The Bad Apple

 PaulPless

The law school at the University of Illinois got into trouble recently when outside investigators found that it was submitting inaccurate information about the sort of people who attend the school.

Basically, the information the school was providing to accreditor the American Bar Association and ranking agency U.S. News & World Report was much better than the correct numbers.

Now the school has found that, despite the fact the law school gained a great deal in terms of reputation and finances due to the deception, there was no systemic problem. A single individual was responsible for submitting the inaccurate data. According to an article by Karen Sloan at The National Law Journal:

The former assistant dean for admissions and financial aid at the University of Illinois College of Law was solely responsible for a pattern of misreporting the Law School Admission Test scores and grade point averages of incoming students, according to the university’s final report on the matter.

The university had placed that administrator, Paul Pless [right], on administrative leave on Sept. 7 pending the inquiry’s outcome, and he resigned his position on Nov. 4, the university said in a formal statement.

The law school hired an outside firm, Jones Day, to review the data. The investigators determined that Pless “knowingly and intentionally” submitted inaccurate information about the incoming classes for several years. He apparently inflated the undergraduate GPAs and LSAT information and also reported a lower general acceptance rate. The acceptance rate for the class of 2012 was 37 percent. Pless reported 29 percent. The deception levels apparently increased over time, with Pless returning more impressive results every year.

According to Sloan:

The document cleared law dean Bruce Smith of involvement in or knowledge of the deception — although it noted that his “intense” management style could make employees reluctant to bring him bad news. Additionally, the report concluded, the law school’s lack of oversight of the admissions office was one reason the deception went on for years before being discovered.

The firm uncovered no evidence that the school was submitting inaccurate information about its graduates’ employment numbers or salaries.

During his time generating lies for the law school, Pless’s annual salary increased from $72,000 to more than $130,000. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer