URBANA — Top administrators in Urbana endorsed a faculty report Monday calling for more campus input on a new University of Illinois enrollment-management system, saying the quality of students cuts to the heart of the flagship campus' academic mission.
Faculty have expressed reservations about a proposed system for managing admissions, financial aid and other enrollment matters across the three campuses, an effort initiated by President Michael Hogan and UI trustees.
A draft response by a campus senate task force won praise Monday from Chancellor Phyllis Wise, as well as deans from two major colleges at a campus senate meeting.
Ruth Watkins, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said the size, quality and makeup of the student body are "vital to the health of our campus," and the provost's office should retain authority over those decisions.
"It's core business academically," she said.
An enrollment management report from two outside consultants commissioned by Hogan laid out 21 recommendations for how the university recruits, admits and offers financial aid to students for all three campuses.
A faculty task force report discussed Monday endorsed three recommendations, including setting strategic enrollment goals for the campuses and collaborating on a university enrollment plan.
But it said those steps must be completed before other recommendations can move forward, such as admitting more transfer students, using a joint application with other universities, or moving to a centralized processing system.
Watkins said the report was short on details in crucial areas.
"It's very unclear what the plan is," she said.
Michael Bragg, professor of aerospace engineering and executive associate dean of the College of Engineering, took issue with the idea of "branding" the college as the University of Illinois, rather than the Urbana-Champaign campus.
The college enjoys a global reputation and "branding us in a different way could be troublesome and certainly could damage the institution," said Bragg, who attended on behalf of Dean Ilesanmi Adesida. The college's peers are known by their flagship campuses, he added, citing the University of California-Berkeley and University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Also troubling, he said, is that the consultants' report refers to enrollment management as "all aspects of enrolling and graduating students. That essentially spans the entire academic process."
The engineering college admits 1,500 students every fall, working closely with the provost's office, Bragg said. Rapid decision-making is crucial, and it's unclear how that would work in a centralized system, he said.
He said campus deans strongly support the faculty task force report, calling it a "very reasoned approach."
Wise also praised the faculty report as "thoughtful" and echoed calls for collaboration.
"We must have a campus voice in this," she said.
The senate's executive committee will vote on the task force report next week and forward it to the Senates Conference, a university-wide faculty group. At his last meeting with that panel, Hogan expressed disappointment that professors were supporting only a few of the recommendations.
Mark Roszkowski, professor of business administration, said enrollment management is the latest area where Hogan has tried to centralize operations over faculty objections, citing the reorganization of upper-level administrators and creation of a university director of information technology.
He warned of a confrontation between the campus and the president, adding, "This is as good an issue as any for the senate to take a stand."
Other faculty, however, said some aspects of enrollment management could be done more efficiently through centralization, while policy should be set by the campuses.
Professor Michael Biehl, who chaired the faculty task force, said the panel felt it was important not to "draw a line in the sand." The goal was to draft reasonable approaches to each recommendation and emphasize collaboration and discussion, he said.
"We could choose to escalate the confrontation ... and take a 'hell no' approach," Biehl said, but that would likely result in the gridlock seen with federal and state legislators.
Roszkowski countered, "The board of trustees and the president have already signed on to this external report — hook, line and sinker without any faculty support," he said. "In the end, every one of those recommendations is going to happen."
Also Monday, senators elected five faculty and one student to a search committee for a new campus provost. Interim Provost Richard Wheeler, who has served for two years, has said he will not be a candidate for the permanent job.
Professors chosen were James Anderson, education; Faye Dong, food science; Barbara Minsker, civil and environmental engineering; Catherine Prendergast, English/rhetoric; and Joseph Rosenblatt, mathematics. The student elected was Miheer Munjal, junior in engineering.
The 11-member search committee will have three other faculty, one more student and one academic professional, all appointed by the chancellor.