SIU Board of Trustees members voted out Chairman Roger Herrin at the annual election Thursday and elected John Simmons as the new chairman.
Herrin, who was seated as chair last April, was voted out 4 to 2. Although the board also successfully selected a new vice chair, trustee Ed Hightower, and a new secretary, trustee Mark Hinrichs the change in leadership did not come as a unanimous decision.
“We needed a change, I felt like, and I think some of the others do, too,” Simmons said after the meeting.
The split in election of a chairman came between Simmons and Herrin. Trustees Don Lowery and Donna Manering voted for Herrin for chairman, while Herrin abstained and the four remaining members voted for Simmons. Lowery, Manering and Herrin voted against Hightower as vice-chair, and the remaining trustees voted for Hightower.
Herrin said the change in positions did not come as a surprise to him.
“The change was, without question, well-planned, well-orchestrated through the administration,” he said. “And it became known to those of us close to the situation exactly what was coming down.”
The role of the trustees at the university was the reason Hightower cited for the board’s decision of a change in officials.
“We felt it necessary to ensure that the trustees understand their role as being policy makers,” he said.
He said the board should not move away from its role as policy makers by becoming an impediment in everyday operations at the university, but that the trustees’ role of hiring university leaders such as administrators should be the extent of the board’s involvement in daily matters.
“We hire quality individuals to run the day-to-day,” Hightower said. “When trustees begin to get involved with the day-to-day, it causes problems that we should not have to encounter. And with that, we felt that we were there and we needed to … get behind all of our administrators and allow them to run the day-to-day and that’s probably the biggest issue that we would change in the leadership.”
When newly-elected chairman Simmons proposed the selection for committee members, Herrin declined to serve on the committee he was invited to be a part of.
“I think I was put into a position where I couldn’t be productive,” Herrin said. “I’ve been chairman of the Board of Trustees for 10 months and I’m put on one menial committee, down the ladder, where somebody else is chairman. It was obvious that was only a token.”
Herrin said he felt he did a good job during the 10 months he served as chairman.
“I did the best I could do, but they’re not going to run me off,” he said. “You can still lose a battle and win a war.”
Tuition and Fees
Before the election, the trustees in their former positions met for the finance committee, where they discussed the proposed 4.8 percent tuition increase and 1.94 percent fee increase at both Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses.
Despite recent opposition for the fee increase from the Undergraduate Student Council and Graduate and Professional Student Council at SIUC, SIU President Glenn Poshard and SIUC Chancellor Rita Cheng said the increases were necessary to cover rising state costs and necessary maintenance repairs.
When Trustee Manering asked about the student government’s concerns with the fees, Cheng said each group has issues with specific fees.
“And our graduate students are concerned about the cost of education in general,” she said.
GPSC President Carl Bloom said the council, who presented an alternate fee proposal to the board, was very upset about the proposed increases.
“We do have a voice and the voice has consistently said ‘no,’ yet it continues to move forward,” he said.
At a GPSC meeting earlier this month, the council asked Cheng not to propose the increase to the board.
“The university has to find other ways to finance … but it cannot keep coming back to the students and say pay more,” he said.
When USG President Spencer Tribble asked why students would not choose another school over SIU if another school’s fees are lower, Poshard responded by saying SIU has lower tuition. With the proposed increase in tuition, Poshard said SIU Carbondale and Edwardsville would still remain the universities with the lowest tuition in Illinois.
Lowery said the board will take a close look at the proposed increase and keep the students in mind.
“I think I speak for every member of the board … we want you to get the best bang for your dollar,” he said. “We may not agree on specifics, but all of us want to keep the costs low and attract as many students as we can.”
The board is set to vote on the proposed increases in April at Edwardsville, said Rod Sievers, university spokesman.