Daily Egyptian

Students still without vote on board

By Luke Nozicka, @lukenozicka

Eleven months after students on the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses first elected representatives to the SIU Board of Trustees, neither representative has cast a vote.

The two student trustees on the board have not been given a vote because former Gov. Pat Quinn wanted them to vote Roger Herrin in as chairman, sources told the Daily Egyptian.

Two sources in a position to know who would speak only upon condition of anonymity said because neither Adrian Miller, Carbondale’s student representative, nor Mitch Morecraft, the Edwardsville campus’ representative, would agree to vote Herrin in, Quinn did not give either one the vote.

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Seven calls and a text to Quinn’s cell and office phones for comment were not returned. Three emails and a tweet to one of Quinn’s aides for comment were unreturned.

Each year two students—one from the Carbondale campus and one from the Edwardsville campus—are elected to the nine-person board. One of the two is allowed to vote on university business or policy, a power solely awarded by the governor usually in July.

During a phone interview Wednesday, board member Herrin, who met then-Lt. Gov. Quinn while a member of the Illinois Finance Authority board, said Quinn has never reached out to him about the student vote.

“There’s no truth to it,” Herrin said when asked if Quinn offered the vote to the student trustee who would vote Herrin in as chairman. “I had no involvement with the [student trustee vote appointment] at all.”

Herrin, who is back in Illinois from his home in Naples, Fla., for the Wednesday and Thursday board meetings, said neither student representative has raised a concern to him about the vote not yet being appointed.

“When you’re involved and active as much as I am in various issues over the years in southern Illinois, somebody along the way is always going to try to be a shit-stirrer,” Herrin said. “I always hate it, but I can’t do anything about it except that everybody who knows me knows I’m pretty straight and my word is good.”

While he would not go into detail, Miller said neither he nor Morecraft “would agree to certain things that were desired” by Quinn.

“You have classic, ‘You pat me on my back, I’ll pat you on yours,’ and that’s part of the reason the student vote wasn’t appointed under the former governor,” said Miller, now an intern in Springfield for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. “The student trustees decided not to play the game of politics.”

Bruce Rauner, who was sworn in as governor in January, has not yet given a student trustee a board vote. When asked for a comment about if or when Rauner—who appointed attorney Amy Sholar and U.S. district court judge J. Phil Gilbert to the board last month—plans to appoint the student vote, Catherine Kelly, Rauner’s press secretary, wrote in an email: “When we have something to announce, we’ll let you know.”

Miller, a senior from Carbondale studying political science, said he is disappointed students are not represented through a board vote.

“It’s an actual legitimate vote on the board, and without that, we’re just kind of a whisper in the wind,” he said. “There’s a lot of politics in play and sadly students are getting the short end of the stick.”

Edwardsville representative Morecraft, who says the former governor never contacted him, said there might have been political reasons why the student vote was not appointed.

“My job is not to play politics,” said Morecraft, a senior from Marshall studying business. “It’s not to take a side or anything, but it’s to vote in a way that I think is best for a student to vote whether it’s Edwardsville, Carbondale or Springfield.”

A message left with executive secretary Misty Whittington for a comment from Chairman Randal Thomas was not returned. 

Randy Dunn, who took over as SIU president May 1, said he did not know why the vote was never given to one of the student representatives.

Dunn said Rep. Jerry F. Costello II, D-Smithton, plans to introduce a bill that would give both student trustees a vote on the board. Costello could not be reached for comment.

“Then it wouldn’t be a matter of having to wait for a governor at a given year to do that appointment,” Dunn said. “Under the laws of the state of Illinois, student trustees have a right to a voice and a vote on the board table, and until the selection is made, that’s not available to the students of SIU. I would really encourage [Rauner] and his office to take a look at getting that appointment done.”

It would not have been the first time Quinn acted to help Herrin, who—according to the Illinois State Board of Elections—donated $19,971.64 to the former governor’s campaigns.

In March 2012, then-President Glenn Poshard said members of Quinn’s staff called each board member attempting to pressure them to renew Herrin’s tenure as the board’s chairman. Poshard said trustees who did not intend to re-elect Herrin were asked by Quinn’s staff to either resign or not show up to the March 22, 2012, annual election of officers meeting.

Poshard said it’s hard to understand why a student trustee has not been given the vote.

“They’re basically disenfranchising the student body in terms of having a representative to cast a vote for them,” Poshard said. “I couldn’t answer for why Gov. Quinn never did that, but Gov. Rauner needs to make that decision and make it soon.”

The board will vote on tuition and fees for the 2015-2016 school year at its April 16 meeting in Edwardsville.

Morecraft said while he and Miller are a part of board discussions, it’s frustrating neither have an official vote.

“We have this conversation at student government like every day,” Morecraft said. “At this point it’s—I don’t want to say it’s a joke—but people are asking me at least once a week if, ‘Hey, is there a student vote yet?’ and I sadly always say no.”

Luke Nozicka can be reached at [email protected].

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