As a former high ranking administrator in higher education, freshman U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., has a lot to say about the bribery scandal that rocked elite schools this week–but the GOP offered a reminder that she oversaw some corruption during her time at the University of Miami.
Shalala, the former president of Hunter College and the University of Miami and who served as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, weighed in after news broke that wealthy parents, including prominent actresses and business leaders, offered bribes to get their kids into top schools.
“Today, the House Committee on Education and Labor examines some of the barriers to access to higher education for poor and middle class students. However, the backdrop has changed given yesterday’s shameful reports of indictments regarding admissions to elite universities. Greed and naked ambition has stained the reputation of higher education,” Shalala said on Wednesday.
“While the recent indictments have made it clear that a few bad actors are both in and out of some of our finest institutions, in the end the questions of systemic flaws in admissions must be examined,” she added. “After more than 30 years as a university president or chancellor in three exceptional institutions, I know exactly how the leadership of the institutions affected feel this morning. Over the years, I have had to deal with my share of scandals and have taken personal responsibility for the unacceptable behavior of my employees and the institutions I led.
“Higher education receives substantial resources from the federal government. Therefore, we in Congress have a responsibility to examine at the very least the admissions process, structure and culture. It is irrelevant whether the bad actors were parents, coaches or staff. This is about the fundamental integrity of higher education,” Shalala continued. “I have asked my colleague Congressman Bobby Scott of Virginia, Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, to consider a hearing to shed light on the admissions procedures of selected higher education institutions. The American people deserve transparency to determine whether these are a few bad apples or if the barrel is rotten.”
But with Shalala as a freshman representing a seat that been held by the GOP for the better part of the last three decades, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) came out swinging at her this week.
Camille Gallo, a spokeswoman for the NRCC, pointed to an article from the Miami New Times on Shalala’s record at Miami.
“In the wake of the college admissions scandal, Donna Shalala immediately called for an investigation into college admission procedures but the Miami New Times was quick to remind Floridians of Shalala’s own ties to college corruption,” Gallo noted on Thursday.
“Shalala ran the University of Miami from 2001 to 2015, she directly oversaw a university that flouted national athletics rules — including some related to admissions — so blatantly the football program was almost trashed in 2011,” the Miami New Times reported. “Shalala was directly implicated in the exploits of Nevin Shapiro, the Ponzi schemer and UM athletics booster who ratted out the entire Miami Hurricanes athletics department.
“Shalala herself was infamously photographed accepting a $50,000 athletics department donation check from Shapiro in 2008,” the Miami New Times reported.
Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.