Daniel Mahony answers questions from the DE and River Region about enrollment, tuition

By Bethany Rentfro, Staff Reporter

Courtesy of Danny Connolly, River Region Evening Edition
SIU President Daniel Mahony smiles during an interview with the Daily Egyptian and River Region Evening Edition on Wednesday, March 4.

SIU’s new system president, Daniel Mahony, sat down with the Daily Egyptian and River Region Evening Edition on Wednesday to discuss his plans for the university, diversity, enrollment and tuition. 

River Region: Are you excited to work with the next Carbondale chancellor? 

Daniel Mahony: Yes, […] part of the reason I am here in March is to be part of that search process. That is a critical thing. 

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Finding the right person with the right experience who is going to be a good collaborator across with the Edwardsville campus as well and someone who will be here for the long term. I am very excited about that and looking forward to having them here on campus shortly. 

Daily Egyptian: What do you plan to do to boost enrollment? 

Mahony: We have a plan in place. We are focusing on recruitment strategies, where we are putting our time, and energy, and a lot of that is more database than it’s ever been. We are all for developing more programs that could bring in more students. 

We think there will be a lot of success in the development of programs that will attract students who wouldn’t have looked at us otherwise but they are here specifically for that. We are also looking at how we use our financial aid as well. 

The last thing too is we are focusing so much on recruitment and retention, that’s a big one. Retaining the students we have already is critically important. A lot goes into that but that has been going on at the Carbondale campus for the last couple of years so hopefully we will continue to increase that retention rate. 

DE: Do you plan to lower tuition at all during your tenure? 

Mahony: That is actually a board decision, so I will work with the board on deciding what we do with tuition. We are holding it flat for the next year but I think that is a longer term decision each year. 

DE: Less than five percent of the faculty at SIU are black and administration is almost all white. How do you plan to address that? 

Mahony: You know, the first day I signed the CEO Pledge for Diversity and Inclusion, which focuses on doing a number of different things. I’ve had some success at both of my previous places with changing the way we do the process on searches so it is not so much at the end of the day always hiring the best person. 

A lot of times, you don’t have a very diverse pool or when you get a diverse pool, sometimes you bring certain biases into it that affect who actually gets a chance for an interview. 

What we will do is implicit bias training, so that people are thinking more about what biases they may congressionally have and how that might affect how they view applicants. It is about recruiting a diverse pool and then actually making sure the process is as fair as possible. 

If we do that, it can dramatically change the diversity of both the faculty and the managerial staff. 

DE: The DE recently published an article about the disproportionate referrals of black students for the odor of marijuana, what will you do to prevent that from happening? 

Mahony: Yeah, that’s probably more of a chancellor thing than a system president thing, but certainly we are working with the chancellor.

(See more: Black students are disproportionately cited for drug-related offenses at SIU)

(See more: Chancellor, ACLU of Illinois respond to SIU’s disproportionate referrals of black students)

I think it is part of a broader discussion about student conduct and making sure that the process we are using is fair. Again, even with campus police and others, making sure they are treating everybody fairly and equitably. 

DE: How do you plan to address the concerns of civil service staff regarding their lack of staff and the fact that they have only received a 1% raise in 5 years? 

Mahony: One of the things we are looking at, again I started assembling working groups even before I got here. 

One of those is focused on employee satisfaction and employee morale, so they won’t just be looking at that specific group but they will be looking at all our employees on what things we can do as far as salary suggestions. 

There’s probably other things we could do as well to  make the situation for our employees better. 

DE: What will a $15 an hour hike do to the civil service staff and will there be mass layoffs? 

Mahony: I don’t know enough about that to comment on it. Again, if you are talking about the 15% or $15 rate that has been talked about in the political campaigns, I would probably just caution that just because someone says it in a political campaign doesn’t mean that it is going to happen.

(See more: Governor signs minimum wage increase; SIU projects cost of $6.9 million in 2025)

I had some of those questions when I was at Winthrop about what would we do if its $15 an hour as the minimum wage. Just because it’s said, doesn’t mean that’s actually going to happen. 

RR: It’s going to be part of Illinois though I think it is going to be by the end of 2023. 

Mahony: That gives us an opportunity to phase it in, so it is not happening overnight. 

RR: In fall 2018, a white supremacist flyer was distributed on the Carbondale campus. This was after a student in the dorms was revealed to be a neo-Nazi and attended the Charlottesville rally and a year after the cheerleaders who knelt during the National Anthem received death threats. What steps would you take to protect students from white supremacy on campus? 

Mahony: Part of that is working with the Carbondale Chancellor, so I want to make sure, or clear that I am the system president, not the Chancellor of the campus, so I really have to work with that individual to make sure that we are doing things to make it a safe environment. 

(See more: Students and community members rally against administration’s handling of neo-Nazi student accusations versus SIU Athletics protests)

But, back to the CEO action for diversity and inclusion, part of that is engaging in conversation about diversity and inclusion and having those more difficult conversations and making it a safer  and more welcoming environment to all of our students. 

That will be part of my focus, but it will really be more working closely with the chancellor on that. So, that is why that search is critically important. 

RR:  Do you have any other big plans on what you would do to help the SIU system both here and in Edwardsville? 

Mahony: Yeah, and that’s part of why we are developing that whole strategic planning process but I think there are a number of different things we could do. 

RR: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your time here at SIU? 

Mahony: I’ve only been here a few days but it has been a great few days. I’ve met a lot of people. The thing that has probably been the most impressive is the enthusiasm that I hear from people for SIU Carbondale and there’s people who want to see us be successful and I think there is a lot of optimism right now. 

I think we need to take advantage of that and move forward with some planning and doing some things that will help us in the long term. I think there are things we can do here to be successful.

Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Staff reporter Bethany Rentfro can be reached via email at [email protected]

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