Monday, August 13, 2007

University of Illinois military scholarships scandal update

Here are my prior posts on the University of Illinois military scholarships scandal.

Broken promises: How "jarheads" got shunted aside at the University of Illinois: A Marathon Pundit series

Marathon Pundit Exclusive: What happened behind the scenes of the University of Illinois veteran scholarship scandal

University of Illinois: "Hookers are Praised as Soldiers" –Marathon Pundit's Third Investigative Report

On September 12, in the basement of the James R. Thompson Center in downtown Chicago, the Court of Claims, which consists of seven "judges" who are actually attorneys appointed by Governor Rod Blagojevich.

The Court of Claims is the arena where certain types of lawsuits against the state, or state universities, are heard.

I am going to try and attend.

Robert van der Hooning, the former Assistant Dean for the University of Illinois College of Business was the man in charge of the program whose goal was to offer 110 full-ride scholarships the Urbana-Champaign campus' Executive MBA program in Chicago last year.

Many of those scholarships were later rescinded by senior University of Illinois College of Business administrators.

To me, actually to most people, "a deal is a deal," but fearing under-funding of the each scholarship's funding source, the Illinois Veterans Grant, the administrators quietly began pressing the delete button on many of those scholarship offers.

After getting the good news, shortly after Memorial Day, some veterans got the bad news. The scholarships they thought they had were pulled. After Rep. Rahm Emanuel and Lt. Governor Pat Quinn got involved, many of those scholarships were offered again, only to be re-rescinded, and then offered again.

Van der Hooning is suing the University of Illinois, charging his dismissal from the school was in retaliation for his whistleblowing activity as he tried to right the scholarship wrongs.

Despite what I see as a very strong case, van der Hooning may be facing a tough audience next month. Governor Blagojevich hasn't done much if anything to increase funding for the constantly underfunded Illinois Veterans Grant program. By law, what the Illinois Veteran's Grant doesn't pay, state universities have to cover out of their own pockets.

"Blago" was sworn in to office for his first term two months before the invasion of Iraq. As for as the military, and their needs, things have obviously changed since January, 2003.

And as I stated above, the Court of Claims "judges" are Blagojevich appointees.

The University of Illinois is run by its board of trustees, who are appointed by, you guessed it, the governor.

The state's fiscal 2008 budget, which was due at the end of May, still hasn't been approved. There's a chance, albeit a slim one, that the Illinois Veteran's Grant will be remembered before a budget is approved.

I don't expect much from Blagojevich, however. As Diane from Respublica reports, "Governor Elvis" has signed just 31 of 700 bills that have been sent to his desk this year.

And Illinois War on Terror vets keep coming home, looking to get on with the rest of their lives and continue to contribute to society.

If van der Hooning loses, so do the veterans, since a signal will have been sent that it's okay to screw them over.

This case is not just about one guy.

Related Marathon Pundit post:

Univ. of Illinois College of Business Dean on "partial leave of absence without pay"

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