Illinois Public Media News
The manager at Willard Airport says commercial flights there won't be affected by the possible closure of the U of I's Institute of Aviation.
Steve Wanzek likely the biggest impact would be the downgrading of the airport's control tower, since 90-percent of the takeoffs and landings are pilots in training through the U of I. On Thursday, university administrators recommended that the Institute close once current students complete their degrees, or by the spring of 2014.
Wanzek said the Federal Aviation Administration could lose a few jobs at Willard, as well as training opportunities.
"A hundred-thousand activities in a non-O'Hare (International Airport) environment is a lot of activity, and they get a lot of exposure for trainees here," Wanzek said. "And that opportunity for the FAA will diminish as the institute slows down and if it goes away."
But Wanzek said the potential closing of Aviation won't affect Willard's efforts to construct a new tower, which he said should be finished by the end of next year. Meanwhile, the President at Flightstar hopes to make up for a loss of about $100-thousand in revenue that the Institute brings his facility each year - if it does close by 2014. Bill Giannetti said the loss is significant, but his business will survive. Flightstar does maintenance and charter flight service at the airport.
Giannetti said it is a shame that the Institute of Aviation and its deteriorating buildings have gone neglected by the U of I for years.
"My fear is the Institute will shut down, the FAA will build a new control tower, so we'll have a number of buildings that are going to be empty, going into a state of neglect, kind of like what we've seen with some of the buildings in Rantoul," Giannetti said. "These are old buildings. They really, at some point, needs to be demolished."
Gianetti said he had hoped the U of I would construct a new facility for Aviation, making it competitive with other schools that have better facilities.
Illinois' economy is not growing yet, but it's one point closer to doing so, according to the University of Illinois's Flash Index.
The monthly reading of the state economy was at 95.9 in January, up from 94.9 in December. Any number below 100 reflects economic contraction. But U of I Economist Fred Giertz said the Index has shown gradual improvement over the past eight months.
"This is one of the bigger jumps," Giertz said. "Any one month, you have to be careful about it - it could be an anomaly. But it's going in the direction that's expected, of a substantial increase, which is what's happening at the national level."
Giertz referred to national economic figures, which showed a sharp drop in the unemployment rate in January, even though job growth was weak. Illinois's 9.3% unemployment rate for December was slightly better than the national rate of 9.4% --- although Giertz said both were high, considering the improving economy. Now that the national rate has fallen to 9%, Giertz said he wants to see how the new state numbers stand in comparison, when they're released in about a week.
The Flash Index is based on Illinois tax revenues. Giertz said January's improvement was due to growth in state income and sales tax receipts, rather than corporate taxes.
The University of Illinois' Interim Chancellor and Provost have proposed that the Institute of Aviation be closed, following suit with recommendations made by a faculty committee.
In a letter distributed around campus this afternoon, Vice President and Interim Chancellor Robert Easter said, "As an institution, we must examine carefully our core missions and determine how to support and enhance those missions so that we may best serve our students, the state and society. We have arrived at the difficult conclusion that closing the Institute best serves those interests."
The letter was also signed by Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Interim Provost Richard Wheeler.
Administrators will ask that the Faculty Senate's Educational Policy Committee hold a public hearing on the proposal. After last September's 'Stewarding Excellence' review, the U of I's Illinois Business Consulting Group was asked to evaluate the marketability of a stand-alone and self-supporting flight certification program. The IBC concluded that there wasn't sufficient demand to support the expansion of such a program. Last year, Easter estimated the university could save up to $750,000 a year by closing the program.
The Interim Director of the Institute of Aviation, Tom Emanuel, said the news did not come as a surprise.
"There have been some restrictions to our enrollment, and the fact that all the faculty were taken from the program (and moved to other departments) by central administration a year or so ago," he said. "That left us in a pretty precarious situation, I mean, how can you have a program without a faculty base?"
The courses are now being taught by academic professionals and faculty from other departments. Aviation currently has about 160 students. Emanuel said he will suggest merging Aviation with another department when the Faculty Senate's committee meeting is held, which requires 30 days' notice. March 8th has been set as a tenative hearing date.. U of I administrators have guaranteed that current students would be allowed to complete the program, so the Institute of Aviation wouldn't be eliminated until the spring of 2014 at the earliest.
The president of the University of Illinois says if it were up to him, faculty and staff would get raises in the years to come.
Many U of I employees have had to deal with flat salaries for the past two years, and most also had to take unpaid furlough days last year. But U of I president Michael Hogan says an administrative review and restructuring program has already lead to five million dollars in savings, and it will pay off in the longer term.
"I feel confident, with the reforms we're putting in place and with other measures we've taken, that we'll begin to see enough of a kitty of money that we can begin certainly avoiding furlough days and begin reinvesting in our faculty, not just in raises but hopefully in new appointments and new hires," Hogan said in an interview and call-in show Wednesday night on Illinois Public Media.
Hogan frequently voiced his displeasure with the backlog in state funding. He says budgeting would be much more accurate without more than $400 million the state of Illinois owes the University, including $60 million in scholarship money through the Monetary Award Program, or MAP, the state- sponsored scholarship program for students in need.
As part of an administrative restructuring plan at the University of Illinois, U of I President Michael Hogan has named two new vice presidents.
Lawrence Schook, who works in the Department of Animal Sciences on the Urbana campus, will serve as the vice president for Research. Meanwhile, U-I-C's Vice Chancellor of Research, Joe Garcia, has been named as the Vice President of Health Affairs.
"We can be proud that the University of Illinois has within its faculty and administration scholars with as much relevant leadership experience as Larry and Skip to step into these key roles at such a crucial time for the University," Hogan said in a prepared statement.
Both will serve on an interim basis while a search begins to find their permanent replacements. The University of Illinois' Board of Trustees approved the creation of the two vice president positions last November.
For only the third time in 30-plus years, the University of Illinois has canceled classes on the Urbana campus.
The decision Tuesday night for the Wednesday class schedule comes amid a severe winter storm that has dropped several inches of sleet and snow on east-central Illinois by late Tuesday evening. Wind and visibility conditions have deteriorated in rural parts of Champaign County enough for the Emergency Operations Center to pull county highway crews off rural roadways starting at 11pm. EOC spokesman Rick Atterbury said plowing should resume at daybreak.
Even though U of I classes are canceled for Wednesday, the University says the campus will remain officially open. Employees who don't know whether they should report to work should consult their supervisor or University policy on essential employees.
Plans for a wind turbine on the University of Illinois' Urbana campus could be in jeopardy if a funding plan isn't in place by Monday.
U of I Sustainability Coordinator Morgan Johnston said it needs to be set by then to place the item on the March agenda for the university's Board of Trustees. She said without that notice, bids for the project will expire, and a $2-million grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation could also be lost. The U of I is seeking an additional $700,000 for the project, a cost Johnston said the U of I's Student Sustainability can handle. The proposed $4-point-5 million project now exceeds $5-million.
"They do have funds available right now that they're allocating for which projects to spend that money on this year," Johnston said. "What we're asking is that they would, rather than support new projects and additional projects, commit that $700,000 to this project to make it to be able to move forward."
Johnston said the U of I will provide more detail later this week on why it's seeking the additional funding.
Urbana City Council member Eric Jakobsson has been an advocate of the wind turbine project, but says he can't support the additional cost.
"It's all, in a certain sense, public money," Jakobsson said. "So the heart of my question was, how do you justify spending public money in a manner that is cost ineffective, especially when everybody is being either to pay more taxes or to tighten their belts?"
The Student Sustainability Committee is already putting half a million dollars into the project. Amy Allen, President of Students for Environmental Concerns, said that should be the limit.
"They've met their commitment to this project," she said. "We want to work with the University to get this done, but it's their responsibility to find that money."
Members with the student committee are requesting a meeting with the U of I's President and Urbana Chancellor about the turbine cost, including items that they don't think should be included in the project.
The University of Illinois has never postponed a home basketball game for the weather, and that record will remain intact despite the latest winter storm.
Penn State's basketball team arrived in Champaign by bus early Tuesday afternoon, clearing the way for the Tuesday night game to be played as scheduled.
A massive winter storm moving across the Midwest was already affecting central Illinois, and more than a foot of snow was possible by Wednesday.
The director emeritus of the University of Illinois' Institute for Government and Public Affairs is being remembered as a soft-spoken individual with a passion for government and public service.
Samuel Gove passed away died in Urbana Friday after a short illness. He was 87. Gove was with IGPA from 1950 until 1985, but was also active in government, serving on transition teams for Governors Dan Walker and Jim Edgar.
Former legislator and comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch served with Gove on the board of Illinois Issues magazine, which he founded. She said civic education for young people was really important to Gove.
"He was very determined and very insistent on that - and never forgot it, always kept coming back to it," Netsch said. "So that was another part of his character. He had not only a strong sense of what government should be, but a strong sense of how young people should be bred into it, if you will."
Netsch said Gove expressed his opinion in a quiet way.
"He was not a bombastic, flamboyant, in-your-face kind of a personality," she said. "But he had strong views on some things, and he certainly had very strong ways of expressing those."
Gove also conducted 17 statewide assemblies, one of them, in 1962, set issues for the 1970 Constitutional Convention. Robert Rich, the current director of IGPA, said Gove was "Mr. Illinois.'
No visitation or funeral services are planned. A celebration of Gove's life will be planned for a later date.
A union representing 800 University of Illinois service employees voted with overwhelming support Thursday to give its members the right to walk off the job.
Contract negotiations between the Service Employees International Union Local 73 and the U of I have gone on for six months. The union is asking for new contracts that include better pay and employee benefits for campus building and food service workers.
Union organizer Ricky Baldwin said the U of I has proposed salary cuts and pay freezes for the workers, which the union has rejected. The university is currently waiting on more than $400 million in state payments. Baldwin said he understand that the U of I is going through some tough economic challenges, but he said union workers are still entitled to better pay and employee benefits.
"We understand that the economy is not good, the budget is not good, but we also know the university has a lot of money," Baldwin said.
Baldwin cites a 37.5 percent salary increase for U of I President Michael Hogan over what former university President B. Joseph White was earning. He also points to the university paying outside consultants $1.7 million to train administrators to 'Plan to Plan', and Board of Trustees giving the green light to raising the U of I's overall operating budget by 3.9 percent.
"They're giving top administrators raises," Baldwin said. "They can afford to give us 30-to-40 cents an hour. It won't break the bank."
Baldwin said workers could walk off the job within a few months if a deal is not reached.
Meanwhile, U of I spokeswoman Robin Kaler said any discussion of a strike is premature and counterproductive.
"The University remains confident that the parties will be able to reach an agreement through good faith negotiations," Kaler said.
The two sides will return to the bargaining table Friday at 9 a.m. at the Florida Avenue Residence Halls. An hour before the meeting, union workers will be picketing.
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