Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 09, 2010

U of I Religion Professor Is Dismissed For Views On Catholicism

The head of a national academic group says a terminated University of Illinois professor was well within his rights to express opinions on Catholicism, and should lobby to get his job back.

After adjunct Professor Kenneth Howell stated that homosexual acts are immoral, a student complained to the head of the U of I's Department of Religion that the professor was engaging in hate speech. Howell claims the dismissal violates his academic freedom. U of I English Professor Cary Nelson is President of the American Association of University Professors. He says while many faculty members choose to remain neutral on various issues, they can also state their positions, and invite their students to argue on those points.

"I always tell students where I stand, and then I say 'please disagree with me - give me a hard time." says Nelson. "Let's get a debate going. You do a good job on the debate, you get extra credit. I want you to dispute me, not just settle for my beliefs." Nelson also says Howell has earned the right to request a hearing before faculty in the Department of Religion. Nelson says if it's proven before an elected committee that Howell was let go because of his opinion, he should be allowed to get his job back.

But Nelson says the professor can also appeal before the AAUP. He says the organization sees more cases like Howell's each day, in which a non-tenured faculty member is dismissed because of a complaint from a student or parent. "He's apparently taught nine years.on contracts like this," (a year-by-year hire.) "They're often let go without any kind of full, professional, evaluation. Basically some administrator decides 'well, it's not worth the trouble, he or she is controversial, we'll just cut them loose. But that damages everyone's academic freedom."

Howell doesn't have a local phone listing. His comments in e-mails were obtained by the News-Gazette. The head of the U of I's Religion Department, Robert McKim, also couldn't be reached for comment. University spokeswoman Robin Kaler declined comment since Howell's firing is a personnel issue.

Categories: Education, Religion

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 06, 2010

Clerks to Implement Controversial New Law Aimed at Spurring Young Voters

Now that a program meant to stimulate more college-age voting has become law, one county clerk who spoke out against the bill has to figure out how to implement it.

Mark Shelden in Champaign County and some other clerks complained that the measure would be a financial hardship on counties. One of three voting bills signed by Governor Quinn over the weekend requires early voting sites to be set up on college campuses before each election.

Shelden says he has yet to choose a location on the University of Illinois' Urbana campus for such a center, but he says it will not be the centrally-located Illini Union, where active campaigh goes on during election season.

"Our polling place where we do early voting cannot be a hub of political speech -- it has to be a campaign free zone," said Shelden. "And so we'll be looking for a location that may be comparable to that in terms of traffic, but where we're able to regulate the speech activities during the 23-day period that we'll be conducting early voting." By law, campaigning is restricted around all polling sites, whether on Election Day or in early voting.

Supporters of the new law say the college early voting center will be available to all voters, not just students - opponents such as Shelden have said the centers would discriminate against voters in outlying areas by giving students easier access.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 02, 2010

Some Alarmed, Others Relieved by State Budget Cuts

Officials in schools, universities and social service agencies around the state spent Friday parsing a new state budget signed by Gov. Pat Quinn that cuts $1.4 billion in spending.

Education will lose $241 million. But Illinois Association of School Boards lobbyist Ben Schwarm says schools are relieved general state aid will remain flat. That money makes up most of what public schools have to spend. Steep cuts were feared.

The budget cuts nearly $263 million from state grants for, among other things, programs for people with mental illness and developmental disabilities.

And many schools and others note they're still waiting on money the state can't afford to pay from the last fiscal year.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 02, 2010

Quinn Cuts 6.23% from Univ of IL Allocation

Governor Quinn signed a new state budget for Fiscal Year 2011 this week that cuts spending by $1.4 billion, as the state grapples with the biggest deficit in its history.

The budget includes $69,057,200 for the University of Illinois, which is 6.23% less than what lawmakers put in their version of the budget. Quinn made cuts of similar proportions to allocations for other state universities.

U of I Associate Vice President for Planning and Budgeting Randy Kangas notes that the university has still not received 38% of the state funding it was promised for fiscal year 2010. He says they worry that they might see similar cash-flow problems in the new budget year.

"So appropriation levels are good --- cash is better", says Kangas. "So, we have additional concerns if the state has the capacity to meet the appropriation levels, and that will be a continuing concern."

Kangas says U of I officials have been working for some time on plans for dealing with less state funding.

"The provosts are working very hard", says Kangas. "We have worked through the campus level, and now they will start working through the college and department level allocations."

But he says the plans are still in flux, because of what he calls the state's "unprecedented" financial problems, and the possibility that Governor Quinn may cut even more funding later in the year.

Additional reporting by Amanda Vinicky of Illinois Public Radio


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 01, 2010

New U of I President Starts His Job, Takes on Challenge of Financial Crisis

On his first day on the job, new U of I President Michael Hogan admits he needs to be brought up to speed on some issues relating to Illinois' financial crisis.

But the 66-year old notes he's been through similar experiences while leading other universities, and thinks strategically about budgets. Hogan says it's a sad fact that the U of I, like other state schools, have to rely less on state funds - and will have look more at tuition, alumni donations, and research to generate revenue. He plans to spend a third of his time raising money.

But the former president of the University of Connecticut also hopes to avoid a second round of furlough days for university faculty and staff. "So my own disposition would be do try to deal with budget issues in different ways than relying on furloughs," said Hogan. "We can't rule them out right now, and I certainly wouldn't want to say anything definitive until I know more. But in principal, we had furlough days at U-Conn and others, and I know from experience they're very, very hard on faculty and staff morale."

Hogan also expects to get questions about his $620,000 dollar salary. He says it's in line with what other Big Ten Presidents receive... and plans to justify it over the next several months. "I think the question to be asked here is over the next year is 'what have I done to earn that salary," said Hogan. "And if I haven't done enough to earn that salary, I'm sure the board will want some adjustment made. And I intend to earn it. And I intend to bring in the university, one way or the other, a substantial amount more than I'm going to be taking out."

Hogan says he isn't sure yet about job cuts as part of a push to save money. But Former U of I President Stanley Ikenberry - who's leading what he calls a 'process redesign', says other cuts are likely.

Hogan also says he'll be do his best to be accessible. "I think it's a big university, even each part of the university, especially the Chicago campus and the Urbana campus are both by themselves, very large," said Hogan. "I think it helps if people know who the president is. I think by being engaged and being visible and being accessible - even one person, the president, maybe more than others, can help make a big university seem smaller. And that would be my goal." He comes to Illinois after being president of the University of Connecticut.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 30, 2010

Delta to Leave Champaign Area’s Willard Airport at End of August

An airline's decision to leave the Champaign area's Willard Airport leaves only one airline serving the facility.

It also leaves Willard's manager wondering why Delta Air Lines plans to end its three daily flights to and from Detroit August 31. Steve Wanzek says he was shocked at Delta's phone call Wednesday afternoon mentioning the decision.

"It's been three weeks since they replaced the Saab turboprops with regional jets and added an extra flight," Wanzek said, hours after the call. "I thought we were headed in the right direction, and the feedback we were getting from the Delta desk people downstairs was that they were excited because passenger count had gone up."

Northwest Airlink flights between Willard and Detroit were rebadged with the Delta Express name last year as the two airlines merged. Mesaba Airlines operated the planes. The exit will leave only American Eagle at Willard, but Wanzek says American is a much more stable presence because Willard hosts a maintenance hub for their regional jets.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 30, 2010

University Is $130 Million Ahead of Where it Stood Six Months Ago

The state has come through with some last-minute funds for the University of Illinois as the fiscal year draws to a close.

That includes a payment of about $30 million reported Tuesday by Chief Financial Officer Walter Knorr. U of I Interim President Stanley Ikenberry says that brings the state's backlog of payments to about $295-million, when it was more than $430 million back on December 31st. Ikenberry says while Illinois still needs to address its financial crisis as soon as possible - the U of I is getting more orderly state payments, and that's a surprise. But he says university staff has done everything it can to receive those funds.

"Our finance people have been unrelenting in their telephone calls to the comptroller's office to seek the payment of the bills," said Ikenberry. "..and to remind them that we're out here living from hand to mouth, and that we need the payment of those receivables." Ikenberry will step down from the role of interim president this week, turning over the office to new President Michael Hogan. The 75-year old has served as interim president since January, and was U of I President from 1979 to 1995.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 30, 2010

U of I Interim President Ikenberry Reflects, Looks Ahead

A change at the top doesn't mean University of Illinois Interim President Stanley Ikenberry is retiring just yet. He served in the office the last six months, and was U of I President from 1979 to 1995. The 75-year old Ikenberry will now see to it that a working group follows through with a series of consolidations and other cost-cutting moves. He'll report on the team's progress to new President Michael Hogan, who starts his job Thursday.

Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert talked with Ikenberry about that role, and other challenges he foresees in the months ahead:

Download mp3 file

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 29, 2010

U of Ill. Plans Home Weatherization Center

The University of Illinois plans to use nearly $1 million in federal stimulus money on a center to train people to improve the energy efficiency of low-income residents' homes.

The university says it received a more than $959,000 grant for the Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program. It will be run by the university's Building Research Council. The council already offers classes on weatherizing homes.

Council instructor Paul Francisco says the money will help train workers to improve home energy efficiency.

Categories: Education, Energy

AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 29, 2010

U of I Study Shows Robins Are Competent Hosts of West Nile

A study of the spread of West Nile virus shows it has a new culprit.

A team of researchers from the University of Illinois says robins are unwittingly spreading the virus after being bitten by mosquitoes carrying it. Professor Jeff Brawn heads the U of I's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. Unlike crows and jays, which die when they get the disease, he says some robins survive when bitten by an infected mosquito. And Brawn says that's a problem in urban environments. "They seem to be to amplify the virus in their bloodstream but they don't die from it at a real high rate," said Brawn. "So you've got a common bird that the mosquitoes prefer, and one that the virus seems to do very well in, too."

Brawn and a team of U of I researchers are tracking West Nile in Chicago's southwest suburbs. The group has been able to detect what mosquitoes have been feeding on through DNA samples. Brawn says if another mosquito bites a robin, the mosquito gets the virus and can then transmit it to another host, possibly another bird or human. He suggests wearing long sleeve shirts, minimizing outdoor time from dusk to dawn, and using insect repellent this summer to avoid the illness. "It's not like robins are the enemy, and if you see one, you're going to get West Nile virus," said Brawn. "It's just that robins are species that seems to be involved in kind of a epidemiology of the virus."

Brawn's study includes several institutions, including Michigan State and Emory University. It's funded by the National Science Foundation.

Categories: Education, Environment, Health

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