Chancellor and provost change at least 20 campus policies, are pleased with semester

By Luke Nozicka

Interim Chancellor Paul Sarvela walked into the chancellor’s office his first day on the job, amazed by the amount of paperwork he was asked to sign each morning.

“Why do I need to approve a cook?” said Sarvela, who was named acting chancellor July 8. “Every day I walk in I have a stack; I start my day by signing my name.”

Streamlining paperwork is just one topic of the at least 20 campus policies Sarvela and Interim Provost Susan Ford have changed in the past four months.

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Aside from allowing  retired faculty to be rehired and allowing principal investigators of a grant to be in charge of the money they’ve been awarded,  Sarvela and Ford have made it so chairpersons can be placed back on 12-month contracts.

“The past administration made a decision to move all chairs to 11-month contracts, I think primarily as cost saving,” said Ford, who replaced former Provost John Nicklow when she assumed his responsibilities Aug. 4. “It’s a considerable savings in dollars but the issue then is, is it a saving in terms of effectively getting the business of the university accomplished?”

Sarvela said each chairperson makes about $8,000 a month, and there are roughly 80 departments on campus, meaning this decision made by former administration saved the university $640,000 for the month chairpersons weren’t paid each year. He said chairpersons should be paid if he or she chooses, because they work year round.

“I used to be the dean of [the College of Applied Sciences and Arts] and you’d have aviation students flying up all over the place, and what if the [Federal Aviation Administration] came do to an inspection?” Sarvela said. “You need to have the chair there.”

Sarvela and Ford have also changed the 5-10-15 rule, which said 100- and 200-level courses required at least 15 students, 300- to 400-level classes required 10 students and 500-level courses needed at least five students enrolled.

Ford said if classes didn’t meet these requirements, they would be dropped for that semester. Now department chairpersons decide if classes with low enrollment need to be cancelled, she said.

“If you have 10 [students] and it requires 15, as a chair you might decide, ‘I’m going to let it go because the instructors are planning to teach it and those 10 students are planning to take it, but I’m going to look at the low enrollment and not offer it as often,’” Ford said.

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Ford said the two also signed off on a policy allowing students who earn external internship grants to make as much money as the employer allows. She said students had to turn down internships because previous policy only allowed student workers to be paid the student wage.

“If I wrote a grant and instead of paying $8.50 or $9 an hour, or whatever that minimum wage is, I said my student workers can get $12 an hour, they’re able to get the $12,” said Sarvela, who has two kids in college. “We obviously want students to make as much money as they can, I mean c’mon.”

The two also decreased the cost per credit hour for military students who attend the university, from $350 to $250, Sarvela said.

“This is more cost competitive compared with our peers,” he said. “[Military students] would walk into the room for SIU and we say ‘well it’s going to cost you $350 a credit hour,’ when the federal government will pay the $250.”

The 20-hour student work cap has also varied in the past four months. Ford said students can now work up to 37.5 hours a week when school is not in session for at least five days, including summer semesters, although the rule still applies for fall and spring semesters.

Adrian Miller, student trustee on the SIU Board of Trustees, said administration should consider changing the cap to at least 25 hours a week.

“I really do believe there needs to be a middle ground,” said Miller, a senior from Carbondale studying political science. “I’ve talked to many students who say adding five hours would mean a lot. There needs to be some kind of compromise.”

The hours of the Student Services Building also changed, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., to 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Ford said. She said the building is still open later during the week before the semester begins and during the first week of classes, but having it open until 7 p.m. each day was not beneficial to students.

“It’s a task for the staff because it is the same staff and they have to work late hours to cover those hours,” Ford said. “We kept a track record of it… and the building is dead after 4:30. You’d get a phone call a week and you might get a walk-in every couple of weeks. You’d have a whole bunch of staff there sitting in an empty building.”

Ford said the way dean’s council—when the deans meet with the chancellor and provost once every two weeks to discuss campus issues—has changed as well. She said the meetings did not allow for much discussion or feedback before.

“They were presented to. ‘This is what a blue ribbon committee has decided and we just want to let you know.’ Now it’s really more of a discussion … They’re part of the decision making,” Ford said. “The meetings are great. They’re lively; I can’t keep them quiet.”

Sarvela said administration is also looking to reorganize student services. He said Mickey Latour, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, is leading a committee to rearrange services such as University Housing, the Dean of Students, the Center for Inclusive Excellence, University College and others under one umbrella group.

Ford said housing reports to one vice chancellor, while Dean of Students reports to another. She said this is difficult because people who oversee the services don’t attend the same meetings.

“For example, housing puts on what, 3,000 to 4,000 programs a year for our students. Well suppose they want to do some health stuff. It’d be nice if the housing person and the student health service person all met at the same meeting once a week,” Sarvela said. “They can talk immediately and it’s not a big deal.”

Sarvela said the board has asked him to take a look at the necessity of certain student fees.

“You know student fees—everything gets added bit by bit over the years and it’s always good to sit there at some point and say … “Are they all still doing what they were intended to do?,” Ford said.

Ford said most of the policy changes are made to reinforce her and Sarvela’s strong dean model, which she said has worked smoothly this semester.

“Rather than coming from a top-down model, it really is empowering the folks that do the work to make the right decisions,” Sarvela said.

Laurie Achenbach, dean of the College of Science, said the model is a great one to work under because it gives deans more flexibility for use of budget funds and hiring decisions that are not staff or faculty positions.

“For student researchers who work on grants, it used to be in the last few years we’d have to get those approved by the provost and the chancellor,” Achenbach said. “Let’s say that a faculty member retires, it use to be in a position control that those moneys were swept by the central administration and they were then divided out to the institution as a whole, based on the priorities of the institution. Now a majority of those funds are kept within the college.”

Achenbach, who was appointed interim dean in May 2012, said she is happy to see the campus go back to the strong dean model, a model the campus functioned by for many years.

“[The model] was certainly changed during the time when we were in serious financial condition during the time that Chancellor [Rita] Cheng was in office,” Achenbach said.

Miller said Sarvela’s leadership style is being perceived well.

“In the past five years, when decisions have been made, I think a lot of people felt left out,” he said. “I don’t think that was the best way to run a campus.”

Sarvela said although there are some financial difficulties within the university’s budget, he is pleased with how the semester is going.

“We’re achieving what we’re trying to achieve,” he said.

Luke Nozicka can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @lukenozicka.

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