The Wednesday morning Board of Trustees meeting was a little less business than usual.
Trustees met at Touch of Nature in Makanda for the first day of a two-day retreat. Board members discussed business matters, such as the roles and responsibilities of each board member and the goals for the 2014 fiscal year, while also getting to know each other.
Board chairman Randal Thomas established the meeting would be casual from the start by removing his necktie and sharing his hopes for what the retreat would accomplish.
“This is a new event for me; a professional retreat. I’m encouraged by it and hopeful of what we will get done in the next day and a half,” he said.
The relaxed environment took a more serious tone when it came to discussing the goals of the university’s next fiscal year.
President Glenn Poshard discussed a list of goals that both SIUC and SIUE need to meet in order to thrive in the next fiscal year. Some of the goals included more collaboration between the universities, informing people of the multiple services the university provides for the community and increasing the online class presence.
One area of concern for board members was working with the state finance committee. Since student aid has been cut and the state economy is down, less students are enrolling in college.
Councilman Marquita Wiley said the single greatest challenge for the board is keeping the university’s finances from being cut and preventing downgrades in its credit rating.
“I’m almost afraid or challenged to say (what I think) in a public forum because I think what needs to be done at a state level, and specifically for education, is so radical that it’s hard to even imagine at this point in time,” she said.
Wiley said the state’s economy has caused some universities to become unaffordable and makes for-profit universities seem more appealing to would-be college students. She said this will have a great effect on state-funded universities, like SIU, and may force them to figure out creative ways of attracting and retaining students.
Poshard said he shared Wiley’s concerns about the university’s future.
“These have been the most severe years that we’ve ever experienced from state funding,” he said. “My fear is that if we don’t make some of the kinds of changes (Wiley is) talking about, we’re going to end up privatizing public education.”
Poshard also talked about roles and responsibilities board members need to understand and be held accountable for.
“In order to have an effective board and have effective communication on a board, the first thing that needs to be observed are appropriate lines of authority that have been established,” he said.
Poshard said the board must act as one representative body and not as individuals with personal agendas. He said trusting each other and building an effective communication system between board members are key components, which will help keep everyone on the same page.
Thomas said it’s important for board members to understand when and what to comment on certain issues.
“We need to work through that and figure out how to do that as a body,” he said. “We can’t have … any one board member responding for the whole board,” he said.