UI faculty still concerned over governance

UI faculty still concerned over governance

URBANA — More than two years after the public revelation of Category I, a state investigation into admissions practices at the University of Illinois and the eventual resignations of university officials and trustees, the admissions scandal and its after-effects still linger on campus.

At the annual meeting of the faculty on Monday, several Urbana faculty members raised concerns about shared governance, asked for clarification about the leadership lines between president and chancellor, and in one case suggested faculty do not exert much influence on the current university board of trustees.

Throughout last year — and again on Monday — members of the Urbana student faculty senate asked for clarification from UI President Michael Hogan about the role of the Urbana campus in the University of Illinois system and the role of its chancellor, and they expressed concerns about centralized control over decisions.

"The state law establishing the university makes it perfectly clear the university is a single, common entity with a single seal, single president ... single budget," Hogan said, adding that this single university has three "somewhat distinct campuses."

"I've said repeatedly the president is the president," and he doesn't intend to relinquish that leadership, he said, evoking the state admissions review report issued two years ago that concluded it was failures in university leadership that contributed to a culture that tolerated undue influence. That report also criticized Hogan's predecessor, B. Joseph White, for failing to exercise oversight of people who reported to him and who were involved in admissions-related abuses.

"Do you want to go back to those days?" Hogan asked faculty on Monday, saying the scandal was a by-product of dysfunctional leadership.

UI history professor Mark Steinberg told Hogan "there's a growing worry this is a board of trustees we have no influence over."

How much do the faculties really shape shared governance? Steinberg asked.

In response, Hogan described the current board of trustees as "incomparably better than its predecessors."

"The board is trying to address longtime governance issues ... to prevent a similar crisis. I think the board has done more to engage faculty than probably its predecessors," he said.

Brought up more than once was a report commissioned by Hogan which examines enrollment strategies and policies. Hogan said he has shared this with the University Senates Conference and individual campus senates are reviewing it.

In his speech to faculty, Hogan pointed out that while there have been a number of recent successes — state funding was not slashed drastically last year, campus employees received raises this year, the UI climbed two slots to be ranked the 13th public university according to U.S. News & World Report — there are challenges ahead.

"A big upturn in state funding is highly unlikely," he said.

"We're still not out of the woods. ... Fortunately we're in much better position to respond to these challenges now than last year," he said, referring to the new government relations teams in Springfield and Washington, D.C. and other initiatives under way.

Faculty will be asked this year to play "a big role" in identifying programs and the criteria for identifying "programs that make us distinctive and distinguished."

"This is a big university and it was built in the age of abundance. ... Now we're living in an age of scarcity," Hogan said.

The university, he said, will need to decide whether it can afford to sustain all of its programs: Should programs be cut across the board? Which programs should be protected or enhanced?

"These are questions you and other members of the faculty will have to wrestle with over the next year," he said.

Also speaking at the annual meeting was new UI vice president and Urbana campus Chancellor Phyllis Wise. Since arriving on campus three weeks ago, Wise said, she has been on a listening and learning tour, meeting with administrators and faculty and students, most recently with those from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She said she hopes to meet with all the colleges in the near future.

Wise announced that Robert Easter, who was the interim chancellor prior to her joining the UI, will return to campus Dec. 16 as the interim vice chancellor for research, as current vice chancellor Ravi Iyer returns to faculty duties.

Wise said the campus will be "aggressively looking for candidates" and she hopes to identify a person for that office by next July.

Wise also announced she would launch a new weekly blog on Nov. 1. "From the desk of the chancellor" will recap news and meetings, along with some commentary about those meetings.

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Jam wrote on October 24, 2011 at 10:10 pm

As a lifetime Illinois resident and taxpayer, I have been interested in the processes taking place at the UI. The UI is a huge recipient of Illinois taxpayer dollars even after the cutbacks over the last few years. I am very grateful for the UI Board and decisions that have been made since the scandal on admissions. Excellent administrators are being found and brought to the UI. Faculties as I understand the university setting (nationwide) have established themselves a very cosey cash cow. They threaten to leave their positions to go to another university if they are not catered too. I think that perhaps the salaries and perks that they are receiving may be getting to be to much for their particular states budget. In Illinois whether it is the UI, Southern, ISU, Western, Eastern or other public universities budgets need to be looked at and chains of command established to control them. How can faculties govern themselves? In what other entity do the "employees" govern themselves. The concept is crazy.

jwr12 wrote on October 25, 2011 at 4:10 am

In response to Jam, above: I have to say I find the mixture of ideas in your post rather confusing. You ask, "what business is run by its employees?" while at the same time you seem to expect that the "cash cow faculty" should ignore lucrative offers made by the market to go elsewhere. In other words, you want U of I employees to act like they're working for the public good--staying for lower wages out of that good old Illini spirit-- but then to submit themselves to private, corporate style discipline.

In fact, that actually happens. Despite the scorn heaped on U of I faculty in the News Gazette and elsewhere, they and other University employees, far from being lazy "cash cows," draw tremendous resources -- far exceeding the contribution of taxpayers statewide -- to both this state and this community in particular. They do so often for less money and fewer professional opportunities than they would earn elsewhere, out of a belief in the public good of public education. If they ask, in exchange for this loyalty, for a voice in the running of this institution, to whom they have dedicated a large portion of their lives and talents, it would seem only fair. I fail to see how turning the University of Illinois into the University of Phoenix is going to help anyone except high-paid administrators, who in fact command huge salaries and have little institutional or geographical loyalty. If you want people who live in this community and believe in Illinois to have a voice, then you should support the efforts of staff, faculty, and students to get a voice on the board of trustees. If you want it to be a corporation run by a head who changes every 4-5 years, and as often as not is brought in from far away, support the centralization currently going on.

jcm3r wrote on October 25, 2011 at 11:10 am

Neither of these first two comments get it right. They represent extremes clothed in the language of moderation.

Ideally, faculty are more than employees. They are stakeholders in their institution who have some skin in the game beyond their contractual compensation. The University Statues give faculty, and their judgement, pre-eminence in the classroom and in their scholarship. But faculty are not administrators who are hired to make the final decisions with respect to matters outside the lab and classroom.

White and Herman and the guard that the Board and faculty at Urbana swept out recently were ineffective because they pandered and bribed elements of the faculty... elements that now scream "shared governance" as administrators refuse to go back to pandering and payola that led U of I to the brink. President Hogan has rightfully grown impatient with these attitudes as he has waited for more moderate voices in the faculty to take root. He's not unreasonable. The fact is that he is reasonable and only expecting the industry standard of professionalism from faculty. Faculty have to put on their big-boy pants and act as they should, or as the first comment/reply shows, they'll lose all respect in the court of public opinion. Blaming the New-Gazzett for having an "agenda" is a poor excuse when the behavior of faculty gives them so much free ammunition.

uglyfoe wrote on October 25, 2011 at 12:10 pm
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I am writing this as a concern employee and taxpayer. While the university was being run under White/Herman, many of the different unit ran out of control. Many of the upper brass where giving themselves raises and promoting friends. Many of the units where hiring while there was a hiring freeze. The brass where filling positions as academic professional, when this positions where actually civil service positions.

In the unit i work, there are 94 aps, 92 civil service positions costing around 5 million dollars. Not just ten years ago the unit had about 5o positions from the director to the very last Secretary. There has been remodeling in the building. the unit has even made satellite offices costing $142500.00, $63000.00 and $40000.00. This was all done when money is not there. These are just some examples.

I have contacted this paper and other outlets and have been turned down. Me and other people have talked to people how are very high in the university system and nothing has been done. It is time that this university is audited by an outside firm because this university can't police it's self.

Lostinspace wrote on October 26, 2011 at 9:10 am

"It is time that this university is audited by an outside firm"

You said it! Why the faculty is not demanding the same thing is a mystery.

myattitude wrote on October 25, 2011 at 6:10 pm

Is part of the issue also a fight between campuses for resources? With funding tighter and growth at each campus this is bound to be a bigger issue.

CZI wrote on September 05, 2014 at 8:09 am

No myattitude, it's a reasonable question but this isn't a fight between campuses.  It's truly about the irregular act that the Chancellor undertook--possibly because the Board forced her to, or (as some FOIA'd documents suggest) because she was concerned about losing the support of particular donors.

What's important to note too is that no one is asking Chancellor Wise to resign; the Open Letter, which you can find here, asks the Chancellor and Board to reverse their decision.

The letter does not argue that we need to change leadership; it argues that the leadership needs to reverse its damaging decision.  That's something that the "pro" Chancellor supporters don't want to address.  Perhaps it's because this is not a decision-making process that will bear much sunlight.


CZI wrote on October 27, 2011 at 1:10 pm

I am amazed at the foolishness people write about the UI faculty in these comments. Where does all this misinformation come from? jcm - do you really think that all of the hundreds of faculty who attended the meeting and the dozens who spoke were personal favorites of the previous Chancellor and Board? And btw, the scandal was to do with admissions, not treatment of faculty. Lostinspace: most faculty would love to see an independent audit--so long as it isn't some kind of whitewash. It's been suggested many times. Jam: if you check the figures you're holding forth about you'll find that administrators earn way, way more than even the highest paid faculty members. You seem to think that all administrators do is keep faculty in line. Even if that were true, which it isn't, who is watching over the administration? After all, they neither teach nor do research so who is capable of judging their excellence? Shared governance is supposed to work in the way that national and local governments are broken down into legislative and executive branches. If the administrators are the executive branch, the faculty ( via the faculty senate), is supposed to have the kind of say the legislative branch has in a state or national government. But they don't. See the problem now?

dw wrote on October 27, 2011 at 7:10 pm

"This is a big university and it was built in the age of abundance. ... Now we're living in an age of scarcity," Hogan said.

700,000 samolians tells me he has a different idea of what scarcity is than the average U of I employee...