UI Police Training Institute could face June 30 closing
URBANA — A closing date of June 30 has been set for the University of Illinois Police Training Institute, pending approval from UI trustees.
A city council resolution notwithstanding, top UI administrators Thursday reiterated their intent to ask for a vote on shuttering the institute at the May 31 board of trustees meeting in Chicago. A board committee previewed the agenda item Thursday.
The Urbana City Council this week approved a resolution drafted by Mayor Laurel Prussing urging the state to keep PTI open. State Rep. Chapin Rose and other legislators continue to lobby on behalf of the institute, which was established by the Legislature in 1955.
Chancellor Phyllis Wise said she is sympathetic to PTI's supporters but said the university can't afford to continue subsidizing the program.
"We've always said if it were adequately funded ... we'd be happy to keep it open," Wise said. "We don't have solid financial support."
The state provides general revenue funding for PTI, but the UI still kicks in $625,000 annually for its operations, down from a high of $1.2 million, campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler said.
UI President-designate Robert Easter said he can't justify using tuition dollars to support a program that isn't part of the UI's core academic mission.
"I know there are many members of our community who are supportive of this," Wise said, noting the feedback she and Easter have heard since she announced the program's intended closure last month. "But we're not going to use tuition dollars to do that."
Recalling the public outcry over the UI's decision to close the Institute of Aviation, Trustee Pamela Strobel received assurances that administrators would provide a rationale for the PTI decision at the May 31 meeting.
"I just want to be sure we're responsive and as ready as we can be," Strobel said Thursday.
The UI's decision to close PTI came a little more than a month after the state board that sets the standards for police training, the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, voted not to certify the institute's basic law enforcement training class. The practical effect of that decision meant PTI could no longer offer classes for new officers for the rest of this year.
The board is working with Western Illinois University to develop certifiable classes to replace those that had been offered at PTI.
Prussing argues that move would be more costly for Urbana, the UI and other local governments that will have to pay for travel and lodging costs to send its officers across the state. She has said the board's decisions are based on "money and petty politics."
The board's executive director, Kevin McClain, said last week he has a "deep fondness" for PTI but the university decided the institute didn't fit within its mission and the board felt it was time to "move on."
Also Thursday, trustees and administrators discussed the need for improved communication between trustees and UI faculty, perhaps scheduling regular face-to-face meetings between board and faculty representatives.
Easter suggested that the board designate one to three trustees as "liaisons" for each of the three campuses.
"We need to have clear lines of frequent communication," Easter said.
When those conversations take place and actions are transparent, he said, people feel they've had an opportunity to contribute to a decision even if they disagree with it.
"We're coming off a period where I just think we've sort of lost that communication," said UI Trustee James Montgomery.
Strobel agreed, saying the board should ensure that faculty members know "they're being listened to."
Months of rancor between faculty and outgoing President Michael Hogan over initiatives to centralize enrollment management and other aspects of administration culminated in March with Hogan's resignation, which will take effect July 1. Faculty leaders complained they were not adequately consulted about Hogan's decisions, though he disputed that.
The board had centralized the reporting lines from the campuses through the president's office after the Category I scandal, in which former trustees were found to have directly pressured Urbana campus officials to admit scores of politically connected but less-qualified students.
Easter said whatever is set up now should involve "appropriate communications" and be open and transparent enough so that "everyone knows these conversations are going on."