Meet Austin Lane: A Q&A with SIU’s new chancellor

By Oreoluwa Ojewuyi, Staff Reporter

Editor’s note: Some of these answers have been condensed for clarity. 

Austin Lane was appointed as chancellor of the Carbondale campus on May 29 and he began his appointment on July 6. 

The Daily Egyptian spoke with Lane for a Q&A session and asked him about issues such as social justice, COVID-19, budget goals and his feelings about the Southern Illinois region.

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DE: What initially interested you about becoming SIU’s newest chancellor? 

Lane: “The campus was always known for being very diverse and doing things [ahead]  of its time,” Lane said. “It’s a beautiful campus and the students are fantastic, so I’m excited to be here.” 

Lane said SIU had potential to “move to new heights” as a large economic engine in the southern Illinois region. 

DE: How do you feel about being appointed as the first Black chancellor in the university’s 150-year history?

Lane: “It tells me that I am not working and doing this for me,” Lane said. “I am actually doing this for 150 years of people who have been either disenfranchised or discriminated against that came here to SIU with a hope and a dream of succeeding and making their lives better.” 

DE: How do you plan to address the needs and concerns of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) students on campus? 

Lane: “I’m always willing to listen , to advocate and to stand up for students of all colors if they feel as if they don’t matter,” Lane said.

DE: What can you say about current social justice issues in the nation? 

Lane: “Black lives do matter. I can say that. That doesn’t mean that other lives don’t. It just means that Black lives do matter,” Lane said. 

Lane said George Floyd, whose death in March sparked the beginning of worldwide protests, grew up right across his campus at Texas Southern University. 

“It’s refreshing to see the advocacy and the peaceful protests from our students,” Lane said. “I think that they should have the right to do that and express themselves without being penalized.” 

DE: What do you hope to accomplish as chancellor? 

Lane: Lane said he has begun working on campus and community wide events like the Listening and Learning tour.

“I’ll meet with [groups] and ask two things. What do they love about SIU , and what do we need to do to change some things or enhance some things?” Lane said. “We’ll take all that information and we’ll craft our top five priorities. Whether that’s student success and completion, whether it’s culture, you name it.” 

Lane said he wants to lay the foundation of the next 10  years at SIU and the strategic plan with the campus and Southern Illinois community.

“We’re looking at efficiencies. So I just met with the chancellor’s budget and planning committee that consists of faculty and staff and students as well,” Lane said. That committee gives me ideas about some cost cutting measures.”

DE: How do you plan to address enrollment? 

Lane: “We’re working with superintendent of K-8th Dr. [ Daniel] Booth to establish some partnerships with our university so we can recruit his students as early as the third and fourth grade.”

Lane plans to build relationships with high schools and community colleges in the southern Illinois region as well. 

“I understand the importance of the pipelines that need to exist between two and four year institutions,”  Lane said. 

Lane wants students in the Southern Illinois area to be involved in on campus events including summer camps, programs and other on campus activities.

 DE: What are some of your budget goals and concerns? 

Lane: “Enrollment obviously, […] another area is facilities,” Lane said. “If you look at some facilities, we want to make sure that those that are in good shape stay in good shape and those that aren’t, we want to make sure that we put some attention on those facilities going forward.” 

Lane said he is focused on areas like academic programs and ensuring instructors have access to the resources they need keeping in accordance with COVID-19 precautions. 

DE: How do you plan to keep the SIU community connected in the midst of a national health crisis? 

Lane: “If we can keep the communication lines open, we can ensure that you know when we know something whether it’s from the Jackson County Health Department, the federal state or federal government [. . .] so that we can all stay safe,”  Lane said. 

Lane held his first zoom meeting on Aug 7. with COVID-19 updates. Lane said he plans to hold another meeting in late August or early September to provide the SIU community with more information and updates regarding the pandemic and university precautions. 

Staff reporter Oreoluwa Ojewuyi can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @odojewuyi.

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