Dozens of UI profs express concerns over recent proposals
Over 120 notable University of Illinois professors have signed a letter addressed to the board of trustees expressing concern about centralization efforts being considered at the university.
Recent proposals, including those having to do with centralizing enrollment management, undermine the creative diversity of the three campuses of the University of Illinois, according to the letter.
The memorandum comes in the wake of a university investigation into anonymous emails sent to members of a faculty group from the computer of Lisa Troyer, who resigned last week as chief of staff to UI President Michael Hogan. The emails, sent last month to the University Senates Conference, were about a report faculty were writing in response to possible changes in how the university handles enrollment management.
Hogan and the board of trustees have called for reforms in this area.
The faculty group raised concerns about several proposals being considered, such as centralizing admissions and financial aid processing and marketing the UI as a whole to prospective students.
"I am hoping that the weighty, earned and informed opinion of chair professors ... can persuade the board of trustees to re-examine the priority it has placed on proposals to centralize campus operation and efforts to homogenize the three campuses as if they were a single and integrated entity," said the letter's author, Ed Kolodziej, director of the Center for Global Studies.
"There is no antipathy toward the board of trustees," nor should the memo be construed to be a letter of no confidence in Hogan, Kolodziej said. The letter takes issue with "policies, not people," he said.
The list of professors who signed their name includes endowed chairs, distinguished professors and fellows from colleges and departments across campus, such as engineering, law, history, English, physics and more.
Signatories included Nobel Prize laureate Anthony Leggett; former Vice Chancellor for Research Ravi Iyer; English professor and novelist Richard Powers; James Anderson, Gutsgell professor of history of American education; Ian Hobson, Swanlund Chair and Center for Advanced Study professor of music; and Richard Alkire, professor emeritus of chemical engineering and a vice chancellor in the 1990s.
The letter was delivered Thursday afternoon.
"I signed it because I thought it was quite reasonable, and I thought it was in the best interests of the long-term strength of the University of Illinois," said Laura Greene, Swanlund chair and professor of physics. "I think it's just saying we want to make sure we maintain excellence on all three campuses."
Greene, who said she ordinarily doesn't sign petitions, described it as a clear, honest, fair and supportive letter that stressed how "this campus can continue in excellence, and not just this campus. I believe this is in the best interests of all the campuses of the university."
Kolodziej said a draft was sent to the approximately 230 chaired professors on Jan. 4; 123 signed it.
"It reflects a widespread feeling that the Urbana campus has unique capabilities that are not easily intermingled in describing the University of Illinois as a single entity. That diminishes the strength of the Urbana campus," said Alkire, who was vice chancellor for research and dean of the Graduate College from 1994 to 1999 and still has an active research program.
"We're in the middle of a prairie. People come here from all over the world, looking at many other places to live, and they come here because of the enormous investment in infrastructure for teaching and research and the things the University of Illinois at Urbana does. That's a very unique capability," Alkire said.
The text was circulated to professors on the Urbana campus only, "but the memorandum makes clear that faculty and I, personally, have a great respect for the work of these two other faculties and their service to their distinct communities," Kolodziej said.
The letter does take issue with Hogan's recent efforts to move information technology and other campus functions from Urbana and instead under control of central university administration.
At the same time it expresses support for Urbana campus Chancellor and Vice President Phyllis Wise, who came to the UI last fall from the University of Washington.
"My intent and that of my distinguished colleagues was in no way to question the statutory authority of the board of trustees, but to plead with the board to re-examine the priorities it has assigned to proposals for centralization, like the admissions process, branding, and command structures. We wish the presidency of President Hogan to succeed," Kolodziej said.
The board is scheduled to meet Wednesday and Thursday next week in Chicago.