Supporters: UI trustee bill has Senate backing

SPRINGFIELD — Supporters of a plan to share the appointment of members of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees between the governor and the UI Alumni Association believe they can have success, at least in the state Senate, this year.

The legislation (SB 46) that cleared a Senate committee on Tuesday is backed by Sens. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, and Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, and the alumni association.

It calls for allowing the alumni association to select five of the nine UI trustees, and permits the governor to choose the other four. Currently, all nine are appointed by the governor.

"Certainly in the Senate, there's definitely a dynamic now where certain members and the Senate leadership is upset with the governor's appointments," Rose said. "As Senator Frerichs said, there's an opening now, but I don't have a good feeling for how that will go in the House."

Frerichs said, "We just thought this might be a new environment to try this again. I'm working with my colleagues and Senator Rose is working with his colleagues, and we're going to see what kind of votes we can put together."

Gov. Pat Quinn opposes the legislation, spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said. She said Quinn "always considers input and suggestions from public university alumni associations when he makes these appointments."

Vanessa Faurie, vice president for corporate relations at the alumni association, acknowledged that "the governor has been very good about consulting with us on trustee appointments."

"But we've always taken the long view on this, and we can't be sure that that will always be the case with governors in the future," she said.

In fact, after former Gov. Jim Edgar pushed for the gubernatorial appointment of trustees, his immediate successors, George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich, did not consult with the alumni association on UI trustee appointments.

"If you look at some other states around us, including Indiana, this is how they do it, a combination," Frerichs said.

At Indiana University, where there are nine trustees, six are appointed by the governor and three are elected by IU alumni to three-year terms. Each year an election is held to choose one of the trustees.

Penn State University has a 32-member board, nine of whom are elected by alumni, six of whom are chosen by the governor and five of whom are ex officio; others are selected by various groups.

Rose said he believed that not all recent trustee appointees had the best interests of the UI at heart. He specifically mentioned former trustee Frances Carroll, a Chicago Democrat appointed by Blagojevich.

"What you want in a trustee is someone who has an intangible love for the institution. That can mean they went there as a student or they worked there, or they like the athletics and they've been going to the games forever," Rose said. "But just bringing someone in from Chicago and saying, 'You're going to be a trustee,' — that doesn't do it, and that's not just the U of I, that's any institution. You want someone with a nexus, a strong relationship already in place.

"I just remember reading when Frances Carroll said she had never been to Urbana in her life until she was appointed and tried to get rid of Chief Illiniwek," Rose said. "If you have never been to Urbana, I would suggest that that should have been a disqualifier."

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vcponsardin wrote on March 20, 2013 at 9:03 pm
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Back 30 or 40 years ago, when the state paid up to 80% of the university's budget, I suppose the state had the right to control the Board of Trustees.   But now that the state pays less than 15% of the school's budget, why should the state still control 100% of the Board of Trustee appointments?   It's only a matter of time before the University of Illinois will be a "state university" in name only...