This week SIU administrators will be knocking on Springfield’s doors as they try to reinforce their argument against a bill to split up the university system.
President James Walker and chancellors Walter Wendler and Vaughn Vandegrift sent a letter to the Legislature’s Higher Education committee Tuesday opposing the bill that sits on its desk.
On Thursday, the trio will travel to Springfield to meet with key legislators, said David Gross, the government affairs executive assistant to the president, who also hopes to meet with the bill’s author Wednesday.
The bill, which was filed by Rep. Thomas Holbrook in January, would separate SIU-Edwardsville and SIUC and create another Board of Trustees.
The letter, which was signed by Walker, Wendler and Vandegrift, states SIU’s multi-campus system works and “in no way stifles excellence, autonomy or creativity.”
Holbrook, who represents the Metro-East area and is an SIUE graduate, has said the Edwardsville campus’ growth has been stunted because it’s a part of the SIU system, which he said has mistreated the smaller campus for years. This is the second time in two years that this bill has surfaced in the Legislature.
On the SIUE campus, the SIUE trustee to the Board of Trustees and the student government president are joining forces to persuade its 12,600 students to stand behind the university’s opposition to the bill.
SIUE Student Government President Dell Jones said if the split became a reality, students will probably pay for it.
“We are adamantly opposed to it,” Jones said. “There is such a vested interest in SIUE already and if we split, the burden would be imposed on the students.”
SIU’s letter told legislators that costs to split the campus could be as high as $7 million. Holbrook’s bill, which would be effective in July 2006, would create a separate Board of Trustees for both campuses. It would also force SIUE to duplicate shared services and personnel in legal counsel, internal audit, risk management, governmental relations and financial affairs.
The letter also cited the 1965 U.S. Supreme Court case, Reynolds v. Sims, which forced state Legislatures to be filled based on population. The letter stated that because of the continued loss of power in less populated regions of the nation; SIU is also an advocate for the 54 counties of southern Illinois.
“Restructuring the University will result in a lessening of political leveraging for both sister institutions and further diminish the influence of southern Illinoisans in the halls of our state government,” the letter stated.
Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, who is the committee spokesman, said he is determined fight the bill from making it out of committee.
Bost said some legislators, whose districts include the University of Illinois system, are also opposed to the bill because it could spell out the future for Illinois’ flagship university system. SIU is one of 52 multi-campus university systems in 38 states and serves about 70 percent of the nation’s students in public higher education.
Reporter Andrea Zimmermann can be reached at [email protected]