UI Faculty Senate Votes to Keep Institute of Aviation


In a narrow 57-to-54 vote, members of the University of Illinois' Faculty Senate rejected a proposal Monday to close the Institute of Aviation located at Willard Airport in Savoy.

On April 4, the Faculty Senate's Education Policy Committee (EPC) voted in favor of closing the institute, which is what University administrators are pushing to do.

As the U of I waits on nearly $440 million from the state, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Interim Provost Richard Wheeler said eliminating the aviation program could save the U of I around $750,000 a year. Speaking during the Faculty Senate meeting on Monday, Wheeler told a crowd that while the 65-year-old program serves a beneficial role in training qualified pilots, it is becoming too costly to operate.

"There are no other universities like us. No university rated as we are, higher that has a program like this," Wheeler stated. "I do not believe it is central enough to our core academic mission to sustain it under these financial circumstances."

The University reports declining enrollment at the institute in the past decade, noting it had 176 applicants in 2002, admitting 119 and 65 freshman enrolled. In 2010, the institute had 112 applicants, admitting 65 and 34 enrolled.

Wheeler said he was disappointed with the Faculty Senate's rejection to close the institute.

However, the institute's Interim Director Tom Emanuel said the Faculty Senate's vote sends a strong message that the aviation program should remain intact.

"It sends the message that the majority of faculty on this campus do approve of aviation and they disapprove of the format and the sequence of events that was used to get rid of it," Emanuel said.

U of I administrators wants to see the Institute of Aviation closed by 2014, so that current students can finish their studies. Starting fall 2011, the university will deny admission into the institute for incoming students. Rose Morefield, the co-chair of the Association of Academic Professionals, said not accepting students is premature since a final decision to close the program hasn't been made.

"That is kind of just saying that it's already closed instead of continuing when there's a demand to provide quality education that's already there," Morefield said.

The institute's future ultimately rests with the U of I's Board of Trustees and the State Board of Higher Education.

Story source: WILL