CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - University of Illinois President B. Joseph White resigned Wednesday following reports that the school admitted politically connected applicants over more qualified ones at its Urbana-Champaign campus.
White said he sent a resignation letter to Christopher Kennedy, the chairman of the university’s board of trustees.
“I take this action to enable you as a newly constituted Board to select University leadership going forward,” White wrote in the letter. “It has been a privilege for my wife, Mary, and me to serve the University community. We remain highly committed to the University of Illinois.”
According to a university news release, White will remain with the central Illinois school to teach and raise funds.
News reports first surfaced in May that politically connected applicants for spots at the university’s flagship campus in Urbana-Champaign were given special attention and tracked through a list known as Category I. Those reports and documents later released by the university showed that some of those connected applicants were admitted over more qualified ones.
Among the e-mails was one from former Gov. Rod Blagojevich backing an applicant. White forwarded the e-mail to Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Richard Herman. That applicant, initially denied admission but later accepted, turned out to be a relative of Tony Rezko, the convicted political influence peddler who is a key figure in the federal government’s investigation of Blagojevich.
White has said he didn’t know at the time who Rezko was when he sent along the e-mail in 2005.
Six members of the university’s board of trustees also were replaced this summer over the admissions scandal.
Earlier Wednesday, Gov. Pat Quinn said he expected White to resign. He said trustees would name an interim president and a search would begin for a permanent replacement.
Kennedy, one of the board’s newest members, said he doesn’t relish seeing White resign.
“I would not take any joy or pleasure in President White’s resignation,” he said early Wednesday. “I think it’s a terrible toll this process has had on a lot of people.”
Last week, the University of Illinois Faculty Senate approved a resolution calling for White and Herman to be replaced. Herman did not return calls or e-mails from The Associated Press seeking comment. Neither the Senate chair, assistant Spanish professor Joyce Tolliver.