Chicago will add resources to University of Illinois, chancellor says

Chicago will add resources to University of Illinois, chancellor says

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus. | Google images

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — University of Illinois’ chancellor says expanding the university’s presence to Chicago won’t drain resources from Champaign-Urbana, saying two new initiatives there will do “just the opposite.”

Chancellor Robert Jones is also committed to expanding the UI Research Park in Champaign, The News-Gazette reported. He says the Research Park, which has 100 companies, 2,000 employees and $60 million payroll, will be a major draw for Chicago innovators looking to develop startups and use the university’s expertise to become more competitive globally.

Jones was referring to the proposed Discovery Partners Institute in Chicago, a public-private research partnership led by the university that would anchor a statewide “innovation network.” Jones says the university has to find a way to engage the Chicago and its billions in venture capital while remaining firmly anchored in Champaign-Urbana.

“We’re not going anywhere. We’re not closing anything. We’re not moving anything from here to Chicago. We want assets to flow back here,” Jones said.

He called Chicago the heart of a new “technology and innovation renaissance” and said it has a flow of talent and capital from the coasts to the Midwest for the first time in decades.

Jones said a lot of the talent that fueled the growth in Silicon Valley has UI connections. He said the he university needs to build bridges to Chicago to “get these innovators and investors and creators to take a look 100 miles to the south and see what amazing opportunities are sitting right here where we are today.”

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via Chicago – Chicago Sun-Times

May 27, 2018 at 11:41AM

Chicago will add resources to University of Illinois, chancellor says

Column | Meera Komarraju: SIUC’s creative writing program is a crown jewel

In the past 10 years alone, graduates of SIU’s program in creative writing have published almost 50 books — including works by best-selling author Ben Percy (“Red Moon”) and Indiana Poet Laureate Adrian Matekja (“The Big Smoke”).

This impressive statistic is but the tip of the iceberg of a vibrant and innovative community for students of creative writing, one that includes both a nationally-recognized MFA program, and a very popular and innovative BA degree.

Indeed, founded by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo and the renowned poet Rodney Jones, the creative writing program is in many ways among the crown jewels of both the English Department and the College of Liberal Arts.

It all begins with excellent teaching. From within the labyrinthine depths of SIUC’s Faner Hall, you’ll find talented faculty teaching a wide range of classes in poetry and fiction — including acclaimed fiction writer Pinckney Benedict, who teaches the finer points of plot, characterization and action — and also specializes in alternative forms of storytelling such as gaming narratives, virtual reality storylines and graphic fiction. Students are keen to work within these new genres. Benedict notes, though, that employers are equally interested in the students who master them.

Similarly, while Judy Jordan and Allison Joseph lead classes in poetry that stress imagination, diction, and rhythm, they also push students to address some of the more pressing social issues in American society today — class, gender, race and more. Students leave these classes as deeper thinkers, and better prepared to be thoughtful citizens in an increasingly complex world.

SIUC’s Faner Hall is also home to two literary journals: Grassroots, a campus journal of literature and art that is edited and produced by SIUC undergraduates, and Crab Orchard Review, an award-winning national journal of creative writing edited by Professor Joseph and Jon Tribble — a fine poet in his own right who has had three collections of his poems published in the last three years. Tribble also oversees the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry, a highly regarded national contest for the publication of individual volumes of poetry.

Finally, our creative writing faculty continues to be recognized nationally. Judy Jordan’s newest collection of poems, “Hunger,” was published in 2018 by Tinderbox Editions; poet Allison Joseph will have her next book, “Confessions of a Barefaced Woman,” published by Red Hen Press. Scott Blackwood’s 2015 novel, “See How Small,” won the Pen Center USA Award for Best Fiction, and was a New York Times Editor’s Choice for 2015. These and other accomplishments build upon the tradition of literary excellence established years ago by Professors Russo and Jones.

So next time you’re looking for a good read, pick up a book by one of SIUC’s resident authors — you won’t regret it.

Meera Komarraju is interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

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May 27, 2018 at 10:54AM

Column | Meera Komarraju: SIUC’s creative writing program is a crown jewel

Morthland College is closing, according to an attorney for the West Frankfort school

WEST FRANKFORT — Morthland College, the beleaguered private Christian college in West Frankfort, will be closing its doors permanently, according to an attorney who represents the school. 

Attorney Aaron Hopkins represents the college and confirmed to The Southern on Saturday that Morthland College will end its operation after about seven years. 

College graduated its final class earlier this month. 

WEST FRANKFORT — In a unanimous vote during a special meeting Tuesday, the Illinois Board of Higher Education appointed a hearing officer to o…

Troubles began for the school last year when, after an internal review by the Department of Education, the school’s ability to access federal student aid was cut off. They were put on Heightened Cash Monitoring II status by the DOE, meaning they had to spend their own money upfront and apply for reimbursement from the federal agency, as opposed to drawing down money at the top of a semester. 

The Illinois Board of Higher Education also took action against the college following a lengthy letter from the DOE alleging "illegal" activity, working with prep sports academies to improperly draw down federal student aid for students at the sports academies. They were registered in online classes and not considered regular students, according to the DOE letter.

“Morthland’s misconduct is exemplified by its illegal disbursement of Title IV funds to ineligible students, its improper retention of unearned funds when students ceased attending, its improper handling of Title IV credit balances, its use of an inflated cost of attendance, and its failure to meet Title IV institutional and program eligibility requirements,” Susan D. Crim, director of the department’s Administrative Actions and Appeals Service Group, wrote.

WEST FRANKFORT — A recent string of court decisions and tax sales have been added to previously levied fines and liens against Morthland College.

The IBHE put together an investigation that could have resulted in the revocation of the college’s operating ability.

"Exactly 501 days since its last dispersement of federal funds, Morthland College announces that the institution will not open in the Fall of 2018," said a press release from the college.

"Its campus resides in one of the most impoverished counties in the state, where over 90 percent of Morthland College students are in need of federal funding to attend college, and, without a timeline for settlement or the restoration of these funding lines, the institution simply does not have the fiscal resources to open this fall," the release continues.

According to the press release, Morthland College has not yet received a final program review report from the DOE and its appeal of the 2017 emergency action letter has been in negotiation with the DOE since November but the parties have not been able to come to an agreement. 

"Morthland College continues to deny all allegations set forth in the Department’s emergency action letter and remains an ongoing 501C3, not for profit, in good standing with the State of Illinois," the release states. 

The release indicates that the college "remains dedicated" to settling the issues it has with the DOE "whether through an amicable settlement agreement on the part of both parties, a request for a hearing, or through a process for appeals, all of which are pathways given to the institution under the Department of Education’s own statutes." The release states that the timeline for these processes to play out cannot be determined at this time.

According to the release, the college remains in cooperation with the IBHE and the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools — the college’s accrediting agency— "in providing pathways for transferability of credit for its current student body and the releasing of academic records for both its current and former students upon request."

The release indicates that some of the other businesses associated with Morthland College — the so-called "guilds" — remain unaffected and have relocated from Franklin to Williamson County, but did not specifically name which ones. There previously was the Da Vinci Beverages company as well as Morthland College Health Services and several other businesses connected to the college through leadership. 

The release said the institutions, the college included, that have had to close their doors, represent 150 jobs lost in what is an already economically depressed region.

Several employees of the college and other Morthland entities have complained of non-payment and some vendors have even sued in civil court to receive payment.

Morthland College and its sister business, Morthland College Health Services, were both also served several IRS tax liens totaling in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Questions regarding the status of these liens were unanswered by college representatives.

Current and former students with questions are asked to contact college representatives at: 1-779-216-5930 or


On Twitter: @ismithreports

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via The Southern

May 27, 2018 at 07:54AM

Morthland College is closing, according to an attorney for the West Frankfort school

Opinion | Voice of The Southern: SIU needs to part ways with Dunn

Randy Dunn can no longer effectively serve as president of the Southern Illinois University system.

According to documents obtained by SIU Carbondale faculty member Kathleen Chwalisz and others provided by Board of Trustees member Phil Gilbert, Dunn appears to have withheld information from SIUC Chancellor Carlo Montemagno regarding a proposed $5.1 million shift in funding from the Carbondale campus to SIU Edwardsville.

The funding shift was in reference to the 60-40 split in state monies Dunn insists has been a part of the SIU system’s budgeting process since 1979.

To compound matters even further, Dunn sent a damning email to SIU Edwardsville chancellor Randy Pembrook, SIUE Budget Director Bill Winter, and Vice President for Administrative Affairs Duane Stucky stating that a reference to the 60-40 split was “simply to shut up the bitchers from Carbondale who are saying loudly we shouldn’t even be doing the $5.125M at this time.”

The email became public after Chwalisz filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to the funding reallocation. Dunn has subsequently apologized for the “inartful” wording of the email.

Apology notwithstanding, Dunn’s behavior is unacceptable. Inartful isn’t a strong enough characterization of Dunn’s word choice. Even if his statement is a light-hearted jab at those holding opposing views, it is highly inappropriate. Someone of his stature and experience should most certainly understand that.

The email is an official communication between university officials. The “delete” button serves an important purpose. If there is any doubt that official correspondence contains inappropriate or offensive content — hit delete instead of send. Always.

While it is fine Dunn apologized, the apology doesn’t erase the damage created by Dunn’s statement, especially in light of additional information revealed by Chwalisz and Gilbert.

As president of the university system, Dunn’s job is to work closely with both campuses. The email has certainly strained relations with Carbondale. The email also drew swift and pointed criticism from State Reps. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, and Natalie Phelps Finnie, D-Elizabethtown.

And, the email also casts a shadow on the neutral stance Dunn assumed on proposed legislation to separate the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses. That stance remains confusing since Dunn’s livelihood is based on the linkage of the two campuses. It also shows a severe lack of leadership in leading the system, which is his primary duty.

Yes, the knee-jerk reaction to Dunn’s actions is that the board should sever its relationship with the embattled president. Dunn’s contract with the SIU system allows the Board of Trustees to terminate the agreement at any time for “just cause.”

However, if the board terminates his contract without proving just cause, Dunn would be entitled to three years’ salary. His base salary is $430,000 per year. That unexpected $1.3 million expense is the last thing the cash-strapped university system needs. At this point in Dunn’s career, that severance package amounts to early retirement, something that hardly seems fair, considering this latest mess is largely of his own making.

He would truly be earning that salary if he could somehow stitch his constituencies back together.

Unfortunately, that hardly seems likely at this point. This latest incident has driven still another wedge into the fractured political structure that is SIU Carbondale.

As distasteful and demoralizing as it seems, the board should execute the termination clause in Dunn’s contract. The last thing SIU, particularly the Carbondale campus needs, is protracted negative publicity and finger-pointing.

SIUC is desperate for leadership at the moment. Dunn’s actions have undermined his position. The healing at Carbondale needs to begin now.

Dunn’s tenure at SIU hasn’t been all that positive for the Carbondale campus. It’s time for change.

The SIU system should cut its losses and sever the relationship with Dunn. The focus here in Carbondale needs to be on recruitment and retention of new students. That cannot happen with still another controversy swirling around the university.

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May 27, 2018 at 05:08AM

Opinion | Voice of The Southern: SIU needs to part ways with Dunn

Police: Higher ed proposal needs revamp

SPRINGFIELD — Exceptions for violent crimes like murder and rape need to be included in proposed legislation that could come before Illinois lawmakers this week, two police associations said Saturday.

House Bill 3142 cleared the House in April 2017 and is scheduled for a final vote before the Senate. The proposal would bar Illinois public universities and colleges from asking prospective students about their criminal history and using that information during the admissions process.

The Illinois Campus Law Enforcement Administrators Association and Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police oppose the proposal because it excludes asking about murder and rape.

The groups’ statement said current language in the proposed bill would allow admission at any public institution for “someone convicted of murder and attempted murder; juvenile pedophiles, serial rapists, and anyone on a sex offender registry; anyone with a history of stalking or other predatory behavior; anyone convicted of a hate crime or arson; and anyone with a past history of weapons offenses.”

A number of legislators are listed as cosponsors of the bill, including Democratic state Reps. Jehan Gordon-Booth and David Koehler, both of Peoria; Democrat Sen. Juliana Stratton of Chicago, running mate of gubernatorial candidate JB Pritzker; and former gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss, a Democrat from Evanston.

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May 26, 2018 at 02:09PM

Police: Higher ed proposal needs revamp

#3306 – Budget Progress & Higher Education Reform | Illinois Lawmakers’s Rich Miller leads off this week’s Illinois Lawmakers with host Jak Tichenor as lawmakers appear closer to finalizing a budget for next fiscal year.

Senate President Pro Tempore Don Harmon (D) Oak Park and Rep. Tim Butler (R) Springfield tell Tichenor they are optimistic the General Assembly can pass a balanced budget by the May 31st adjournment date.  Later, House Higher Education Committee Chairman Emanuel Chris Welch (D) Hillside and Assistant Senate Republican Leader Chapin Rose (R) Mahomet discuss short and long-term plans for growing enrollment at Illinois public universities as part of a bipartisan, bicameral higher education working group.

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May 26, 2018 at 09:33AM

#3306 – Budget Progress & Higher Education Reform | Illinois Lawmakers

Public colleges and universities in Illinois named as some of the nation’s best

ILLINOIS – U.S. News and World Report has released its 2018 list of the best public colleges and universities.

In Illinois, The University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign is ranked highest at #14. University of Illinois – Chicago is #73, Illinois State University is #83, and Southern Illinois University – Carbondale is #122. 

The rankings are based on academic value for the cost, first-year student retention and graduation rates, and the strength of the faculty. 

University of California – Berkley topped the list, which you can see here.

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May 25, 2018 at 08:50PM

Public colleges and universities in Illinois named as some of the nation’s best