illinois should continue to be proud.

(signed)

Thomas D. Vogelsinger, chairman, University of Illinois Alumni Association board of directors

and

Loren R. Taylor, president and CEO, Alumni Association