UI senate rejects Aviation closure

UI senate rejects Aviation closure

URBANA -- An effort to shutter the Institute of Aviation stalled Monday when the faculty/student senate voted narrowly against the recommendation of closure.

The senate has been meeting for the entire school year on a proposal by Urbana campus interim Chancellor Robert Easter and interim Provost Richard Wheeler to discontinue aviation studies at the University of Illinois.

In a Stewarding Excellence report, Easter and Wheeler said that the institute doesn't match the core mission of the UI, and is so expensive that it's a money drain on the campus.

But the senate, after conflicting committee votes in the last month, voted 57 to 54 against the closure recommendations.

That left Wheeler unsure, immediately after the vote, how to proceed.

"I will have to get together with Bob Easter and see which direction we'll take," he said.

"We'll have to wait and see," agreed UI spokesman Tom Hardy.

Joyce Tolliver, who heads the Senate Executive Committee, said the issue may come up at a meeting next Monday, or may not. The meeting is necessitated by the senate having no time for other agenda items because the aviation debate was so intense.

"We have three parliamentarians to work out what will happen next," Tolliver said, characterizing the hotly debated meeting as an example of "shared governance in action."

Aviation proponents said they saw the resolution's defeat as a victory for them, and perhaps a momentum changer.

"We're definitely energized by this," said Laura Gerhold, an academic adviser for the embattled institute. "This has been a long process."

Cole Goldenberg, the lone student senator from the Institute of Aviation, said during the meeting that students would be willing to bear extra financial burdens if that were the only way to keep it open.

"I shouldn't have to defend my education," he said.

After the meeting, the student senator said the institute could also consider new development and grant opportunities.

In the debate, many senators who spoke up either defended the institute or criticized the long-running cuts to the programs, or both.

Through the arguments, proponents have said a massive pilot shortage looms as the FAA institutes a new retirement policy, while opponents have said there have been no signs of high demand at the UI for flight training.

Even on the quality of the applicants and students, the sides have disagreed, with interim Director Tom Emanuel saying they're academically in "the middle of the pack," and Associate Provost Keith Marshall saying they have the lowest performance of any such unit based on a combination of ACT score and class rank.

There isn't the money, he said.

"The times do not allow us to be No. 1 in everything," Marshall said of state budget problems.

Les Gasser of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science faulted university administrators setting performance criteria after, not before, the behavior it measured. He also questioned how much the savings would be.

English Professor Lori Newcomb said the institute was "scapegoated" by being cut back by the UI, then judged as underperforming.

But Paul Diehl, a political science professor, questioned where public or private alternatives could take over the role of the institute in the state's economy.

Earlier this month, the educational policy committee voted 9-3, with one abstention, to forward a recommendation that the bachelor's program in aviation human factors and the professional pilot program be discontinued, while recommending keeping the master's program in human factors in the Graduate College for two years.

It would be discontinued if it does not find a permanent home.

When the senate does reach a consensus, the board of trustees must also vote on the matter.

The original report from the campus' restructuring project, Stewarding Excellence, is online at http://oc.illinois.edu/budget/aviation_project_team_report.

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whatithink wrote on April 26, 2011 at 9:04 am

maybe they could use all that wasted scholarship money from thug athletes and quitters to fund better things

tigersy2k3 wrote on April 26, 2011 at 11:04 am

Thos "thug athletes and quitters" you are referring to bring in millions of dollars to the university and the Champaign-Urbana and surrounding communities every year through ticket sales, hotel rooms, meals for fans, ect. Without those "thug athletes and quitters" getting their thousands, then the university and community wouldnt be getting their millions. Not to mention the exposure the University of Illinois gets from having a team on national television. If you watched sports, you would know their are several colleges/universities you would have never heard of if it wasnt for an athletic program.

But yes, lets blame this on scholarships wasted on athletes, that is the easy way out. come on??

Lostinspace wrote on April 26, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Is this an issue? We are told that the football and basketball programs are self-supportive, that no money from the university general fund or university foundation goes toward them. This means, I presume, that scholarships and special tutoring (as well as salaries, facilities maintenance, security, etc.) are funded by the "millions of dollars" made by athletic programs.

tigersy2k3 wrote on April 26, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Yes the athletic programs are self-supportive for the most part, coaches salaries are generally paid by alumni or donors who chose to where their funds are applied, however, there are also student athletes who receive academic scholarships, which are completely seperate from athletic scholarships. There are hundreds of student athletes as UI you never hear about and a majority of the funding for the athletic programs come from football and basketball as they are the money makers with their TV contracts and national spotlight.

The university does pay certain people within the athletic program, however, the money given to ahtletic programs is nothing compared to what they bring in for the universities, the first post was someone who has no clue what goes on, but obviously has something against student athletes.

It is important to remember, if it wasnt for the high profile athletes in the major sports, then there are several student athletes in other sports across the country that would never be able to compete because their budgets depend greatly on the "money sports"

Lostinspace wrote on April 26, 2011 at 5:04 pm

I have no issue with athletic programs devoted to teaching students various sports (to people who may wish to become high school coaches, for instance).
The problem is this: clearly, the football and basketball programs go much further than that. As you point out, they are money-making operations (with minimal educational priorities). If they are self-supporting, then they become what amounts to a business unit of the university and, as such, risk losing tax exemption.
If they are not self-supportive, then one can begin to question the rationale behind using student and tax-payer money to subsidize what is clearly not an academic enterprise. This is true especially now, when parents and state are under great economic pressure and when legitimate academic programs are being reduced or threatened with elimination.
The university does not have a very good recent track-record when it comes to transparency about all of this. It would reassure parents and tax payers if they knew for a fact that their money was not being used to pay for activities which are not part of the core mission of the university and which are not a priority for a majority of students.
Given the various scandals around the country (Florida, Tennessee, Ohio, New Mexico...), the people of Illinois would be well served if the university could demonstrate clearly (and not just through claims) that its operations were above-board and legitimate.
The News-Gazette, with its depth of coverage of Illini sports, is well placed to look into this, and I wish it would. If there is hanky-panky going on, we can conjecture that the Chicago Tribune will dig into it -- as it did with the "clout" scandal.

Bill B wrote on April 26, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Amelia Earhart was on the faculty of Purdue University: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amelia_Earhart

Her numerous contributions include many unrelated to flying an airplane. This is not atypical of those with degrees in aviation.

Unlike U of I, this institution understands the unprecendented need for highly qualified pilots in the 21st Century, while U of I apparently remains in the Stone Age.

tigersy2k3 wrote on April 26, 2011 at 4:04 pm

1. Amelia Earhart died over 70 years ago, several things have changed since then. Such as the fact there are several more aviation programs then there were before WW-II.

2. This just in, people outside the business world have made numerous contributions included many unrelated to being in an office. Doing things outside of an office is not atypical of those with dgrees is business.

We get your point, people that study aviation do things outside of aviation. However, UI just like every college or university cannot have programs in every aspect of life.

CharacterCounts wrote on April 26, 2011 at 11:04 am

It is believed the university reduced the number of students it allowed in the program and then decided to eliminate the program because of a low number of students enrolled. What efforts have been made by the university administration and top officials to try to recruit more students, better students and top faculty to the program? I have read nothing to indicate that any of these things have been done.

The university administration has tried to reduce the position of the Urbana-Champaign campus and not consider it to be the top campus out of the three campuses. They have taken money away from Urbana-Champaign and given it to the Springfield campus and Chicago campus.

The Urbana-Champaign campus being the flagship campus of the UI should have a top rated Institute of Avaition. If it does not, the board of trustees should be asking why not.

At least a majority of the facutly/student senate members believe the Institute of Avaition should be a unit of the campus. The citizens of Illinois should compliment those members who voted to retain the avaition program.

Fortunately a majority of the

tigersy2k3 wrote on April 26, 2011 at 12:04 pm

I would rather question why you feel that the UI should have a top rated Institution of Avation? Several of the top ranked aviation programs are not found at the top universities throughout the nation as they are money pits if the interest isnt there. This is like demanding UI have the top rated program for other specialty programs. The reason you find top knotch specialty programs at small institutions is because they draw more interest as they are a major part of the university. Take Saint Louis University, aviation is a major part of their university and they are nationally recgonized for this.

I feel bad for these students that are enrolled in these programs, but UI doesnt have to offer every program under the sun. Not to mention it is unreasonable to expect them to be top rated in every program.

klshelto wrote on April 26, 2011 at 7:04 pm

I agree with the fact that the U of I does not have to offer every program. But, the way the Institute of Aviation has been treated by administrators has been awful. I went through the program from 1997-2000. After I graduated in engineering, I began working as a flight instructor. I know that ever since I've been there, the Institute of Aviation has been treated like a "red headed stepchild." And many of my coworkers inform me that has been that way for years prior to my arrival. We are constantly looked down upon by administration. The administration, current and former, has been taking away positions and privileges since 2007. We were not allowed to hire a director after our last director left in 2007. Our faculty were transfered to other colleges within the University; University procedure was not followed during this transfer. We were not allowed transfer students in 2009. And currently, we are not allowed to enroll Freshman this coming fall even though no decision for closure has been made. If proper procedure had been followed throughout, many people wouldn't be as upset with the recommendation by administration. But, if the Institute of Aviation is closed, this will set a negative precedent for other units to follow. It is unreasonable to expect all programs to be top rated, but I believe each department should strive for this goal.

sahuoy wrote on April 26, 2011 at 12:04 pm

It appears the pinnacle at this fork in the road is to support careers that will grow into new fields of occupation or study as they evolve versus supporting careers that for the most part will only provide a job in exchange for a college education and having little or no growth from that occupation. To put it another way, support a career that blossoms into many new fields and careers vs supporting a career that basically dead ends at being a pilot. To evolve a better safety net for college graduates not finding work it also appears logical to pursue the path of most potential growth while downsizing through this depression. Being a pilot myself also helps me to see the better opportunities coming over the long term for the majority to find success with their credentials both here at UofI and nationally.

Bill B wrote on April 26, 2011 at 2:04 pm

All of those who've set foot on our moon were pilots. Many of the most accomplished people in contemporary society are also pilots. These include prominent scientists, inventors, authors, musicians, medical professionals, attorneys, scholars, athletes, and artists. This discipline requires a transcendent skill set that has as its prerequisite mastery and judgment that very few of us possess. The vast majority (more than 80%) of those who attempt to become licensed pilots fail. Note, too, that nearly everyone who completes his or her degree in Aviation Human Factors will become immediately employed, and many prior to graduation. Few other departments at U of I can claim such bragging rights. Note, too, that most of these graduates will ultimately have incomes that exceed those of other professions.

Flying requires the application of knowledge from many disciplines. Those with a degree in Human Factors will ultimately determine how you interact with technology in many environments outside the cockpit. Statistically, the majority of pilots remain upwardly mobile throughout their careers. Those who work until mandatory retirement from the airlines at age 65 usually have well-established second careers that generate far more income than flying (which they continue to do, simply because pilots enjoy the challenge). Some are captains of industry and finance, too.

Those who deprecate the value of this profession are generally clueless and this makes pilots chuckle. You need look no further than Rudy Frasca to know the truth of this. Who's Rudy? If you don't know, it speaks to your ignorance, because he's in your "back yard."

tigersy2k3 wrote on April 26, 2011 at 2:04 pm

I think calling someone ignorant because they dont know who the president of a business that is tucked away behind Blain's Farm and Fleet on the outskirts of Urbana in a little building on a road that has no outlet is a little excessive. Dont get me wrong, the man has done a lot of great things, but you act as if he is the founder of Microsoft or some other prominent business and his name is a household name. If you are involved in aviation in the immediate area, then yes you probably should know his name, for everyone else, they would have no reason to know who he is.

Bill B wrote on April 26, 2011 at 4:04 pm

His is one of the most successful businesses in your community. Not knowing who Rudy Frasca is would be like someone in Detroit being ignorant of Henry Ford. I don't live near you, yet I knew who this man was long before I ever took the controls of an airplane. Many well-versed business people are keenly aware of Rudy's significant contributions to your local economy. But, it's always easy to excuse one's ignorance, so I hold you blameless.

tigersy2k3 wrote on April 26, 2011 at 4:04 pm

You are a pilot and you know a man who has made great contribution to the aviation community? "Many well versed buisness people are keenly aware of his contributions to the local economy"? I dont follow what you are saying apparently. To compare Rudy Frasca to Henry Ford shows your ignorance I feel. Henry Ford is credited with one of the greatest inventions of all time that has lead to several advancements in the auto industry, which he is credited for starting. Last time I checked, there were pilots and aircrafts in the air long before Rudy was born.

Champaign County is not a town of 3,000 where everyone knows the greatest life achievement someone has. There are several good hard working people in this community who have no reason to know who Rudy Frasca is unless they have met him, as CU is not a hub for aviation much like Detroit is for automobiles being manufactured. If you drive a vehicle, then you should have an idea of who Henry Ford is.

MarkEt wrote on April 27, 2011 at 5:04 pm

That sounds like a great dream, but you have to analyze the facts in today's economy on the real implications of keeping the institute open. Let's face it, job growth in Aviation, as of now, is going in a negative direction. Thousands of experienced pilots laid off still looking for work, the increased retirement age, sky rocketing gas prices (which will place major financial strain on the University, and its going to get a lot worse before it gets any better), and the ever diminishing job reputation because of these, to name just a few, are destroying the field. Why should the University continue to support a program of a field that is "going under" more every day? And let's be honest, its not even that great of a program available for Aviation anyway - trust me I graduated from there. You can keep telling yourself that everything will be OK, pilots are amazing, and everything I just stated is ludicrous, but please, don't blind yourself with your love of Aviation from what's really happening around you. Is it fair for the University to take a blow on its reputation (which means everything in the college world) for sending off graduates into a job market that will keep them unemployed for long periods of time if there are even jobs available?

I have friends in very high places who work at United, American, and U.S. Airways who say they wont be hiring pilots for a very long time - and that there are similar trends with other major Airlines. But hey, maybe GoJets has positions available! Do some research and you'll know why. Here's a link that can give you some idea on current conditions.