Illinois Public Media News
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)
Details of a new teachers' contract in Danville have been released, following its approval by the District 118 school board Wednesday night. Union members ratified the contract last week.
The first year of the agreement includes one-time bonuses both for certified and non-certified staff, but no increases in base salary or automatic increases, according to a 'step pay' schedule . The second year does include step pay increases.
However, if talks on a new contract in 2012 drag on past July 1st, like they did for this contract, Danville teachers returning in September will not be getting step pay increases until a new contract is reached, according to District 118 superintendent Mark Denman.
"In the past, with the salary schedule, if we were still negotiating in September, people automatically move up," he explained. "It's not that they won't move up in the future, but there will be no increase until both sides can complete their negotiations."
The new contract keeps health insurance and retirement benefits basically the same as they have been. The contract also calls for a special committee to develop a plan that bases pay on student performance. Denman said the committee's findings could be implemented in a future contract.
Denman said compromise was the trademark of the new contract, and that neither side got everything it wanted. The Danville school board also approved a separate contract for secretaries and learning resource clerks.
The Champaign County Coroner's Office has identified a body found near Longview Monday afternoon as that of a missing University of Illinois German Studies professor.
Coroner Duane Northrup has identified the man as 48-year old Frederick Schwink of Longview. He had been missing since September 9th, and his disappearance prompted a plea for help from local authorities. A farmer discovered the body in a car sitting in a cornfield northwest of Longview Monday. An autopsy was conducted Tuesday morning. Northrup said dental records were used to identify the body, and an inquest may be held at a later date. Schwink's death is under investigation by U of I Police, the Champaign County Sheriff's Department, and the Coroner's Office.
Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden will follow through with plans to make a vacant storefront the early voting site for the University of Illinois campus.
Shelden said he will sign a lease Tuesday to use the property on South Gregory Street, instead of the Illini Union's Pine Lounge. County Board Democrats and the U of I Student Senate oppose the move, saying state law dictates that the location of the polling site should be in a high traffic location, like the Union.
A spokesman for Illinois Senate President John Cullerton also said public universities are legally obligated to provide the space, and that local elections officials will work with them.
However, Shelden said political activity in the Illini Union make it an unsuitable location for early voting, and he added the U of I cannot afford what state law mandates.
"Maybe if the state legislature properly funded the University or if Lincoln Hall wasn't in the middle of renovation, and had been completed like it should have been 4 or 5 years ago," he said. "I can give a variety of ways in which the university could have less problems with space if the state of Illinois had done what they were supposed to do."
Champaign Senator Mike Frerichs was a sponsor of a law ensuring that public universities will provide polling places. He said Shelden is trying to 'flout' state law by using the Gregory site for polling. Frerichs also said it 'smells' that the building is owned by JSM Development. One of that company's principals is former Champaign County Republican Chair Steve Hartman.
"This University did offer the space for free," said Frerichs. "He would rather pay money to a private developer than take the space for free, and that doesn't make sense."
Shelden said he did not base his decision decision on politics, but rather, finding a convenient location for voters at an affordable price. It will cost his $800 to lease the site.
Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden believes the dispute over a University of Illinois campus early voting site has been settled, and local officials won't be taking him to court.
Many Democrats on the Champaign County Board and members of the U of I Student Senate want registration and voting at the Illini Union, but Shelden prefers moving it to a vacant storefront about a half mile from there. A new state law requires that each public university provide such a site in a high traffic location. Shelden contends the Union an inappropriate location for early voting because of heavy political activity... and it's hard for those off campus to get to. And he disputes the argument that voters won't find the alternate site at 700 South Gregory Street.
"I certainly would consider it high traffic," said Shelden. "And I think it's a little bit disappointing when people say, 'nobody can find that' or 'nobody knows where it's at.' It's across from Rosati's Pizza which is a really popular campus location. I just don't see that there's going to be any getting students there. It's actually closer to more people where they live than the union is."
Shelden says he's meeting with the student Senate on Wednesday with hopes of convincing them that the Gregory Street location will best serve voters. Illinois Senate President John Cullerton says county clerks don't have unregulated discretion over an early voting site. But Shelden says county board members have backed off on talk of going to court over the voting site. County Board Democrat Brendan McGinty also says he'd like to avoid legal action, but he does say students and U of I employees would prefer voting at the Union.
"The union, as I understand it, has set up to allow for parking in the circle drive up front," said McGinty. "It would be free as I understand it. The other location would come with a rent - I think it's $800 a month. There are a lot of people who think the logical location is the union. The clerk has a different opinion. The board doesn't have any control over it. " A resolution on paying for a campus early voting site is on Thursday's Champaign County Board agenda.
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