Daily Egyptian

Dunn could be done with double duty soon

By Bill Lukitsch, @Bill_LukitschDE

The vacant chancellor position could be filled by an interim replacement as soon as the end of this week.

SIU System President Randy Dunn said a candidate will be presented to the SIU Board of Trustees for consideration Wednesday during a closed session. If approved by the board, Dunn expects an interim chancellor to be named during the public meeting Thursday and start the position immediately.

Out of respect for the hiring process and for the individuals involved, Dunn declined to directly name any of the candidates for the position.

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A source in a position to know says Walter Wendler, director of SIUC’s School of Architecture, is a likely front-runner because of his qualifications and previous experience as SIUC’s chancellor from 2001 to 2006.

Wendler would neither confirm nor deny the suspicion.

“My only comment is that I believe President Dunn has initiated an inclusive process that will assess campus perspectives thoughtfully,” Wendler wrote in an email response to an interview request.

Rumored candidate John Koropchak, a professor emeritus in the department of chemistry and biochemistry, confirmed speaking with Dunn regarding the position, but declined to comment further.

While Dunn admitted knowledge of circulating rumors about potential interim chancellor candidates, he insisted there could be others who might end up with the position.

The interim chancellor will stay in office for two years, and, according to Dunn, may become part of the national search for a permanent chancellor, which will begin in about a year.

“It’s certainly the case that we are not precluding the interim chancellor from being able to apply for the permanent position,” he said.

Rita Cheng, the university’s most recent permanent chancellor, received an annual salary of $347,976 in fiscal year 2014. Dunn said the interim chancellor will likely receive less than $300,000.

Dunn initially planned to exercise his tentative hiring authority to name an acting chancellor after the board requested he appoint one in July. He decided to postpone an appointment due to “very differing views” across the campus as to who should have the job.

SIUC has been without a chancellor since the death of interim chancellor Paul Sarvela in November 2014. Dunn has absorbed the responsibilities of acting chancellor in addition to his regular duties as system president.

“In doing the two roles — both chancellor and president — for the past nine months … it’s made for some pretty long days,” Dunn said.

The responsibilities include everything from orchestrating day-to-day campus operations to giving speeches on behalf of the university.

“The chancellor is the CEO of the university campus,” Dunn said. “And, as with any large, complex, bureaucratic organization, as most universities are, you have to have someone in a position to make overall decisions … for the university to move forward.”

The national search for a permanent chancellor was suspended in June shortly after Sabah Randhawa, thought to be the preferred candidate, withdrew from consideration because of state budgetary issues.

But Dunn said that is not the whole story.

“While the state budget was a concern, I don’t think that in and of itself was a total deal breaker,” he said. “I think it was a few additional issues that weighed on him as well.”

Still, the university’s budgetary issues are an obstacle the incoming interim chancellor must deal with, and Dunn said there has to be transparency concerning the impact of the fiscal crisis on SIUC’s budget.

Although the state is currently facing serious financial strains, Dunn said Illinois is not alone in that regard.

“I would say on the whole that if you’re involved in public university administration right now, you’re running into tough situations in about 40 of the 50 states in the country,” Dunn said.

Bill Lukitsch can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter @Bill_LukitschDE.

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