SPRINGFIELD — The power to make appointments to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees — now solely the province of the governor — would have to be shared, under legislation approved Tuesday by the Senate Higher Education Committee.
The bill (SB 46), sponsored by Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, was amended on Tuesday to make the change.
The measure would allow the governor to make four appointments to the UI trustees, with the alumni association making five appointments. Currently the governor appoints all nine permanent trustees. Three other board members are student trustees, chosen from each UI campus, each serving a one-year term.
Tuesday's committee vote apparently was fallout from a recent controversy between Gov. Pat Quinn and Southern Illinois University President Glenn Poshard. The SIU executive charged last month that Quinn had become involved in efforts to choose a a new board chairman there.
Frerichs said the UI alumni association had suggested the legislation.
"This is something that for the last several years has been under discussion, but I think in light of some other gubernatorial appointments to other university boards, we thought this might be a good time to try again," Frerichs said.
"This is different," said Sen. David Luechtefeld, R-Okawville. "I think this is a bigger deal that maybe we realize. But you're right about the fact that SIU has had some real problems ... with the disagreement on the board itself."
"I think this is a great idea," said Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, who has sponsored similar legislation in past years.
Frerichs gave the Senate committee a brief history of how UI trustees have been selected.
"We tried one method for many years where trustees were elected. They ran statewide, generally they were people who were unknown and generally had been slated by the (political) parties. And under Governor (Jim) Edgar, I believe, he said I think we can do this better with gubernatorial appointments," Frerichs explained.
"But what we found was that some of those appointments, under some governors, weren't quite at the standards that we had hoped. So we're trying to find some sort of balance here where elected officials like the governor still get to make appointments but that people affiliated with the university and with a great passion for the university also have some say."
No one from the governor's office was at Tuesday's committee hearing.