LIVE: UI trustees in Chicago

LIVE: UI trustees in Chicago

CHICAGO — The Board of Trustees approved over 30 agenda items on Thursday, including the establishment and elimination of academic programs, the appointment of Danita Young Brown as vice chancellor for student affairs, and budget increases for various construction projects.

The majority of the board approved each measure.

The first matter, with the most discussion, was the resolution of Walter Knorr’s position as CFO and Vice President.

“Your leadership over the years has helped the University of Illinois system grow and flourish,” Board President Tim Koritz said.

Concluding the meeting, President Tim Killeen spoke about how those in the UI system helped manage the budget impasse.

“Witnessing the resiliency of this university system ... has been a remarkable experience. We have weathered the storm.” Killeen said. “The University of Illinois system was not broken by the budget impact.”

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CHICAGO — Starting almost an hour after expected, the UI Board of Trustees concluded this morning’s executive sessions and resumed the regular board meeting.

UI alumna Denise Yates sang “Illinois” to begin the public meeting, followed by opening remarks from Chairman Tim Koritz.

Walter Knorr, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer and Comptroller, provided his last financial report before he retires after over 10 years.

“Today is my 63rd and final board meeting at the University of Illinois,” Knorr said.

Since Illinois legislators passed a budget for the first time since 2015, Knorr broke down the numbers:

— Legislators approved a $583 million dollar budget, 10 percent less than 2015 appropriation, for fiscal 2018.

— $300 million dollars was added to the bridge appropriation, bringing the state funding for fiscal year 2017 up to $650 million dollars.

“I think we’re going to have to put rest in peace on whether or not we’ll receive any funding from there,” Knorr said of the stopgap budget.

Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants were approved for 2017 and 2018. Knorr said he hopes funding “will come to the university hopefully very soon for 2017.”

No new capital projects are on the agenda, but existing projects were re-appropriated, Knorr said.

“We’re going to be working on, between now and the September meeting ... an operating budget for the university,” Knorr said. In addition, staff should begin considering the following year’s budget, Knorr said, and must “request for budgetary items from the state for (fiscal 2019). This is a statutory requirement.”

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CHICAGO — Ahead of today's UI trustees meeting, here are a few of the items on a packed agenda:

— The board will be voting on several professional appointments, as well as the implementation of new academic programs, as put forward by the Academic and Student Affairs committee.

— In relation to the Urbana campus, the board is considering the approval of appointing Danita Brown Young as Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs.

— Trustees are also expected to formally approve James Anderson as dean of the College of Education.

— As for academic programs, the board is considering establishing a master's of journalism degree in the College of Media and the Graduate College.

— A bachelor's of science in secondary education in the College of Education is also being considered.

— A motion is in place to eliminate the master's of arts in economics. 

— The Governance, Personnel and Ethics committee is advancing the notion to amend a multi-year contract with Steve McClain, UIC's head basketball coach.

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CHICAGO — For a discussion about the connection between free speech and campus climate, University of Illinois trustees heard Wednesday from an expert on the topic.

Na'ilah Nasir is the former vice chancellor for equity and inclusion at Cal-Berkeley. She was on the "protest response team" for one of the year's most controversial on-campus stories — the backlash over the potential appearance of right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos.

The issue is not the legality of free speech, she told trustees during their annual retreat. The First Amendment protects such controversial talks on campus.

What universities must decide, she said, is whether it's genuinely beneficial for students and staff to face such viewpoints. Before Yiannopoulos' speech was called off, more than $100,000 worth of damage had been done by protesters.

"Campuses were challenged not only to live out their involvement with free speech, but how to protect the physical and psychological safety of the campus community," Nasir said. "We cannot learn in spaces that do not honor our humanity."

In order for the UI to be proactive in regards to free speech on campus, it must do two things, Nasir said.

First, officials must first "build a trusting campus community where we can have these discussions with love," she said.

Second, they must "institutionally acknowledge the pain."

After Nasir spoke, the meeting's participants broke into smaller groups to discuss the retreat's topics.

The group tasked with free speech, led by College of Law Dean Vikram Amar, focused not on whether speakers can openly discuss controversial points, but how the UI should respond.

"These are challenging topics," Amar said.

He said the group would "improve transparency so that members of the community understand the substance and process of what has been decided."

In a matter such as free speech, that could mean allowing a controversial speaker to come to campus, but having the university provide a statement distancing itself from the person.

The group said it would also like to act upon "coherent and consistent education of members of community," and the "creation of three universities to consider climate work group to look at climate issues and ensure continuity."

UI President Tim Killeen said Wednesday's presentations were not reactionary to any certain issues but rather a proactive movement to better the university's system.

"We're not in duress, we're not in crisis mode," Killeen noted. "These are important issues."

The Urbana-Champaign campus has experienced its share of free speech-related issues in recent years, starting with the decision to rescind the job it offered to Professor Steven Salaita over a litany of controversial, and sometimes profane, tweets about Israel during its bombing of Gaza.

More recently, in May, faculty objections prompted the Carl Woese Institute for Genomic Biology to drop plans for a talk by Nobel Laureate James Watson, who co-discovered the structure of DNA but has been castigated by fellow scientists for his discredited views on race and intelligence.