F&S director leaving for different UI job

F&S director leaving for different UI job

URBANA — The executive director of University of Illinois Facilities and Services — a department that's been a recent focus of employee discrimination complaints — is stepping down to take another administrative job.

Al Stratman, a former Navy captain hired to take over the sprawling unit in 2013, will move to University Administration, where he will "provide expertise in the areas of capital programs and utilities administration," according to the UI.

Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson announced the move in an email to employees and department heads Thursday morning.

Helen Coleman, director of capital programs, will serve as interim executive director starting Monday, Wilson said.

Wilson declined to elaborate on the decision or say whether it was related to complaints from employees and the NAACP about mistreatment.

"I can't really talk about it. It's personnel-related," she told The News-Gazette.

Seven black current and former Facilities and Services employees — who call themselves the "University of Illinois Seven" — allege that they've faced years of discrimination, being denied raises and promotions, moved to poor working environments, and facing co-workers and supervisors who were openly hostile and discriminatory.

Last month, one of the seven had a noose tossed on his desk by a co-worker, who was fired the next day by Stratman.

The NAACP has been working with the employees and met with Wilson several times to discuss the complaints.

Wilson apologized for the April 6 noose incident, and the campus scheduled diversity and training sessions in the unit where it occurred.

She also said earlier this month that the campus was investigating the allegations at Facilities and Services and that other diversity initiatives were under way to help "educate and change culture in this large, complex unit." She pledged to work with the NAACP and the employees to resolve the concerns,

The campus Office of Human Relations also conducted a climate survey at Facilities and Services to determine whether there are widespread concerns, "pockets of challenges" or isolated incidents that need to be addressed, officials said. It was to be part of a report detailing any improvements needed.

Facilities and Services encompasses a range of departments that deal with the campus physical plant — construction and capital improvements, utilities and energy, engineering, transportation and maintenance.

Wilson on Thursday thanked Stratman for his dedication to the university and leadership of several major projects, including the State Farm Center renovation, the new solar farm on south campus and the Multimodal Corridor Enhancement Project to improve transit through campus, which is set to begin this fall.

"He's done a lot of great things at F&S," she said.

Before taking the UI job, Stratman worked as executive officer for Naval Facilities Engineering Command & Navy Region Southwest in San Diego.

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Dale_T wrote on May 20, 2016 at 8:05 am

Scapegoat?