Daily Egyptian

GPSC discusses academic prioritization, travel funding, chancellor search

By Marnie Leonard

The Graduate and Professional Student Council held its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday to discuss academic program prioritization, the unavailability of graduate student travel funds and the chancellor search committee.

Vice President for Student Affairs Johnathan Flowers gave an update on the academic prioritization effort, which was originally a joint task force formed by interim Provost Susan Ford to evaluate the university’s degree programs. Those evaluations were meant to aid the chancellor’s offices in making cuts to academic programs in response to the Illinois budget impasse.

Flowers, a member of the original task force, said the prioritization process has now passed from the task force stage into Ford’s hands. He took issue with the method being used by Ford, which he said does not include sufficient student input.

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Flowers said the program prioritization is slated to be completed May 15, even though some faculty research and creative activity data will not be made available until early summer.

“Therefore, the first attempt to prioritize programs across campus will be based on an incomplete collection of the data recommended by the original [joint task force], including any commentary from the student body,” Flowers said.

Council member Jon Howard said the administration should consider reducing their own salaries prior to making cuts to academic programs.

“Before we look at shutting down programs and everything else, why is it that these people need to be paid in excess of $200,000 in an area that costs you $1,000 a month to live?” Howard said.

Flowers said this wouldn’t be ideal because if SIU started making cuts to the administration, the first people to go would likely be Graduate School Dean Yueh-Ting Lee and interim Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Lori Stettler.

“If you note the people I’m mentioning, it would damage any kind of student affairs, any kind of student retention policy, anything keeping a student here once they’re here,” Flowers said. “It’s a zero-sum game.”

Nonetheless, Howard said the administration needs to understand that at some point they need to “trim the fat.”

GPSC member Donald Chamberlain said the university administrative structure itself seems to be just as much to blame for SIU’s financial woes as the state budget impasse.

“It just seems like we’re always taking cuts down here and no one is taking cuts up there,” Chamberlain said.

The council moved to draft a resolution outlining these concerns to vote on at its next meeting before addressing the issue with the administration.

Also at issue was graduate student travel funding, which Flowers said is becoming scarce.

GPSC is one of the few institutions left on campus with money available for student travel, Flowers said, meaning students are applying for funding more quickly than it can be granted.

Student travel is funded through the graduate school, Flowers said, but the pot of money the graduate school has for travel is based on the number of graduate students who apply as undeclared students. This source has dwindled along with graduate school applications, he said.

“The historic sources of funding for graduate student travel no longer exist,” Flowers said. “It is becoming a problem.”

In the past, an individual department would use part of its base or overhead funding for graduate student travel support. But given the university’s financial situation and the budget cuts departments have undergone, Flowers said, this source is no longer reliable.

“To put it simply, there is no money anywhere on campus for student travel,” Flowers said. “A number of people have come and asked me ‘Where can we get travel funding?’ The answer is ‘Nowhere.’”

GPSC President Brandon Woudenberg said the Chancellor Search Advisory Committee completed its deliberations and the next step will be to submit the list of finalists to the SIU Board of Trustees for on-campus interviews.

Once the names are given to the board, they will be made public, said Flowers, who sits on the search committee with Woudenberg.

Woudenberg said the committee will likely recommend four names to the board, although because the search committee is advisory, the board is under no obligation to choose the same finalists as the committee.

The on-campus interviews will probably also include public forums for the chancellor candidates to take questions, Flowers said. The Board of Trustees will announce the next steps of the process when the names are made public, he said.

“If you have any interest in who will be running this institution, regardless of  whether you’re going to be here or not, I would advise you to show up to those,” Flowers said.

Staff writer Marnie Leonard can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @marsuzleo.

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