'Palpable feeling of relief' on revised UI enrollment report

'Palpable feeling of relief' on revised UI enrollment report

CHICAGO — Not only were there some sighs of relief, but faculty leaders applauded University of Illinois Board of Trustees Chair Chris Kennedy and UI President Michael Hogan on Tuesday afternoon after reviewing a revised report on how the university could better recruit and enroll talented and diverse students to its three campuses.

Faculty shared their concerns about enrollment management, administrators heard those concerns and responded to them "in what we think was a positive way," said UI-Chicago Professor Don Chambers, chair of the University Senates Conference, a group of faculty leaders from all three campuses.

"We all felt good and I think there was a palpable feeling of relief," Chambers said after the meeting. "Had this happened four, five or six months ago it would have been a different place," and maybe not all of the contentious behavior would have occurred, he said.

Since the group began reviewing the administration's enrollment management report last fall, tensions often flared between campus and university administrators and between the campus senates (most notably between Springfield and Urbana).

As they were working on their report, Hogan's chief of staff, Lisa Troyer, resigned amid an investigation into anonymous emails sent from her computer to members of the senates conference. (Those emails were about the enrollment management discussion.) And in recent weeks faculty leaders have criticized Hogan and the board of trustees for a pattern of what they described as secretive and deceptive behavior. The senates conference endorsed Chambers' remarks delivered to the board in January, and it endorsed the Urbana senates report that described the Troyer emails as not an isolated event but part of a "a broad pattern of surveillance and intrusion into legitimate faculty governance deliberations."

Kennedy acknowledged it has been distressing for faculty to learn that the anonymous emails sent to them by someone pretending to be faculty were traced to a member of the president's staff. But the university has "removed that person" and "we're moving forward," he said, referring to Troyer, who resigned from the president's office but is now a tenured faculty member on the Urbana campus.

"We have lot of relationships to patch up. Today was a great step in that regard," Kennedy said.

On Tuesday, as Hogan and Kennedy joined the table, the conversation focused on the topic of enrollment management, and a compromise now appears possible.

Last week, university administration responded to faculty concerns by circulating a draft document entitled, "Strategic Enrollment Management: The Path Forward." It is a seven-page response from Hogan outlining his response to faculty concerns raised in an task force report from December and at a meeting held last month. Back in December the senates conference recommended approval of some recommendations, requested additional discussion on others and rejected some other recommendations.

"We've taken the (December University Senates Conference) task force report very seriously and responded as best we could," Hogan said.

He; Kennedy; Avijit Ghosh, the special assistant to Hogan; and Christophe Pierre, the vice president for academic affairs, reviewed, page-by-page, their response document to faculty on Tuesday. A final report will be issued universitywide in the coming weeks.

Changes proposed

Hogan's draft response outlined several proposed changes to the recommendations outlined in the enrollment management report he commissioned last year. One change now calls for putting off the hiring of an executive director for enrollment management.

In the meantime, an enrollment management policy council, made of campus chancellors and provosts from Chicago and Urbana and the vice chancellor for student affairs from Springfield, will convene under Pierre's direction. The UI may eventually hire someone to work in this area across three campuses although it could have a different title, that of an associate vice president of academic affairs, who would work with Pierre. The vice president also currently handles some enrollment management functions, such as a presidential scholarship program for underrepresented students.

Some faculty suggested adding faculty representatives to this enrollment management policy council, and Pierre said he will take that advice into consideration.

"I also have been thinking about creating a faculty advisory committee for my office which would discuss enrollment management issues such as admissions, financial aid, recruitment," Pierre said.

Hogan said he liked the idea of a faculty advisory committee for the vice president of academic affairs and has suggested similar advisory bodies for the other vice presidents.

"Nothing but good things can come out of that," he said.

"I think we'll have plenty of space for faculty voices and will be better for it," he added, referring to the revised report.

According to Hogan's draft document, the vice president of academic affairs will be in charge of implementing enrollment management recommendations. The policy council will forward its recommendations to the president's cabinet for final decision. Deans and department heads will continue to play the same roles they've had in the past.

"While decisions regarding admission criteria and financial aid will remain as campus responsibilities and under campus authority, the council will oversee their implementation, share best practices, promote inter-campus cooperation and initiate and oversee continuous improvement efforts," the draft report stated.

As for the original recommendation to join the Common Application Consortium, faculty senators called for more research and discussion on this matter. In response, Hogan said a committee, headed by Pierre, will conduct an assessment study and report back its findings. That committee will be made up of individuals responsible for admissions on each campus, a member of the vice president of academic affairs staff and information technology administrators knowledgeable about enrollment data systems.

The draft report reiterated that the recommendations regarding centralization of financial aid "refers to coordination of campus-level and college-level financial aid programs. All campus level financial aid and scholarship resources will remain within the campus and continue to be part of the campus operations."

As for the issue of branding — the original report recommended marketing the UI as a whole to new students — Hogan confirmed that recommendation has been taken off the table.


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