Bill on UI trustees hits roadblock in Illinois Senate

SPRINGFIELD — A plan to change the way that University of Illinois trustees are selected apparently is dead for this spring.

Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, the sponsor of SB 46, said Wednesday that questions about the constitutionality of the proposed law derailed it.

As written, it would have shared the appointment powers of UI Board of Trustees members between the governor, who now makes all permanent appointments, and the UI Alumni Association. The bill says that the governor would make four appointments and the alumni association would make five.

The board of trustees also includes three student members, chosen from the Urbana, Springfield and Chicago campuses, who each serve a one-year term.

"We moved very quickly drafting and passing a bill out of (the Senate higher education) committee, and with further review many attorneys believed that the bill was unconstitutional," he said. "The main reason is that it would be a non-elected, not-for-profit group making appointments for state positions. And appointments for state positions have to be made by elected officials."

Until about 20 years ago, members of the UI Board of Trustees were elected by all the state's voters. Candidates were recommended to the Democratic and Republican parties by separate nominating panels of the UI Alumni Association.

Asked whether any lawmakers were interested in returning to a board of trustees elected statewide, Frerichs said, "There's not been a lot of discussion about that. It is an alternative, but it's not an alternative that has a lot of support at this time."

When the legislation was passed out of committee about a month ago, Frerichs said, it had been suggested by the alumni association and was in part a reaction to Gov. Pat Quinn getting involved in the selection of a new chairman for the Southern Illinois University board.

But a Quinn spokeswoman said that the governor already gets input from the alumni association and other groups before making appointments to the UI trustees.

SB 46, which picked up Republican Sens. Chapin Rose of Mahomet and Jason Barickman of Champaign as co-sponsors, is at passage stage in the Senate but probably won't be called for a vote, Frerichs said.

"There's a possibility it can be amended, but we are running out of time this session," he said. The Legislature is scheduled to adjoun on May 31.

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vcponsardin wrote on April 24, 2013 at 2:04 pm
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I've said this before, but it's worth repeating:  The state government now pays less than 15% of the U of I's annual budget, yet it still controls 100% of the Board of Trustees.  There's something not right about that.  The U of I is a "state" university in name only.

wayward wrote on April 24, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Well, it apparently pays retirement for UI employees.  Errr... at least it was *supposed* to be paying into the SURS pension fund.

Bulldogmojo wrote on April 24, 2013 at 4:04 pm

If they keep screwing around the IRS will revoke it's exemption and everyone will go back to paying SS, which may be the only viable solution.

sweet caroline wrote on April 24, 2013 at 10:04 pm

I work at U of I, and I agree with bulldogmojo.  For the first time ever.