Illinois Public Media News
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Interim Chancellor Robert Easter recently returned from a week-long trip to India. Easter met with university, business, and government officials to discuss research partnerships in areas ranging from agriculture, to information technologies, to climate change. He also talked about the prospects of opening a campus in India, and opportunities for graduate education.
There are about 400 undergraduate and more than 460 graduate students from India currently studying at the U of I. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers spoke to Easter about the relationship developing between India and the University of Illinois.
The University of Illinois' Senate Executive Committee held the first in a series of forum's Monday to discuss three administrative changes introduced by University President Michael Hogan at last month's Board of Trustees meeting.
One of the proposals covered at the meeting was about adding a new vice president who would oversee health services at all three campuses. The Board of Trustees approved a 3.9 percent increase in its operating budget last month, even with about a $245 million backlog in payments from the state.
U of I officials have said cuts and consolidations would help offset the cost of creating this new position.
Harriet Murav, who teaches in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, attended the forum. Murav said she is worried changes to the university's administrative structure could mean other departments and programs will take a hit.
"How could it possibly make sense to take funding away?" she asked. "Class size has gone up. Tuition waivers have gone down. Academic salaries have gone down because we're bleeding faculty."
Some of the other administrative changes under consideration include making each campus chancellor a vice president and adding a "research" element to the portfolio of the vice president for technology and economic development. Interim chancellor Robert Easter said the campus-wide discussions will help shed light on what he calls "ambitious" proposals.
"I don't know that there's any reason to be concerned until we fully understand the proposals," he said. "I understand the president is meeting with various groups to talk about it, and so I think we'll have productive conversations and at the end, we'll come to good decisions."
The faculty-student Senate committees on all three campuses in Urbana, Springfield, and Chicago will make recommendations on the proposals to the U of I Board of Trustees before the board's November 18 meeting in Chicago.
Joyce Tolliver, chair the Urbana campus' Senate committee, raised doubts over whether a month is enough time to fully discuss the proposals.
"The discussion is not going to be a clean straight forward one," Tolliver said. "It's going to be a messy one. It's probably going to be a rambling one, and I'm glad that I have set aside all this extra time for it."
University President Michael Hogan will be at the next town hall Senate meeting set for October 18 at 3 PM in College of Business' Deloitte Auditorium on the Urbana campus. The Senate has also scheduled meetings for October 25, November 1, and November 8.
University of Illinois President Michael Hogan and a number of campus labor groups say they have started a productive dialogue on issues like employee salaries and affordable education.
Friday's one-hour meeting came a day after many of these unions rallied on campus, giving administrators a failing grade in areas like transparency and accountability. Hogan said it was not a bargaining session, but simply a conversation between people with shared interests.
"I think they would feel very good about having an opportunity occasionally, even only once a semester, or two or three times a year, just to sit in that room (the President's conference room) and not negotiate the details of a contract, but just have a dialogue between interested parties," said Hogan. "I would be very comfortable doing that."
Further meetings haven't been scheduled, but Hogan said the parties already share one common interest.
"That's linking arms in Springfield and trying together to convince our legislators that we're a very good investment," Hogan said. "And if we can get some stability, some predictability, and hopefully increased support out of them, we're able to do more for everybody here."
U of I Campus Faculty Association President and history faculty member Kathryn Oberdeck said it is good to see that groups like hers and the Graduate Employees Organization will be allowed to become part of the decision making process. She said the president and unions will likely have their share of disagreements, but Oberdeck said this meeting was simply about laying the ground work, but she said U of I faculty members continue to have concerns about the voice they will have.
"What sorts of research gets funded and the ways in which the restructuring of the university will reach down and take account of the voices of people who actually work on the ground, and the way that actual process evolves remains to be seen," Oberdeck said. "But I did get the sense that he heard and sympathized with that desire."
Gene Vanderport with the Illinois Education Association said he is pleased with the tone and tenor of President Hogan.
"We feel that this administration may be more in contact with what need to be looking as as priorities," Vanderport said. "We can't get into specifics, but we're pleased with some of the answers we got. I feel a lot better about what our future holds."
(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)
Campus labor unions say University of Illinois administrators continually fail to address issues like affordable tuition, a living wage, and accountability.
The groups used the National Day of Action to Defend Public Education for a noon hour rally on Thursday. About 70 people went from the Alma Mater statue to the Swanlund Administration Building in protest.
Campus faculty association Vice President Susan Davis said this National Day was about addressing concerns for everyone they represent, ranging from food service workers, to students to faculty. Davis said U of I leaders are continually passing the buck and blaming their problems on the state's budget woes.
"What we hear from them is 'after the election we'll be able to do this, after there's a budget we'll be able to talk to you about this,'" she said. "In the meantime, they're making a lot of very radical changes to the administrative structure of the university, and probably also to the educational structure."
Groups like the Campus Faculty Association and Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) delivered three large report cards, giving U of I administrators an 'F' in the areas of access, diversity, and stewardship.
GEO Co-President Stephanie Sewell said changes in one area, like a tuition freeze, is not the panacea for the university's budget problems. Sewell also said that a tuition freeze should not keep the U of I from diversifying its student body by closing the cultural houses and consolidating them into one space.
U of I Associate Chancellor Bill Adams received the report cards when the union walked into the Swanlund building. He said many of these issues were already presented in the recent U of I Board of Trustees meeting in Urbana, but he said leaders are willing to continue the conversation.
"We are as concerned as they are about the issues that they raise," Adams said. "The issues of diversity. The issues of affordability. I think the one thing that is not mentioned there is quality, and the quality somehow has to enter into the equation as we move along."
President Michael Hogan will meet with some of these union heads at the University YMCA on Friday.
(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)
A University of Illinois faculty group investigating the suspension of an engineering professor concluded Louis Wozniak should be given a chance to defend himself.
The College of Engineering suspended Wozniak before the start of the semester for allegedly sending an e-mail to his students with sexually suggestive remarks and for videotaping them without their consent during one of his lectures.
Wozniak defended his actions, saying the e-mail in question is being taken out of context, explaining that he occasionally uses sexual innuendos to connect with his students, but he said he first checks with them at the beginning of each semester to make sure they are comfortable with that language. He added that the students who were videotaped were notified that they would be on camera.
Wozniak said after he learned about his dismissal in August, he went to the University of Illinois Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure to demand that he be given the right to tell his side of the story.
"(The College of Engineering) can't do this unless the president of the university deems it necessary for the safety of the institution and of the people around me without a hearing," he said.
In its report, the committee stated: "The issue before us is whether the university adhered to the university's statutes in acting as it did, i.e., in failing to afford him a hearing on these allegations and a faculty determination of what sanction should be imposed, if any."
It did not conclude whether action should be taken against Wozniak.
Wozniak was moved to an office away from his department where he is focusing on his research and public service. He said the dean of the College of Engineering, Ilesanmi Adesida, should allow him to clear his name in a hearing or simply put him back in the classroom.
"I would welcome the opportunity to be able to answer to these frivolous and false charges that he's made," said Wozniak.
University spokeswoman Robin Kaler declined to comment on the case, simply saying, "The freedoms of tenure are not absolute, but carry with them responsibilities to respect the dignity and rights of all other members of the campus community."
A formal hearing for Wozniak has not been set. Wozniak, who has taught at the U of I for more than 40 years, said he hopes to get back to teaching by the spring semester.
(Courtesy of The Energy Development and Power Generation Comittee)
Preservationists say the University of Illinois failed to follow the proper procedure when going ahead with work on an 1870's farmhouse.
Urbana Campus Historic Preservation Officer Melvin Skvarla said the U of I decided to use $91,000 in residual money to remove the century old additions to Mumford House, based on an architect's recommendation.
Skvarla said that report has been online since early this year.
"The intent was to return the house to its original condition," said Skvarla. "That was stated over and over again - following the recommendations of (architect) Vinci Hamp. The 1892 south addition is probably worse shape than the entire house. The 1922 edition is not even compatible with the rest of the house."
A spokesman for Illinois' Historic Preservation Agency said the U of I never bothered to discuss these plans with an advisory committee appointed by the school's board of trustees. Dave Blanchette said the university should have let that panel weigh in.
"That was the entire reason for forming the advisory committee was to work hand-in-hand with the university to make sure the historic Mumford House was adequately protected," said Blanchette. "To make everyone aware in advance what was planned, and what was going to be done, and let everyone agree to a course of action. We have not had that in the last couple of days."
Urbana Historic Preservation Commission Chair Alice Novak contends removing the additions hurts the structure's historical significance.
"The west side addition is particularly nice in offering living room space, it has a large fireplace, it had a bevel glass window which was removed Wednesday morning, and I don't know where that's going," said Novak. "So if we're interested in really seeing the house used and marketed, it really would be prudent to leave those additions on there."
Novak said the additions were added by Dean Herbert Mumford around the 1900, when his family lived in the house, and are significant to the building.
The $91,000 will also go for painting and weatherization. Skvarla said a full restoration will cost one and a half million dollars, and he said there are no further plans for Mumford House when the current work is done late this month.
Landmarks Illinois President Jim Peters sits on the U of I's advisory panel for the structure. He agrees with Novak that the additions could have been utilized in some sort of reuse plan, but he said if ultimately, the U of I wants to restore Mumford House to its 1871 state, removing the additions may have been the best plan.
(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)
A student senator on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus wants the U of I Board of Trustees to reconsider its refusal to grant emeritus status to controversial professor William Ayers.
Sophomore Max Ellithorpe said when the trustees voted to deny Ayers emeritus status, they should not have factored Ayers' decision to dedicate his Weather Underground manifesto in part to Robert Kennedy's assassin, Sirhan Sirhan.
Ellithorpe said the manifesto was a political work published before the education theory professor began his academic career.
"An individual's political views have no place in determining their academic achievements," he said. "A large group of people with very different political views have all appreciated Professor Ayers' work, and I think that's the thing they should be looking at."
Board Chairman Christopher Kennedy --- the son of the late Robert Kennedy --- brought up the book dedication when he voted against emeritus status for Ayers last month. The other trustees voted with him, without comment.
Ellithorpe argues that the board's vote against the recommendation raises questions about what role trustees should play in academic decisions at the U of I.
"In the past, their role has been hiring, firing and then financial matters," he said. "I think they're moving more into interfering in the academic environment, and that needs to be cleared up."
Ellithorpe says he'll ask the university's Urbana Campus Academic Senate to pass a resolution next month, asking trustees to reconsider their vote.
Ayers taught at the U of I's Chicago campus where some faculty members ohope to get their own campus' Academic Senate to pass a resolution questioning the trustees' emeritus vote against Ayers.
Pilot training at the University of Illinois' Willard Airport will go on for now, but its future is not guaranteed if academic faculty at the Institute of Aviation are reassigned elsewhere.
As part of a campus-wide cost-savings program, a committee has recommended that all academic curricula at the Institute be either discontinued or transferred elsewhere on campus.
Interim chancellor and provost Robert Easter says the Urbana Campus Senate will be asked to approve the changes - but so far, he says no place on campus has been found for the Aviation Institute's Human Factors degree program.
However, Easter stresses that current students have nothing to worry about. "We feel that when we accept a student into a program, we take on an obligation to provide the educational experiences that get them to the degree they plan to take," said Easter. "We would just stop.accepting new students."
Easter says a consulting firm based on campus will study the feasibility of existing pilot training at Willard without the academic program.
The changes have sparked concerns that air traffic would fall off considerably at Willard - enough to endanger the future of commercial air service. Easter says the committee found little evidence to support that. Though federal regulators may drop the rating of the airport's control tower, he says it wouldn't reduce operating hours, which airlines rely on for passenger service.
The University of Illinois Board of Trustees has denied controversial professor and Vietnam War protester William Ayers an emeritus faculty position.
Trustees voted unanimously Thursday to deny Ayers the position. He recently announced his retirement in August after more than 20 years as an education professor on the Chicago campus. The vote followed a speech by board chairman Christopher Kennedy.
"I intend to vote against conferring the honorific title of our university whose body of work includes a book dedicated in part to the man who murdered my father, Robert F. Kennedy," he said. "There is nothing more antithetical to the hopes for a university that is lively and yet civil then to permanently seal off debate with ones opponent by killing them."
Williams Ayers co-authored the 1974 book "Prairie Fire", which was billed as "a political statement of the Weather Underground", and included Robert Kennedy's assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, among more than 200 people listed in its dedication.
Ayers, who taught on the Chicago Campus, co-founded the Weather Underground, an anti-war group held responsible for a series of bombings in the 1960s. They included nonfatal explosions at the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol.
The University of Illinois Board of Trustees Thursday finalized its fiscal 2011 budget of $4.8 billion, which is a 3.9% increase over fiscal 2010.
At the meeting, U of I President Michael Hogan said the school's image has been badly damaged by last year's admissions scandal as well as the state's financial crisis.
A recent U.S. News and World Report poll shows the U of I's Urbana campus dropped out of the survey's top 10 ranking as one of the nation's best public universities. At the University of Illinois Board of Trustees' regular meeting Thursday, Hogan said the most striking trend in the report is that the U of I is not improving as fast as other schools.
"So, we need to understand what contributed to this decline," he said. "Cause believe me all good things come to highly ranked institutions."
Hogan said the U of I must concentrate on winning over transfer students who spend a year or two at a community college.
The U.S. News and World Report ranking indicates faculty resources are down at the Urbana campus. Interim Chancellor and Provost Robert Easter said last year, 25 faculty members earning around $106,000 left for better paying jobs.
"Our faculty are held in great esteem by institutions across the country," said Easter.
Hogan said the state's uncertain budget has left the university searching for other revenue streams. About 550 employees took advantage of the voluntary separation and retirement programs, which Easter estimates will save the university about $1.4 million a month.
In June, an Administrative Review and Restructuring (AAR) work group appointed by former President Stanley Ikenberry recommended that the university improve efforts to run its health programs. Following the recommendation, the U of I is considering a plan to hire a new vice president to oversee health services at its three campuses, and administer college of medicine sites in Chicago, Urbana, Rockford and Peoria.
The recommendation to hire a new administrator comes amid sluggish state support with about a $245 million backlog in payments to the university. The U of I has taken steps in recent months to consolidate programs as a way to cut costs, but Hogan said adding this new position would help fulfill the U of I's commitment to health sciences
"Most universities have long ago recognized the size, the complexity of the clinical enterprise, and have responded to it through a single vice president for health affairs, who among other things, can integrate that enterprise across all the campuses and all of its various sites," he said.
Hogan said about a third of the university's budget is dedicated to clinical support. The U of I Board of Trustees would have to vote to add another vice president.
At the Thursday meeting with the Board, Hogan also suggested re-naming the chancellors at the three campuses as vice presidents to re-affirm their role in helping him set a university-wide agenda.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
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