URBANA — More than two years after the public revelation of Category I, a state investigation into admissions practices at the University of Illinois and the eventual resignations of university officials and trustees, the admissions scandal and its after-effects still linger on campus.
At the annual meeting of the faculty on Monday, several Urbana faculty members raised concerns about shared governance, asked for clarification about the leadership lines between president and chancellor, and in one case suggested faculty do not exert much influence on the current university board of trustees.
Throughout last year — and again on Monday — members of the Urbana student faculty senate asked for clarification from UI President Michael Hogan about the role of the Urbana campus in the University of Illinois system and the role of its chancellor, and they expressed concerns about centralized control over decisions.
"The state law establishing the university makes it perfectly clear the university is a single, common entity with a single seal, single president ... single budget," Hogan said, adding that this single university has three "somewhat distinct campuses."
"I've said repeatedly the president is the president," and he doesn't intend to relinquish that leadership, he said, evoking the state admissions review report issued two years ago that concluded it was failures in university leadership that contributed to a culture that tolerated undue influence. That report also criticized Hogan's predecessor, B. Joseph White, for failing to exercise oversight of people who reported to him and who were involved in admissions-related abuses.
"Do you want to go back to those days?" Hogan asked faculty on Monday, saying the scandal was a by-product of dysfunctional leadership.
UI history professor Mark Steinberg told Hogan "there's a growing worry this is a board of trustees we have no influence over."
How much do the faculties really shape shared governance? Steinberg asked.
In response, Hogan described the current board of trustees as "incomparably better than its predecessors."
"The board is trying to address longtime governance issues ... to prevent a similar crisis. I think the board has done more to engage faculty than probably its predecessors," he said.
Brought up more than once was a report commissioned by Hogan which examines enrollment strategies and policies. Hogan said he has shared this with the University Senates Conference and individual campus senates are reviewing it.
In his speech to faculty, Hogan pointed out that while there have been a number of recent successes — state funding was not slashed drastically last year, campus employees received raises this year, the UI climbed two slots to be ranked the 13th public university according to U.S. News & World Report — there are challenges ahead.
"A big upturn in state funding is highly unlikely," he said.
"We're still not out of the woods. ... Fortunately we're in much better position to respond to these challenges now than last year," he said, referring to the new government relations teams in Springfield and Washington, D.C. and other initiatives under way.
Faculty will be asked this year to play "a big role" in identifying programs and the criteria for identifying "programs that make us distinctive and distinguished."
"This is a big university and it was built in the age of abundance. ... Now we're living in an age of scarcity," Hogan said.
The university, he said, will need to decide whether it can afford to sustain all of its programs: Should programs be cut across the board? Which programs should be protected or enhanced?
"These are questions you and other members of the faculty will have to wrestle with over the next year," he said.
Also speaking at the annual meeting was new UI vice president and Urbana campus Chancellor Phyllis Wise. Since arriving on campus three weeks ago, Wise said, she has been on a listening and learning tour, meeting with administrators and faculty and students, most recently with those from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She said she hopes to meet with all the colleges in the near future.
Wise announced that Robert Easter, who was the interim chancellor prior to her joining the UI, will return to campus Dec. 16 as the interim vice chancellor for research, as current vice chancellor Ravi Iyer returns to faculty duties.
Wise said the campus will be "aggressively looking for candidates" and she hopes to identify a person for that office by next July.
Wise also announced she would launch a new weekly blog on Nov. 1. "From the desk of the chancellor" will recap news and meetings, along with some commentary about those meetings.