Legislation takes aim at getting degree under false pretenses
SPRINGFIELD — A seemingly innocuous bill that would make it illegal to use a false academic degree for the purpose of getting a job, gaining access to an advanced degree program at a university or getting a job promotion was approved unanimously by an Illinois Senate committee Tuesday.
But HB 4090, which sailed through the Illinois House last month on a 91-23 roll call, has some Champaign-Urbana history to it.
And state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, added to the history with an amendment on Tuesday. His addition to the bill makes it illegal to obtain a degree under false pretenses, as in the case of University of Illinois instructor James Kilgore, the former Symbionese Liberation Army member who served time in a California prison for a murder during a 1975 bank robbery.
Kilgore used the name of a deceased child, Charles John Pape, to obtain a passport to escape from the United States to South Africa and to obtain a doctoral degree, Rose said.
"One way of looking at it is if you showed up today and signed up for a Ph.D. program and you weren't who you said you were, that's a stolen identity," Rose said.
Rose said the amendment ultimately may not be needed because the UI has said that it will institute background checks for new employees.
"We'll wait and see now with the U of I because they are moving some things forward with respect to background checks," Rose said. "We'll see how that goes."
The Mahomet Republican said he had not talked to state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, about the amendment to HB 4090, which was her bill in the House.
"I've not seen her to talk to her about it," Rose said Tuesday afternoon.
Jakobsson's original legislation has its own back story. She and her husband, Eric, a University of Illinois professor, were critical earlier this year of Carol Ammons, the Urbana Democrat who ran to succeed Jakobsson in the House.
They accused Ammons of promoting her degree from Walsingham University in London — a place Eric Jakobsson called "a diploma mill" — in her campaign materials.
Both Jakobssons supported Ammons' opponent, Champaign attorney Sam Rosenberg, in the Democratic primary election, but Ammons won.
Asked last month why she was sponsoring HB 4090, Naomi Jakobsson said only, "It's a good government bill. Why not?"
Meanwhile, Rose said he wouldn't bring up the Kilgore issue Wednesday when UI trustees, President Robert Easter and UI students are scheduled to be in Springfield for a lobbying day.
"I'm going to tell the president how fully supportive of the hospital concept we are. I'm going to focus on something that could be a huge economic boon for our region," Rose said of the suggestion that the UI and Carle open a medical institution in Urbana that could be used for medical teaching and education.