URBANA — A growing number of faculty leaders at the University of Illinois have added their names to those expressing concern about the administration's centralization efforts, including changes being considered for how admissions and enrollment are handled.
On Monday afternoon, the executive committees of several colleges on the Urbana campus sent letters to UI President Michael Hogan and members of the UI Board of Trustees. The letters vary slightly, but the theme is similar: Faculty say they support campus Chancellor Phyllis Wise, but raise concerns about centralization efforts being led by President Hogan.
The letters were sent less than a week after a similar letter was sent to Hogan and the board of trustees from 123 notable Urbana faculty, including chaired professors, distinguished fellows and other leaders.
Monday's letters were signed by members of five different college's executive committees, plus additional professors, from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of Education, College of Engineering, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and College of Applied Health Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Graduate School of Library and Information Science and the School of Labor and Employment Relations. Together those schools represent more than 70 percent of the undergraduate student body on the Urbana campus. Executive committees are made up of faculty members chosen by their peers; typically such committees deal with issues such as promotion and tenure.
"We are just trying to find a way to express the growing concern among faculty about the tendency toward centralizing decision making," said College of Education Professor Sarah Lubienski, a member of that college's executive committee who helped coordinate the letter campaign. "We wanted to recognize that Wise has the authority for governing this campus, the Urbana-Champaign campus. We feel like some of that authority is being stripped away," she said.
Lubienski said faculty leaders on campus have been concerned for some time, but in recent months more professors have become aware of how proposals in areas such as enrollment management, including recruiting and admissions, could affect their colleges. Earlier this month Hogan's chief of staff, Lisa Troyer, resigned, in the midst of an investigation into anonymous emails sent Dec. 12 from her computer. Those emails were addressed to University Senates Conference members who at the time were drafting a report on enrollment management, a contentious topic faculty leaders had been discussing for months. The report responded to the external consultants' 21 recommendations to Hogan. The USC report recommended moving forward with three of the recommendations, called for additional evaluation of several other recommendations, and came out opposed to seven.
"Faculty fear their input is being diminished," said entomology Professor May Berenbaum, who sits on the executive committee for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Despite faculty concerns outlined in the University Senates Conference report about enrollment management proposals, despite concerns and questions raised by the Urbana faculty/student senate last month on the same topic and despite last week's letter from the 123 professors also outlining questions and concerns, the administration's message on enrollment management has been to forge ahead, she said.
"We felt LAS had to say something," said Berenbaum, who signed both the letter from last week and the one sent on Monday from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "This has never been a top-down institution. This is, in my experience, without precedent," said Berenbaum, who has been at the UI since 1980.
"We recognize the need for some consolidation and reorganization of administrative functions and services in the interests of efficiency and economy," the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences stated. "But we are alarmed by the lack of consultation with faculty representatives around the changes proposed. We are especially concerned about the broad changes being considered in the domain of enrollment management, and about the lack of serious consideration by President Hogan of the Senate's (Enrollment Management) Task Force Report," it said.
The letters were meant to be delivered to trustees in advance of their retreat today in Chicago and the regular board meeting on Thursday.
University spokesman Tom Hardy said he was not aware of any plans to initiate any discussions on enrollment management at either the retreat or Thursday's meeting.
"That's not to say it couldn't come up," he said.
Hardy said President Hogan and trustees view the most recent letters "as a worthwhile part of the consultative process. and part of the input he's been receiving for several months, some of which resulted in changes to the enrollment management plan."