News Local/State

Race, Affordability Among Themes In UI Town Hall

University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen at Wednesday's Town Hall meeting

University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen responds to comments in Wednesday's Town Hall meeting at the U of I's Beckman Auditorium. Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen has heard a wide range of opinions as he gathers input for university-wide strategic plan. Wednesday’s town-hall meeting on the Urbana campus included comments on race - on the same day some students rallied to show support for black students at the University of Missouri.

One of those students at the U of I rally, who only gave his first name, Kadeem, says many students feel left out, and that people who live north of University Avenue have been racially profiled.

President Killeen, who saw the student speak at the rally with Interim Urbana Chancellor Barbara Wilson, calls what’s happened at Missouri a ‘wake-up call,’ saying the U of I has to re-commit to welcoming and nurturing for all.  But he asked the student for some input.

“We'll do it, but we need your help, and your critical thinking, and your insight, and your determination and your passion to bring these things forward, so that we see collectively as a community," he said.  "These problems that we're addressing are real problems, and the places were solutions will be best found are on campuses like ours."

Killeen also heard from Marine Corps veteran Doug McGee, who said he had trouble learning about graduate school when calling the U of I.

"How do you reach people like me who didn't have the opportunity that I had to leave environments and go somewhere else, to get a broader scope of the possibilities for my life?" he said.

Consulting firm AKA Strategy led the response from a crowded Beckman Auditorium. 

In his opening comments, President Killeen talked about his vision for the strategic plan, which is to be completed by May, seeking "modeling excellence in integrity in everything" including education, research, civil engagement, and service.

Briefly touching on lack of a state budget, he expects the stalemate to be resolved by January or February.

"The alternative is ruinous legacies for many leaders in Springfield," he said. "And we’re making the case. How we’re going to use public funds in the most efficient and effective ways possible to serve the state and society."

Killeen asked the audience to envision a day of "robust, responsible" state funds.  He called for an increase in financial aid, and for students to find ways to finish school in four years.

"The state of Illinois needs the University of Illinois," he said. "It doesn’t know how badly it needs the University of Illinois. This is a pivotal time."