As Word of Layoffs Spreads, Western Illinois Faculty Members Brace for the Worst

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Western Illinois U.

After 24 faculty members were told this week they would be laid off at Western Illinois U., professors grappled with a sense of job insecurity.

When Western Illinois University announced on Thursday that it would lay off 24 faculty members, including seven with tenure, Kimberly J. Rice was not surprised to find her name on the layoff list.

As an assistant professor who is the most junior member of the political-science department, Rice knew her position could be on the chopping block.

But what gives pause to Rice and many observers is that the university’s Board of Trustees just awarded her tenure last month. On Thursday the same board voted to lay her off.

When asked for comment, a university spokeswoman referred to a news release that announced the layoff plan on Thursday.

The announcement, brought on by declining enrollment and inconsistent state funding, is the latest in a series of drastic setbacks for Western Illinois, which laid off more than 100 faculty members, including two tenured professors, during a state-budget deadlock that saw public colleges and universities in Illinois go two years without regular state funding. The state’s regional campuses, Western Illinois among them, bore the brunt of the budget crisis, with many laying off faculty and staff members.

In this week’s cuts, which also included two student-affairs professionals, Western Illinois announced that it would not fill an additional 62 teaching positions, which either are vacant or will be vacated due to retirements or resignations. The layoff notices give a one-year warning, as stipulated in the contract between Western Illinois and its employee union, the University Professionals of Illinois.

So in one sense, finding out that her job has a one-year expiration date wasn’t shocking to Rice.

She said she was surprised, however, that the university would lay off faculty members with tenure.

“To me, that signifies some shift in our understanding of what tenure will mean for higher education. It perhaps does not mean anymore that you have a guaranteed position,” Rice said. “That’s sad because we work very hard for tenure for many, many years — putting together portfolios, publishing, putting in service to our institution, making sure we’re good at teaching. You hope that tenure means that you have some safety and some stability, but it doesn’t mean that, apparently.”

Waiting for an Email

Susan Czechowski knows what Rice is talking about. In 2015, Czechowski, an art professor, was told she’d be laid off as part of the university’s first round of cuts.

Weeks later, Jack Thomas, president of Western Illinois, announced that tenured faculty members, including Czechowski, would be spared.

But Czechowski’s sense of unease remained. Nearly three years later, she said she spent Thursday staring at her email account, constantly hitting “Refresh” and hoping she didn’t see a layoff notice appear in her inbox.

She and her colleagues kept up a steady stream of texts as they awaited word from the administration: “Just checking in with you.” “Have you gotten anything?” “Worried about you, friend.” “Is everything OK with you?”

“That’s how I’ve spent the past 24 hours,” Czechowski said on Friday. “Afraid to pick up the phone because I don’t know if that next text I receive would be the one saying, ‘Here’s your letter,’ or a friend telling me that their position was eliminated.”

As it turned out, Czechowski didn’t receive a layoff message, meaning her job is safe.

For now, at least. Thomas said in Thursday’s news release that the university would announce a “realignment” in academic programs on July 16, and Czechowski fears her job may not be part of that vision.

Holly A. Stovall, a former women’s-studies professor, is wary of the July announcement, too. She was laid off in 2015 and appealed; her case is still being decided, though her contract expired in 2017.

“We’ve heard ‘alignment’ for a long time. Realignment, realignment, realignment,” Stovall said. “You realign tires, not human beings.”

Christopher Pynes, a professor of philosophy who will be chair of Western Illinois’s Faculty Senate in the fall and who previously served two years in the position, said he was surprised the announcement didn’t include more cuts.

William A. Thompson, a professor in the libraries division at Western Illinois and the union’s chair, said many faculty members worry about job security.

“I hear all the time that people are on the job market, they’re actively seeking employment elsewhere because there is a very unsettling feeling here,” Thompson said.

He said that layoffs had been conducted “in ways that people can’t predict.” Faculty members in departments with lower enrollments have escaped being laid off, he said, but professors in departments with more students have been let go.

“That uncertainty is not only about ‘Will I be the one laid off?’ but ‘Can the administration and the Board of Trustees stop this enrollment decline?’” Thompson said. “And we’re not certain they can.”

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June 29, 2018 at 08:24PM

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As Word of Layoffs Spreads, Western Illinois Faculty Members Brace for the Worst

Analysis: SIU president said he was neutral on campus split. Documents appear to tell a different story

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CARBONDALE — Shortly after the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees voted down a proposal to shift millions of dollars to the Edwardsville campus this past spring, the chancellor of SIU Edwardsville sent out a bombshell announcement: A state representative would soon introduce legislation to split up the system.

A little over an hour later, SIU President Randy Dunn forwarded the announcement to his wife with a short message. “It’s on now. Xoxo,” he wrote.

For Dunn, who represents both Edwardsville and its sister campus, Carbondale, the April 12 board vote and separation bill filing represented what appears to be the culmination of several months of planning and working closely with Edwardsville officials.

Based on analysis of nearly 1,900 pages of internal emails, correspondence and meeting notes released by the SIU FOIA office, it appears Dunn was aware of the separation legislation before trustees were informed. The documents also suggest that Dunn’s staff might have assisted in developing the bill — even though Dunn publicly claimed a neutral stance on it.

The documents, which relate to campus funding allocation or reallocation and pending legislation for the SIU system campus structure, were released Thursday after multiple trustees called for them to be made public.

Scores of emails indicate that Dunn counseled SIU Edwardsville Chancellor Randy Pembrook throughout the development and unveiling of the reallocation proposal while leaving Carbondale officials and the full Board of Trustees in the dark. As far as the documents show, Dunn did not provide any corresponding guidance to the SIU Carbondale chancellor on the matter.

Dunn also coordinated outreach to media and legislators to drum up support for the reallocation, and he might have used skewed data to support it.

But Dunn knew the reallocation wouldn’t pass. In an April 9 email to Pembrook, he wrote that the vote would be going forward despite the recent appointment of a Carbondale-affiliated trustee.

“Will be a 4-4 I assume, which does not pass. But making a run at it,” Dunn wrote. “And let all the fires be lit…big time.”

Funding issue led to divisions

The issue of how to split up SIU’s state appropriation came to the fore in the past year. Carbondale, which has been struggling with declining enrollment, has historically received a bigger piece of the pie than the Edwardsville campus, which is now growing steadily. SIUC is a doctoral university with a Carnegie research designation, while SIUE offers master’s programs.

Documents show that Dunn was developing models for state appropriation reallocation as early as July 2017. According to notes by Bill Winter, SIUE’s budget director, the SIUE Chancellor’s Council considered Dunn’s weighting factors to determine funding allocation for undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degree programs at a July 19, 2017 meeting. (Dunn’s weighting factors were regarded by one SIU official as skewed in Edwardsville’s favor — a point that will be addressed later in this story.)

The Board of Trustees first reviewed the matter of funding allocation at its March 9, 2018, retreat at Touch of Nature in Makanda, where it unanimously agreed to commission an external study of the funding formula.

But on March 30, the full board agenda for the upcoming April 12 meeting was posted online, and it contained Item GG, a proposal to shift an initial $5.125 million from Carbondale to Edwardsville in the coming fiscal year.

An opinion column by an SIUC faculty member and previous reporting by The Southern revealed that SIUC Chancellor Carlo Montemagno was not briefed on the details of the proposal until the agenda was released to the public. The new documents shed more light on how Dunn worked to undermine the Carbondale chancellor.

Dunn appears to have worked to get Montemagno fired

Five days after learning of Item GG, Montemagno pushed back against the proposal, both publicly and privately. He put up a post on his blog, and he sent a memo to the board secretary, which was to be passed on to the trustees; Dunn was CC’d on that email.

Both messages primarily served to outline the potential economic impacts of the proposed reallocation. Montemagno argued that implementing such a change to the funding formula could take more than $39 million from the local economy, and he requested that trustees consider delaying the decision until an analysis was conducted by an external consultant.

“I do not fault my colleagues at SIU Edwardsville for making a case that they believe is in the interest of their institution. However, I feel strongly that a sudden, unexplored plan to advance one institution while damaging another is not in the best interests of the SIU System, any institution that is a part of it, or the Southern Illinois region,” Montemagno wrote in closing.

Dunn fired back a rebuke later that evening, including Board Chair Amy Sholar in his reply.

“I have read your attached memo,” Dunn wrote. “It is misleading at best and insubordinate at worst.”

He admonished Montemagno for sending the memo to the trustees without consulting him. Dunn said he had tried to support Montemagno’s leadership.

“But if it’s now your decision to essentially ignore the chain of command as spelled out explicitly by Board policy, or implicitly by any common understanding of organization structure, then so be it. However, also understand that in doing so, you risk losing my support for your chancellorship,” Dunn wrote.

Montemagno responded the following afternoon.

“I am sorry this has caused an issue between us that was never my intention,” Montemagno wrote. “I felt strongly that I had a fiduciary responsibility to my campus to submit a detailed response to SIU Edwardsville’s request on the funding shift.”

Montemagno said there had been no consultation with him before the public posting of the board matter, and that he was “perplexed as to why I was not brought into the conversation to provide input especially with respect to the adverse effects that this proposal could generate.”

He said he hoped they could “work collaboratively with each other and SIUE as we advance both institutions.”

Dunn forwarded his rebuke of Montemagno to John Charles, SIU’s executive director for governmental and public affairs, who responded, “He is Rasputin. Sad folks are so invested in him lock, stock & barrel. Just going to make it that much harder to pick up the pieces no matter what happens. Will be an interesting meeting to say the least. Hang in there.”

“Indeed a perfect description,” Dunn wrote back to Charles. “It’s a colossal mess, but our present majority of 4 is going to have to stay solid and not deviate from their direction and thinking at this point.”

On April 4, Dunn appeared to lay the groundwork for Montemagno’s removal. He sent Montemagno’s blog post to Sholar and said it would be “enough to end his career as chancellor” in some systems.

“As we have talked: There must be a unambiguous decision from the Board on where this goes from here. There’s either a clear understanding that gets established regarding the chain of command coming out of next week’s meetings, or he proceeds unfettered doing more of this stuff which will then lead to my recommendation to remove him from the chancellorship (even if with 4 votes) sometime after the close of the spring legislative session,” Dunn wrote.

Dunn wrote that the chancellor was “publicly dumping on the Trustees who will vote in support of the reallocation, just as much if not more than he is me.”

He advised Sholar to share the information with “like-minded Trustees,” but only individually, so as not to violate the Open Meetings Act.

The day before the April 12 meeting, Dunn exchanged emails with an SIUE associate professor. The pair joked about Montemagno and speculated about his firing.

“However, I don’t think there is sufficient Trustee support at this time to make such a move,” Dunn wrote. “Not yet anyway. But with the news stories that broke today by the DE as well as the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., I’m not sure how he continues to maintain much semblance of support,” referring to reports about the closure of Montemagno’s Alberta lab and his supervision of a nephew as a graduate student.

Dunn guided SIUE chancellor every step of the way

Emails show that Dunn served as an adviser to Pembrook throughout the development of the reallocation proposal, counseling the Edwardsville chancellor on political maneuvers. He also encouraged some of Pembrook’s communications with State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, who filed the separation legislation.

On March 1 — prior to the governor’s appointment of Tom Britton, a retired SIU Carbondale vice chancellor, to the board — Dunn told Pembrook to try to get an Edwardsville trustee named.

“You are meeting w/ Jay Hoffman tomorrow, yes? Whenever…drive home the point that you need his help getting the vacant Trustee seat filled with a metro east person,” Dunn wrote. “While the gov’s office isn’t going to listen to Jay…Jay knows the people who the gov’s office will listen to on this one. We might end up with Ed Hightower, who knows, but he is 100 times better than the 4th who the Carbondale T’ees are trying to get named…” Hightower is an SIUE alumnus and previous vice chair of the SIU Board of Trustees.

The next day, Pembrook gave Dunn an update on the funding split issue ahead of the March 9 board retreat, which Pembrook was unable to attend. Dunn said he didn’t want to use Pembrook’s PowerPoint, arguing that he could make the case for funding reallocation without going into heavy detail. “Like a grand jury for now: Make just enough of the case at first to get the go ahead and move forward from there. We’ll end up getting a consultant likely to put the 3rd-party expert label on it.”

Also on March 2, Pembrook told Dunn he had spoken with several local politicians and state legislators, most likely about the reallocation effort. “They seem supportive and said they would try to help,” Pembrook wrote.

“Good…full court press at this point,” Dunn responded.

About a month later, Dunn coached Pembrook on how to handle the presentation of the reallocation to the board. “See if (BOT Chair) Amy (Sholar) has any other guidance, but as always, less is usually more on these presentations,” he said near the end of the email.

On April 10, two days before the full board meeting where the reallocation was to be considered, Dunn told Pembrook to reach out to Hoffman to find out when the separation legislation would be filed.

“Do other politicians know about Jay’s upcoming action?” Pembrook asked. “If so, do we know if they are supportive? If not, should we give them a heads up?”

Dunn responded that State Reps. Monica Bristow, Katie Stuart and LaToya Greenwood and State Sens. William Haine and Andy Manar knew about the action, and he said Charles was also expected to “loop in” State Sen. James Clayborne.

“You have freedom to come out in support since Carlo went well off the reservation by going on public record repeatedly to decry the reallocation. Full-on for you too, now,” Dunn told Pembrook.

“Let your team and employee leaders be ready to respond quickly once Jay drops the bill,” Dunn advised in another email. “Information out to Foundation, alumni, and other externals too. You have no constraints on working on this…your public comments…etc. Let it all roll.”

In another thread of emails on April 10, Dunn told Pembrook how to counter Montemagno’s arguments about the reallocation during the board meeting. “Just as hard and just as pointed,” he wrote.

The following day, Dunn helped Pembrook edit the message to the SIUE campus community announcing the separation legislation. They had correctly predicted the reallocation wouldn’t pass.

Pembrook asked whether he could say that Dunn and the four Edwardsville-affiliated trustees, including Sholar, were supporting the separation legislation.

“Don’t say that any of us (me, Amy, etc.) supports the bill yet,” Dunn advised. “Rather, you can say the proposed dissolution takes it out of the BOT’s decision making hands and will now be dealt with fully as a function of the legislative process.”

On April 16, Dunn forwarded Montemagno’s blog post about the system separation to Pembrook and nudged him to respond: “Simply wanted you to see what CM had out there on his blog. You may wish to do something w/ it to counter in your communications that go forward…up to you.” Dunn said he would forward any additional information and made a specific suggestion on how to counter one of Montemagno’s arguments.

The emails show that Dunn also advised Pembrook on how to prepare for an April 19 House Higher Education Committee hearing about the separation legislation. He invited Pembrook and Jerry Kruse, the dean of the SIU School of Medicine, to the hearing, but there’s no indication he informed Montemagno of it.

Dunn’s office appears to have been directly involved in development of separation legislation

Emails from SIU system lobbyists who report to the president indicate that Dunn’s office had a role in developing the separation legislation.

On April 10, two days before the board vote on the reallocation, Charles told Dunn that staff would be working on the bill.

“Staff working on the bill. We printed it off today. It is a 121 page technical mess of separating everything out. Not a simple Carbondale you go your way, Edwardsville you go yours. The SIU System is very intertwined in state government.

“Not sure how quickly this thing can get done,” Charles continued. “Best bet may be Jay acknowledging he’s going to be advancing the bill. Still trying to get their release. Waiting in Committee to get a chance to speak to Manar. Still need to get Clayborne. Will do that before leaving in the morning.”

On April 23, Charles sent an email titled “Split FAQs” to Dunn and Mark Kolaz, an SIU system lobbyist. “Anything egregiously incorrect?” Charles asked.

The document appears to consist of talking points for Metro East legislators supporting the separation legislation. It includes questions like “Isn’t this going to be a huge blow to the Southern Illinois economy by taking dollars away from those communities?”

“I think that depends on how Carbondale manages the dissolution of the system,” the response to that question reads. “ … As someone who represents the Metro East, I would say that it’s time for greater investment in our economy — especially at a time when the main driver of that economy, SIUE, is on an upward trajectory. Let’s strike while the iron is hot.”

On April 17, Dunn and Sholar released a joint statement saying that they were taking a neutral stance on the legislation to dissolve the system.

But in an April 26 email to retired SIUE Interim Chancellor Stephen Hansen, who offered to serve as the consultant to review the funding formula, Dunn appears to have held a different view.

“I appreciate the offer and you would have done well with it, but this has moved to a new plane, unfortunately. We may have arrived at the time where the split just needs to take place because I don’t think it’s going back in the bottle after this. May not be this year or next…but I think it’s where the natural outcome of all this eventually leads,” Dunn wrote.

Dunn courted favorable media coverage for reallocation, split

Dunn also helped orchestrate an editorial in the Belleville News-Democrat advocating for the funding shift. On March 28, he counseled Pembrook about the pitch and timing of the editorial.

“BND folks will need time to run their traps with the info you provide…have their ed board meet…write it up. To wit: You could start the process now, they just have to understand that nothing can be made public until sometime AFTER the agenda is posted in a couple of days,” Dunn wrote.

Pembrook’s staff reached out to the Metro East newspaper about the funding split on March 29 — before the Board of Trustees and SIUC chancellor were aware of the reallocation item.

After the Belleville News-Democrat editorial was published, Dunn and Pembrook exchanged seemingly celebratory emails about how the story was trending.

After The Southern ran the story “SIU Carbondale chancellor, legislators urge against proposal to shift funding to Edwardsville,” Dunn emailed Pembrook, Charles and Sholar on April 7 to tell them to think about getting SIUE’s marketing and communications director to push a story with the Belleville News-Democrat getting Metro East legislators on the record to counter The Southern’s article.

“Story needs to run before meeting to counter this a little and keep to the script we have. Otherwise will contribute to a narrative that Edwardsville got rolled,” Dunn wrote.

A few minutes later, he suggested getting a reporter to reach out to U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, whose district includes the Metro East. “Mike needs to be made to own this one,” Dunn wrote.

Administrator raised questions on weighting factors used in reallocation

Notes by Winter, the SIUE budget director, from meetings in summer 2017 reference weighting factors that were eventually used in the reallocation proposal. The weighting factors determined the cost of different degree programs to account for the differences in SIUC’s and SIUE’s missions. In the notes, they are attributed to Randy Dunn.

Dunn’s weighting factors consist of a 1.0 multiplier for undergraduate, a 1.2 multiplier for master’s and a 1.4 multiplier for doctoral. In all the notes and correspondence released by the FOIA office, there is no indication that those weighting factors were based on any sort of model.

Emails suggest that Duane Stucky, SIU’s senior vice president for financial and administrative affairs, was not consulted about the reallocation proposal until March 26, while he was on vacation. Dunn asked Stucky to look over the board matter via email.

“I am a little surprised at their weighting factors,” Stucky wrote to Dunn in response to the board matter. “Years ago, I recall using factors as high as 4 for doctoral cost vs baccalaureate. I think the IBHE (Illinois Board of Higher Education) cost data might provide comparison.”

In his reply to Stucky’s objection, Dunn wrote that the proposal would be a Phase 1 funding shift only, pending a full study of the funding formula.

Seven minutes after receiving Stucky’s reply, Dunn emailed Pembrook privately to tell him that Stucky had not suggested anything “major that is going to create any re-do in methodology or approach.”

On May 1, Stucky sent an email to Matt Baughman, Montemagno’s chief of staff, to express his concern about the weighting factors.

“Is there anyone at all that is raising questions about the funding formula SIUE used versus what should be used?” Stucky asked. He attached a Nevada System of Higher Education report from 2012 for reference, which weighted doctoral programs between 5 and 8.8.

“You’ll note Bill Winter used weighting factors of 1 1.2 and 1.4 in his calculations. You can see how those factors are dismally low for graduate education,” Stucky said.

— Isaac Smith and Alee Quick contributed to research for this report.





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June 29, 2018 at 01:03PM

Analysis: SIU president said he was neutral on campus split. Documents appear to tell a different story

ISAC hosts 8th Annual College Changes Everything Conference | RiverBender.com

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CHICAGO – A renewed regional and national emphasis on improving the path for students from education to employment is creating new partnerships designed to provide students with the information, resources, and experiences they need to achieve their education and career goals. The 8th Annual College Changes Everything® (CCE) Conference in Tinley Park on Thursday, July 19, 2018, brings together educators, government, business and non-profit leaders, other professionals, and students to share information, ideas and best practices to help Illinois students navigate a path for success.

“Every student deserves the opportunity to chart a course that is right for them, whether it is a four-year degree, two-year degree, postsecondary certificate or apprenticeship,” said Eric Zarnikow, executive director of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), the agency that sponsors the CCE Conference in collaboration with other partners.

“By 2020, it is expected that 65 percent of all jobs will require some form of postsecondary education or training,” said Zarnikow. “Education pathways, supported by business and education partnerships, can offer students the guidance, resources and experiences they need to define and meet their goals.”

This year’s keynote speaker will be Mandy Savitz-Romer, Ph.D., director of the Harvard Graduate School of Education master’s program in Prevention Science and Practice and senior lecturer in education, who will speak on “Redefining College Ready: Integrating Adolescent Development into College Readiness Efforts.” Her work examines how school and non-profit organizations structure postsecondary supports that address developmental skills and readiness. She writes and speaks extensively on college and career readiness and school-based counseling, specifically as it relates to students of color and first-generation college students. The former associate director of the Boston Higher Education Partnership and a former urban school counselor, Dr. Savitz-Romer is the co-author of Ready, Willing, and Able: A Developmental Approach to College Access and Success (Harvard Education Press 2012).

Conference sessions, presented by state and national experts and practitioners, will cover topics such as college and career readiness frameworks, a consumer guide to higher education and student loans, service and experiential learning, working with non-traditional students, addressing the persistence gap, promoting STEM learning, improving financial literacy, supporting special student populations, partnerships to improve college and career outcomes, coaching and mentoring for academic success, and many more. See the preliminary agenda at collegechangeseverything.org/2018Agenda.

The 2018 College Changes Everything Conference on July 19th will be held at the Tinley Park Convention Center in Tinley Park, Illinois from 8 am to 4:30 pm, and the registration fee is $40. To register for the conference or for more information, visit collegechangeseverything.org. Join the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #CCE4me.

The College Changes Everything Conference is sponsored by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission in collaboration with partners: Illinois Board of Higher Education, Illinois Community College Board, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois College Access Network, Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities, Advance Illinois, Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University, Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, Education Systems Center at Northern Illinois University, Generations Serving Generations, ACT Now and Women Employed.

About College Changes Everything
College Changes Everything® (CCE) is a college access movement that recognizes that college can be a life changing experience not only for students, but also for families and communities. In Illinois and across the nation, those who obtain education beyond high school not only see a significant impact on their potential career prospects and future salary, but also change levels of poverty, life expectancy, crime and obesity rates in their communities. CCE is an essential part of helping Illinois reach its goal of increasing the proportion of adults in the state with high quality degrees or credentials to 60% by 2025. Find out more and join the conversation at collegechangeseverything.org.

About ISAC
The mission of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) is to help make college accessible and affordable for students throughout Illinois. ISAC provides comprehensive, objective, and timely information on education and financial aid for students and their families—giving them access to the tools they need to make the educational choices that are right for them. Then, through the state scholarship and grant programs ISAC administers, ISAC can help students make those choices a reality. Find us at isac.org or on Facebook (@ILStudentAssistance), Twitter and on Instagram @ISACfinaid.

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June 27, 2018 at 09:46AM

ISAC hosts 8th Annual College Changes Everything Conference | RiverBender.com

Gov Rauner on Funding Higher Education and Keeping Illinois College Students in Illinois

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Gov Rauner on Funding Higher Education and Keeping Illinois College Students in Illinois


















Next, from Bloomington Normal, Governor Rauner signs a bill at Illinois State University that he says will improve the state’s funding formula for higher education, and attract more students to Illinois’ public universities.

Prior to the Governor’s bill signing, we also hear from the local Rep Dan Brady (R) on the importance of continuing to fund Illinois’ Higher Education.  This runs about 10 minutes









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June 26, 2018 at 08:11PM

Gov Rauner on Funding Higher Education and Keeping Illinois College Students in Illinois

Opinion | Voice of The Southern: Opportunity missed for SIUC on split vote

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At a time when Southern Illinois University, particularly the Carbondale campus, needs to move forward, the SIU Board of Trustees jammed the transmission into neutral Thursday.

The BOT voted 4-4 on a proposal to put University president Randy Dunn on administrative leave during Thursday’s special meeting. The deadlock serves as a de facto reprieve for the embattled president.

Dunn came under fire earlier this spring over his handling of a proposal to shift $5.1 million in funding from the Carbondale campus to Edwardsville. The rift between Dunn and the Carbondale campus grew deeper and wider when a FOIA request unearthed emails in which Dunn referred to his critics on the Carbondale campus as “bitchers.”

At that time this editorial board stated Dunn’s actions had made his position as university president untenable. Nothing has come to light that would change our minds.

We also remain convinced that it is vital that the two campuses continue to function as a single system. There are too many compelling financial, logistical and pragmatic reasons to keep the system intact. That’s why virtually everyone associated with SIU-C was dismayed when Dunn took a neutral stance on legislation designed to split the system into two distinct entities.

The bill proposed by Rep. Jay Hoffman D-Belleville not only would have split the SIU system, but it would have wrested the SIU School of Medicine from the Carbondale campus, something that would have devastating ripple effects. A neutral stance on change of that magnitude is wholly inappropriate for someone who supposedly represents the entire system.

The 4-4 vote is a clear indication that the SIU system is in disarray. It also illustrates the tenuous situation Dunn now calls home. It seems clear that battle lines have been drawn between the two campuses and both sides are fervently protecting their own turf.

What’s worse, it appears this division was of Dunn’s making. There are indications that Dunn provided legislators with talking points supporting the separation legislation, again totally inexplicable for the president of the system. BOT member Phil Gilbert has stated that Dunn colluded with those seeking to divide the two campuses.

The SIU system has plenty of problems without this alleged subterfuge. Unfortunately, time and money will be wasted sorting through the leadership issue, which will only exacerbate the real world fiscal problems that threaten the system’s viability.

There are items on the table that need the board’s full attention — an independent agency needs to study the funding distribution between the two campuses. Each campus has unique features and needs that cannot be overlooked. It is the unique nature of the campuses, as well as the different academic programs offered at each site, that makes protecting the union more important.

The Carbondale campus is facing serious enrollment and retention declines.

It’s difficult to believe that among the turmoil and deep divide on the BOT that Dunn will be able to summon his political skills and knit the two constituencies back into a functioning unit, which is his most basic job requirement. Given Dunn’s earlier ambivalence, perhaps encouragement, of the proposed schism, there seems to be little hope he can, or even wants to mend these wounds.

The BOT had an opportunity to give the system a fresh start and a chance to heal from within, but opted to punt.

The status quo is not what SIU needs at this point.

Hundreds of pages of documents will be made public next week. The emails, notes and correspondence from leadership across the SIU system will undoubtedly shed additional light on Dunn and his interaction with the BOT and political figures.

We’re confident the contents of those documents will verify our suspicions. The 4-4 vote was an opportunity lost.

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June 24, 2018 at 07:29AM

Opinion | Voice of The Southern: Opportunity missed for SIUC on split vote

SIU trustees to consider ousting president, but details on why are lacking

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A push to replace Southern Illinois University’s president has regained steam two weeks after a chaotic fracas in which a small faction of the board maneuvered to oust him on its own.

The board is scheduled to meet Thursday to weigh putting President Randy Dunn on administrative leave and appointing an acting leader. Dunn has served as SIU’s president, overseeing the campuses in Carbondale and Edwardsville, since 2014.

The “why” for seeking Dunn’s ouster remains a mystery. Trustee Joel Sambursky, among the officials pushing for the meeting, said the board recently received information that so poorly reflects on Dunn’s conduct that it necessitates his going on leave while outside attorneys investigate his actions. The information came to light after the board’s most recent meeting in late May, Sambursky said.

But for weeks, Sambursky has refused to reveal the substance of that material, saying only that it is contained within documents all board members received in response to an open records request. The board also is expected to consider releasing those documents to the public Thursday. Board Chairwoman Amy Sholar and Trustee Shirley Portwood previously said they did not know what new issue or problem has arisen with Dunn’s leadership. They could not be reached for comment.

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June 21, 2018 at 05:54AM

SIU trustees to consider ousting president, but details on why are lacking

Joint Senate and House Higher Education Group touts ‘groundbreaking’ legislation

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“We have put together five bills and one resolution we believe will help put Illinois higher education back on track to be the best system in the country,” Welch said on May 29.

The package is just the beginning, according to Welch, who said lawmakers will be meeting over the summer to strengthen higher education legislation. 

“We are proud of the work to date because we believe [that] in order to fix the Illinois economy, we have to do it through our higher education system,” Welch said.

Calling up respective lawmakers and their bills, Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) was the first Republican to speak. He said that lawmakers kicked out all the university presidents from one of the meetings so they could speak to the admission officers privately.

“One of the things we heard time and time again from every single public four-year institution was [that] these out-of-state schools come in an offer four-year awards,” Rose said.

That is why the group created HB 5020, a bill that would allow for renewing applicants to receive funds from a Monetary Award Program grant. 

“Illinois has the crown jewel of the higher education system in the United States,” Rose said.

After Rose said the package should send a clear message to Illinois students that lawmakers want them to stay in state, Sen. Tom Rooney (R-Rolling Meadows) discussed SJR76, a resolution that helps with credit transfers. 

“It is basically going to have the universities cooperatively taking a look at every instance of transfer credits to try to look for those little patterns that are evading us now,” Rooney said.

Further explaining SJR76, Rep. Robert Pritchard (R-Sycamore) said officials are addressing the numbering system in credit transfers. 

“And a third thing we are doing with this resolution is informing high school counselors about the whole articulation process and how they can advise students to transfer courses they may have even earned in high school,” Pritchard said.

Calling the complete package of bills a groundbreaking endeavor, Sen. Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo) presented SB 2969, which expands debt limits at public universities. 

“It will allow them to address some of the deferred maintenance issues that they are facing,” Schimpf said before handing over the microphone to co-sponsor Rep. Norine Hammond (R-Macomb).

Hammond said that lawmakers felt that helping universities was just as key as helping students, which was why SB 2969 was created. 

“It gives them some leeway,” she said.  

Concluding the conference, Rep. Dan Brady (R-Normal) presented HB 4781, which streamlines admission testing and information. He said the bill, as with the other legislation, will help convince students stay in state.

“There is more work to be done,” Brady said. "I think we all agree on that."

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June 14, 2018 at 09:42PM

Joint Senate and House Higher Education Group touts ‘groundbreaking’ legislation