UI senate sends 'strongest disapproval' over IT reorganization

UI senate sends 'strongest disapproval' over IT reorganization

URBANA -- Urbana's academic senate Monday went with a strongly worded complaint about centralizing information technology, despite several attempts to soften the tone.

On a 61-14 final vote, the senate went with a resolution affirming "its strongest disapproval of university-wide initiatives that are carried out with no, or merely token, engagement with statutorily mandated shared governance processes."

Earlier in the meeting, student body President David Olsen offered an alternative resolution to "respectfully request the university and campus administration work with faculty governance groups to ensure IT policies, structures and governance reflect our shared values of excellence in research and teaching."

Olsen said the original resolution could be seen as "almost accusatory" as well as "whining" and "argumentative."

The resolution is online at http://www.senate.illinois.edu/nb1102.pdf

Olsen's alternative was voted down, as was a move to cut some of the clauses from the end.

Chemistry Professor Al Scheeline argued that the strong language was what made the senate's point, on what he regarded as a "fait accompli" by central administration to take control of IT functions from smaller units.

And educational policy Professor Nicholas Burbules agreed with him, saying that the senate does its part as partner with central administration, but the reverse is not true in this and other cases.

The most-debated clause was near the beginning of the successful resolution, stating that IT centralization "directly violates an explicit promise made by the president to faculty governance groups that academic and research IT would not be centralized."

Mathematics Professor George Francis said discussing what promises were made brought a "Rashomon"-like experience to the resolution, referring to a Japanese film where different participants recalled an incident in different ways.

The university's new executive chief information chief officer, Michael Hites, was in the audience at the Levis Faculty Center and spoke up to assure the senators that he understood each campus has its own needs and own skills, with units here like Blue Waters and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

Hites said he would be willing to talk with people about the concerns over the centralization process.

The UI argues the restructuring will save the UI an estimated $17 million to $19 million a year by fiscal year 2013.