Some at UI disappointed with Hogan's view of situation

Some at UI disappointed with Hogan's view of situation

URBANA – Some University of Illinois professors say President Michael Hogan's comments to the faculty/student Senate Monday and elsewhere paint a darker picture of the campus than they see.

Hogan said Monday that the UI's admissions scandal was "the tip of the iceberg," that its rankings have dropped precipitously and that there was "a leadership crisis" when he arrived here this summer.

Slavic languages Professor Harriet Murav of the Campus Faculty Organization said her peers were concerned that in Hogan's concentration on administration and structure, classroom support could be further cut, after three years of no raises.

"If they already spend $154 million on administration, how does the creation of a new vice president help support us in the classroom, improve diversity and open up access?" she asked.

Joyce Tolliver, the professor who heads the Senate Executive Committee, said many academics are concerned about cost-saving measures and the quality of education.

"Some of that anxiety comes from the perception that we are doing everything we can do on this campus to respond to the revenue crisis," she said, pointing to Stewarding Excellence budget-cutting committees that have dominated many professors' time this year.

Tolliver said she was grateful that Hogan devoted a full two hours to the Senate meeting, but added there was some disappointment among faculty with the dark timbre of Hogan's remarks.

"We need to hear that our efforts will result in a better university," Tolliver said. "It's never welcome news to be told that things are getting worse because of external factors like the state's unwillingness to fulfill its obligations."

Murav added that her faculty group believes not all of the UI's problems can be laid at the door of the Legislature.

She said growing class sizes and shrinking support for the teaching mission, as well as diversity and access, were evident downward before the recession and Illinois' budget crisis.

Murav said there is an attitudinal problem when the UI uses "yardsticks that look only at the number of bodies in the room and dollars generated," with particularly harsh consequences for the humanities, fine arts and some social sciences.

Tolliver noted that it was new to hear a UI leader making "the implicit causal connection between drop in rankings and leadership" problems.

Hogan noted that the UI has slipped to 47th in the U.S. News and World Report rankings.

Back in 2002, when the Urbana campus was ranked 38th best in the nation, an engineering dean explained his college's ascending score to the nation's third-best in this way:

"Strong state budgets the last several years, hires made through the UI's Faculty Excellence program and generous gifts from alumni have helped maintain the reputation of the engineering college."

With a major increase on what students pay through tuition and fees, and a state support cut – that money makes up less than 20 percent of the university's budget – the university faces a likely long period of belt-tightening.

A student senator, David Olsen, said he was a concerned Tuesday after the comments.

"There is some discomfort among the students about maintaining the value of the degree, especially from the Urbana campus. We want to get our degree from a top-tier institution. The perception of this university is that it's very well-regarded, regardless of what people say on one day or another," he said.

Hogan's preparation for the senate meeting including a frequently asked questions section, posted online.

In the FAQs, Hogan wrote:

"We lack a coherent, unified voice for research, particularly at state and federal levels. Legislators and funding agencies, who want to help us, are confused and frustrated by the lack of a coherent research agenda for the University and wonder why they receive competing proposals from our campuses."

He added, "Indeed, we should all be alarmed that our Urbana-Champaign campus slipped 10 places in the rankings for federally funded research expenditures since 2004."

The rankings stand in "half-empty" contrast to a "half-full" figure the UI keeps that show a steadily rising grant total in absolute dollars over the last decade, even as it sank in ratings.

In 2000, the Urbana campus had $245 million in federal grant money. In the 2008-2009 year, the latest for which figures available, it was $355 million – a 44 percent increase in less than a decade.

A UI report field this spring notes that the Urbana campus remains the No. 1 grant-winner in Illinois, despite not having a teaching hospital to bring in grants from Health and Human Service, the second-largest federal grantor after Defense.

"The budget category called 'gifts, grants and contracts' has grown as a fraction of the University of Illinois' day-to-day operations since FY 1980, increasing from 21 percent of the budget to 31 percent, while state-tax support has declined from 47 percent to about 19 percent," said the report, co-authored by Associate Vice President Randall Kangas and Michael Bass, the interim executive director for governmental relations and director for federal relations.

Tolliver acknowledged there was a linkage between revenue cuts and faculty retention, where universities with bigger bankrolls can entice top professors to come their way.

"One of the areas we did not do so well in was benefits for faculty, in relation to our peers. That resonates with faculty," she said.

Comments

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reader2010 wrote on October 20, 2010 at 10:10 am

President Hogan is dead on target about the link between the drop in rankings and a leadership crisis. It's hardly surprising that there was not a squeak out of any of the Deans about the free fall in rankings of some of the programs in the recent National Research Council report. The drop is showing up in rankings compiled by entities as different as US New & World Report and NRC, so there is no denying the problem. It's time that the Deans at UI, like Deans at most other top universities, are evaluated on their ability to lift their programs in the rankings, among other criteria.

reader2010 wrote on October 20, 2010 at 10:10 am

President Hogan is dead on target about the link between the drop in rankings and a leadership crisis. It's hardly surprising that there was not a squeak out of any of the Deans about the free fall in rankings of some of the programs in the recent National Research Council report. The drop is showing up in rankings compiled by entities as different as US New & World Report and NRC, so there is no denying the problem. It's time that the Deans at UI, like Deans at most other top universities, are evaluated on their ability to lift their programs in the rankings, among other criteria.

poudresteve wrote on October 20, 2010 at 11:10 am

Do the legislators and taxpayers expect a top tier university for free? It is to the UI's credit that it has been able to seek outside dollars to make up for declining state support. However, the continuing trend of Illinois divesting from its state university system will guarantee that it will become mediocre, be required to cut programs, which will ultimately harm Illinois' economy. Intangibles like leadership, etc. at the university are not going to fund excellence hires and keep world-class faculty and staff, many waiting for a raise after three years, from heading to greener pastures.

CharacterCounts wrote on October 20, 2010 at 2:10 pm

The UI should never have accepted the Springfield campus, it is a drain on university financial resources. It should have remained as an independent 2 year university. The President should lead efforts to eliminate the Springfield campus and return it to a independent state university.

Anyone who has been around the UI Urbana-Champaign campus knows that the campus is top heavy with administrators. There are meetings to discuss future meetings. How many times are people told an administrator is not available as they are in a meeting? All campus meetings should have to have a written agenda. All campus meetings should have all the chairs removed and all attendees stand during the meeting. Many meetings would be eliminated and meetings which are required will be much shorter. Probably about 25% of the administrator positions would be eliminated as they would have so much time on their hands from no longer attending so many lengthy meetings.

Funding needs to be returned to classroom positions so more can be hired to decrease the size of classes and offer more sections of required courses. Eliminating administrator positions would allow funding for more teaching faculty positions.

But don't expect this concept to be implimented as administrator seem to propose additional administrative positions rather than teaching positions. The president is an administrator and sides with creating additonal administrators and not more professors. Hopefully the Board of Trustees will not allow the president to increase administrative positions.

myattitude wrote on October 20, 2010 at 4:10 pm

I tend to believe that President Hogan is correct that there are a large number of issues that need to be addressed. I suspect some of the previous comments may have merit although I am not sure eliminating Springfield is a true solution.

I see what has happened to UI as an extension of what has happened to the State of Illinois government. It is so full of corruption and cronism that it seeps into the state universities and other areas. I believe the state needs to work to eliminate corruption, return the boards of trustees for the universities to the election of the people and remove the governor's control of the board appointees. Politics needs to be removed as much as possible from the universities.

In the same manner the financial health of the state is reflected in the financial health of UI.

readone wrote on October 20, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Hogan is not helping the problem. He is proposing new/ more administrative positions, that can only be funded by making cuts elsewhere. Most of the support staffs have been cut to the bone and beyond. When the buildings begin to fall in on themselves, maybe someone will realize why there is a need for those "lowly" positions. Are any of the adminstrators going to empty the trash? Or solve an electrical problem?
The university needs fewer administrators and better treatment for the people who actually do the work on campus.

Sandy wrote on June 14, 2011 at 3:06 pm

The early retirement program drained many senior (and more famous) professors. This had to have negatively impacted ratings, regardless of any other factors at play.