Colwell pushes mission statement, students deliver concerns of inclusivity

Colwell pushes mission statement, students deliver concerns of inclusivity

By Diamond Jones

Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell kicked off a student forum Tuesday night by saying he wants more people to read the university’s mission statement and take seriously the objective of maintaining the institution’s goals when resources are tight.

The university’s mission statement reads “SIU embraces a unique tradition of access and opportunity, inclusive excellence, innovation in research and creativity, and outstanding teaching focused on nurturing student success. As a nationally ranked public research university and regional economic catalyst, we create and exchange knowledge to shape future leaders, improve our communities, and transform lives.”

About 20 students attended the open forum for the next potential chancellor of SIU on Tuesday evening in the Student Services building. Colwell, one of three finalists for the position, discussed aspects of the mission statement such as quality of education, excellence in inclusion and diversity, research and discouragement as a result of the university’s financial situation.


“I definitely feel like I’m trying to put my best foot forward,” Colwell said. “Whatever happens in the best interest of this university is exactly what I want to see happen.”

Colwell brought up the worry of faculty and staff employment and layoffs. He said people are genuinely nervous about job security after budget cut goals were delivered to vice chancellors on April 10, but he said it will take a while to work through the cuts and said sharing further information at this time would be premature.

Illinois is now in its 22nd month without a budget, and, since the impasse began, public universities in the state have only received partial stop gap funding.

“If we were to remove the financial situation over the university, I’ll say that we’re doing pretty adequate,” Colwell said.

Like other candidates in previous forums, Colwell faced questions regarding marginalized groups on campus and the continuing concern of students not feeling welcomed within the institution.

Multiple students felt strongly that Colwell failed to answer their questions, and that he instead issued apologies for the way they felt.

Jada Kelly, a sophomore studying political science, said students don’t want emails as the main means of communication from the administration. She said students want administrators to be proactive and create policies that will prevent what students are concerned about from happening in the first place.


“Inclusivity is how the characteristics of diversity work together,” Colwell said. “It is a more impactful thesis of how well we work together and what we do to support that.”

Joshua Bowens, a sophomore studying political science and a candidate for USG president, emphasized wanting Colwell to better explain his views on improving the institution and what the interim chancellor believes SIU at its best would look like.

Colwell said he sees SIU at its best as a place where students can come and earn an education and degree in an environment where they can also grow emotionally and mentally.

Donald Chamberlain III, a graduate student studying social work, referred to last year’s May 2 protest, where over 300 students gathered, some voicing their displeasure with the current administration.

Chamberlain related the event to the decreasing enrollment rate of African-American students at SIUC. He pointed out that total enrollment for undergraduate African-Americans has steadily decreased from 3,086 students in the fall of 2012 to 2,094 in the fall of 2016. 

“We have to find administrators and staff who have similar culture and background of minorities,” Colwell said.

In response to Chamberlain’s question of whether decreasing minority enrollment is related to students not feeling welcome, Colwell said the institution is not in a stable financial situation to make any physical encounter toward hiring culturally different faculty and staff.

Brandon Kyles, a junior studying journalism and a candidate for USG president asked Colwell how he plans to contribute to bettering the university’s racial climate.

Colwell said administrators are working to gather data from the results of a student climate survey that was mass-emailed to the campus community this semester.

“That report is now being generated by the chancellor committee,” Colwell said. “I do not want any student or faculty or staff to not be satisfied with SIU.”

Other topics addressed included SIU’s marketing strategy and how the administration plans to make the school more appealing to potential undergraduates.

Colwell said social media and other wide areas of communication need to improve in order to better relate to upperclassmen high school students who may consider attending SIUC.

Regarding a question about how he will protect graduate students during the financial crisis, Colwell said even though he administered a 20 percent cut to graduate assistantship funding last year, he did not make any cuts to the funding this year. However, he said this does not guarantee that some positions will not still be cut since budget reduction decision are being handled on a departmental level.

But, Colwell said he believes graduate enrollment can grow since some graduate programs require students have an assistantship in order to enroll in their program.

“I’m not embarrassed by anything I’ve done,” Colwell said. “We’re making steady progress.”

Campus reporter Diamond Jones can be reached at [email protected], 618-536-3325 or on Twitter @_dimewrites.

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Correction: Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this report. We regret the error.