Dietz won’t ‘bet the farm’ on end to political gridlock

NORMAL — Illinois State University President Larry Dietz is hopeful the November election can solve the partisan gridlock in Springfield, but he said Thursday, “I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.”

Delivering the annual State of the University address, Dietz said he was confident the university would, once again, “emerge strong and stable” as it enters another academic year without a full-year appropriation from the state.

He does not see a circumstance that would lead to layoffs or furlough days at ISU and even held out hope for “a modest mid-year, merit-based salary increase for faculty and staff members.”

However, Dietz did say in answer to a question after his speech that colleges “cannot continue to do business as usual” when it comes to course offerings.

Elaborating on that comment later he said ISU will need to review which programs are at capacity, which have room for growth and which have high demand that might require a transfer of faculty resources.

However, he said under ISU’s culture of shared governance, such changes would only be made after discussion by everyone involved.

Dictating such changes from the top is “not the ISU way,” said Dietz.

With continued state funding uncertainty, ISU will further cut spending and leave more administrative-related positions vacant, as it did in the last fiscal year, he said.

After outlining recent good news such as a 27-year record for the new freshman class, total enrollment over 21,000 and moving up among public universities in U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of best national universities, Dietz listed goals for the upcoming year.

Among them are:

  • Bringing more international students to campus.
  • Forming a community advisory group to create more mutually beneficial campus-community partnerships.
  • Developing recommendations based on a Campus Climate Assessment completed in April to address diversity and inclusion.
  • Advancing a culture of philanthropy as the university prepares for its second comprehensive fundraising campaign about a year from now.

Last year, ISU had its second best fundraising year in history, Dietz noted in his address. That, along with strong enrollment and low debt, helped ISU end the fiscal year “strong and stable” while “many of our sister universities teetered on the brink of insolvency,” he said.

Although Dietz said he wouldn’t bet the farm on an end to Springfield gridlock, he thinks elected officials “will begin to chart the course” after the November election, with newly elected lawmakers and new committee assignments.

State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, who attended the address, said he has had discussions with his colleagues and is optimistic they will present a plan during the post-election veto session.

State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, who also attended, said the uncertainty is hurting communities and the government “owes a solution to the people of the state.”

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September 15, 2016 at 05:18PM

Dietz won’t ‘bet the farm’ on end to political gridlock

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