Rauner withdraws Bambenek as pick for state education board

Rauner withdraws Bambenek as pick for state education board

Updated 12:30 p.m.

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner has withdrawn his appointment of former Champaign school board member John Bambenek to the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

Rauner named Bambenek, a onetime Republican state Senate candidate, to the IBHE a year ago. The appointment needed approval from the Illinois Senate, which is dominated by Democrats.

Faculty leaders from the University of Illinois Academic Senate and the Faculty Advisory Committee to the IBHE had strongly objected, saying the lone faculty seat on the board should go to a full-time, tenure-system professor who understands the workings of a university.

UI Professor Gay Miller, who chairs the Senate Executive Committee, said she didn’t know why the appointment was withdrawn but called it the “appropriate decision.”

Bambenek declined to comment to The News-Gazette on Wednesday.

He has taught at the UI since 2013, initially as a visiting lecturer and now as a regular lecturer on a year-to-year appointment.

Professors had said Bambenek isn't qualified because he is only part time, teaches one course, hasn't been a faculty member very long and doesn't have an advanced degree.

Other critics have raised concerns about Bambenek's views on academic freedom, among other issues.

Bambenek has said he doesn't need a full-time job or benefits from the university and is teaching because the industry needs more cybersecurity professionals.

He is president of Bambenek Consulting, which conducts cybersecurity investigations and intelligence, and is manager of threat intelligence systems at Fidelius Cyber Security. Bambenek earned a bachelor's degree in physics from the UI in 2001.

Announcing Bambenek's appointment in April 2016, Rauner said his experience as a UI lecturer and a small business owner would bring a unique perspective to the board.

Bambenek said at the time that he'd been interested in doing "something policy oriented" for the Rauner administration for some time.

The 16-member higher education board coordinates, sets policy and recommends budgets for the state's public colleges and universities, including curriculum and minimum admission standards. The governor appoints 12 of the 16 members.

Bambenek opposed current State Treasurer Mike Frerichs of Champaign in the 52nd Senate District race in 2012, losing 65 percent to 35 percent.

He also served on the Champaign school board from February 2014 to April 2015.

This story has been updated to add Gay Miller's comments.

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CallSaul wrote on April 27, 2017 at 1:04 pm

Rauner's nomination of this rightwing hack was a deliberately insulting gesture. 

He goes ridiculously out of his way to insult people and then wonders why they won't then give him everything he wants.