Editor’s note: This story originally was published on June 16, 2009.
The woman tapped to be the new chancellor at UC Davis says she knew nothing about alleged influence-peddling in the admissions process at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, despite the fact that she oversees the department.
“It makes me sad that this whole thing happened in the first place,” said Linda Katehi, currently provost at Urbana-Champaign.
“I was not aware of all this. I considered it very inappropriate,” Katehi added.
A Chicago Tribune investigation reported late last month that the school admitted hundreds of students with weak academic records after influential people had lobbied on their behalf.
The investigation was based on 1,800 pages of documents, including e-mails from politicians and university trustees advocating for friends and relatives.
Katehi wasn’t specifically named in the Tribune investigation.
She told The Bee on Monday that she never saw the particular category of admissions – Category I – to which the Tribune referred in its investigation.
“I don’t know what Category I is,” Katehi said.
The Tribune article said the category included a list of students whose status had drawn inquiries from trustees or politicians.
Katehi is scheduled to begin her job at UC Davis on Aug. 17. She will be paid $400,000 – $85,000 more annually then outgoing Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef, according to UC Davis officials. Katehi also will be provided with housing, a $9,000 annual car allowance and a $100,000 relocation allowance, among other benefits.
Katehi wrote about the investigation in an e-mail Monday to UC Davis officials.
“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,” she wrote.
“Because of the governmental relations aspect and the involvement of University of Illinois System trustees, “the Category I admissions process was handled at a higher level,” she wrote.
She told The Bee she first learned of the admissions practice when she read about it in the Tribune.
State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, issued a statement early Monday asking that Katehi respond to questions about what she knew about the admissions practice.
Contacted Monday afternoon and told Katehi’s comments to The Bee, Yee said he plans to write a letter to UC President Mark Yudof asking him to look into the matter.
“Her response is absolutely incredible,” he said. “Here you have someone who is the person in charge of admissions and there is a separate admissions policy and a way to get in she didn’t know about.”
The senator said he would want a UC chancellor to be aware of any graft or corruption at the campus.
“What kind of administrator are you?” Yee said. “How many things are going on under your nose that you don’t know about?”
Katehi said she would have questioned the policy had she been aware of it.
She said a committee set up by the Illinois governor is looking into the allegations against the university, but that she has not been called before the body nor has she been questioned by the chancellor. She said the investigation is expected to take two months.
Katehi said she’s happy the UC system has a policy against preferential treatment in admissions.
“I support that policy,” she said. “It’s a great thing that they have a policy that allows the university to bring in the best and the brightest.”
Yee expressed concern that Katehi would bring “more of the same” to the UC system. He said that system has had problems with executive pay, retaliation against whistleblowers and secrecy contracts.
“We need chancellors that will be open and above-board,” Yee said.
Katehi says there is nothing to worry about.
“I truly believe in transparency. ... My whole career has been centered around bringing about transparency,” she said.