UI president's administration proposal raises questions

URBANA – Faculty reviewing proposed changes to the upper echelons of University of Illinois administration have lots of questions – about the effect on the Urbana campus and its reputation, about research autonomy and, especially, about the cost.

President Michael Hogan's plans to add a fourth vice president and make other changes produced 25 questions from faculty, staff and students at a town-hall meeting Monday at the Levis Faculty Center.

"We need to know what these changes really mean," said Amy MacNeill, assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

The meeting was the first of several this month convened by the Senate Executive Committee to discuss the proposed administrative restructuring. Hogan will address those questions and more at a special meeting of the campus senate at 3:10 p.m. Monday at the Business and Instructional Facility, at the corner of Sixth Street and Gregory Drive in Champaign.

Hogan wants to create a vice president to oversee clinical health services at all UI campuses. He also wants to add "vice president" to the titles of the three campus chancellors, and expand the duties of the vice president for technology and economic development to include research.

The duties of the vice president for academic affairs would also be enhanced, including better coordination with the three UI campuses and with community colleges. And Hogan wants to create two executive directors at the central administration level to oversee human resources and enrollment management.

Hogan presented the plans to the UI Board of Trustees last month. The board directed him to draw up a formal proposal and get the advice of the academic senates as needed. The changes in the chancellors' titles and in the vice presidential duties would require amendments to the university's statutes or general rules. Trustees asked the senates to forward their advice in time to be considered at the board's Nov. 18 meeting in Chicago.

"People would like a lot more information," said Associate Professor Joyce Tolliver, chairwoman of the campus Senate Executive Committee.

Many questions Monday focused on the role of the vice president for health services. Carol Livingstone, director of the Division of Management Information, wondered if the veterinary medicine clinic, speech and hearing clinic and other health enterprises on the Urbana campus would fall under that position.

"We don't know what it means for any of the other health-related professions," MacNeill said.

Others wondered where the funding for the new vice president's office was going to come from, and how the other changes would affect spending on administration. Hogan has said the changes would be combined with other cuts to save money in the long run, but faculty said those details should be spelled out.

Professor Kent Ono asked for a cost-benefit analysis and wondered how legislators and the public will react to the creation of new administrative posts.

Others were uncomfortable with the centralization implied in the changes.

David Olsen, student body president at Urbana, said students are wondering how the "one university, three campuses" model promoted by Hogan would affect the value of their degree from this campus.

Similarly, engineering Professor Henrique Reis noted that the Urbana and Chicago engineering schools often compete for grants. If a professor wants to start a new research initiative, "who would control when we stop competing and start collaborating?" he asked. And what would the effect be on the Urbana College of Engineering, ranked among the best in the country?

History Professor Kathy Oberdeck wondered how the role of the chancellors might change once they are also vice presidents – especially as advocates for the campuses.

Professor Emeritus Kenneth Andersen suggested the chancellors' titles be listed as "chancellor and vice president," rather than the other way around as Hogan proposed. The chancellor's primary responsibility is to be chief officer of the campus, and that should not be "subjugated," he said. Vice presidents have mostly advisory roles and are rarely "decision makers," he said.

Associate Professor Mary Mallory asked if the UI had considered doing away with central administration altogether and letting the campuses run their academic enterprises.

Others wanted more rationale for centralizing human resources and enrollment management, which wasn't addressed in a seven-page explanation drafted by Hogan at the request of the University Senates Conference.

Tolliver said she will ask Hogan to begin next week's meeting by giving his "global vision" for the proposed changes.

In the meantime, students and employees can post more questions for Hogan at a new website expected to go live Wednesday, at http://www.uillinois.edu/StatutesDialogue/. The site will include frequently asked questions, and answers from Hogan, Tolliver said.

Other related documents are available on the campus senate website, http://www.senate.illinois.edu.

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