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updated: 5/1/2014 10:52 PM

University of Illinois law school dean resigning

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Associated Press

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The dean of the University of Illinois College of Law is stepping down after a tenure that saw the school investigated for using inflated grades and entrance-exam scores to boost its reputation, school officials announced Thursday.

Bruce Smith was appointed dean just as the admissions scandal became public in 2009. He will return to the law school faculty. John Colombo, who primarily teaches tax law, was named interim dean effective June 1, upon the board of trustees' approval.

"I have had the fortune to lead the College of Law at a time of considerable challenge and opportunity in American legal education," Smith said in a statement.

During Smith's tenure, an investigation of marketing material found inaccurate data was posted online for the class of 2014. The inaccurate information was also forwarded to the American Bar Association and to ranking organizations, such as the influential U.S. News & World Report. An investigation found that the university's admissions dean, Paul Pless, who subsequently resigned, inflated incoming students' grades and entrance-exam results for several years and posted that data online.

The law school's ranking -- and enrollment -- fell as a result of the scandal. The law school was fined by the American Bar Association for falsely inflating the performance of incoming students in data used to market the school.

"Bruce Smith was called upon to steer the College of Law through some pretty rough seas," law professor Matthew Finkin noted. "He enjoys our deep appreciation for all that he has accomplished."

Vice Chancellor and Provost Ilesanmi Adesida says in addition to leading the school through a challenging period, Smith positioned it for future success by increasing the number of endowed faculty positions and endowed scholarships.

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