Gov. Pat Quinn, Illinois' self-styled political reformer, once again is acting like a ward heeler.
The news media reported earlier this week that Gov. Pat Quinn appointed three new members to the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees.
That's technically true. But here's the real story, and it's one that ought to trouble those who support Quinn because they think he has the best interests of higher education at heart.
Quinn essentially fired three veteran board members because last year they defied his orders to re-elect one of his financial backers, Roger Herrin, as the board's chairman.
The SIU board is scheduled to meet today in Edwardsville, and there is concern that the new trustees, having received their marching orders from Quinn, will re-elect Herrin as board chairman to replace outgoing board chairman John Simmons.
Simmons, a Belleville lawyer, Ed Hightower, a school superintendent in Edwardsville and well-known college basketball referee, and Mark Hinrichs, an O'Fallon businessman, were summarily dumped from the board by Quinn, just as predicted a year ago when they refused to re-elect Herrin board chairman.
Board members, at Quinn's behest, elected Herrin board chairman in 2011, and, according to news accounts, he and fellow board member Donald Lowery tried to micromanage SIU for the next 12 months. Their ham-handed efforts to run the school, which run counter to the requirement that board members act as a group, resulted in a rare public dispute between SIU President Glenn Poshard and a board majority on one side and Herrin and Lowery on the other.
Lowery went so far as to vow to see Poshard fired when he and Herrin regain their majority. Well, now they have.
Fearing for SIU's reputation, The Southern Illinoisan newspaper has called for a truce, urging new board members to join with veterans "to make a clean break with the past and elect a leader who has never previously served as chairman, or chairwoman," of the board. In other words, don't re-elect Herrin.
The three new board members — a lawyer, a higher education veteran and a public relations manager — bring solid credentials and personal loyalty to SIU. It would be a shame if they use their new status as board members to damage SIU by further politicizing the university's oversight.