Chancellor finalist Rodney Hanley wants SIU to balance budget by growing


Daily Egyptian file photo

By Cory Ray

SIUC chancellor finalist Rodney Hanley said he wants to address the budget crisis affecting the university by increasing revenue, not by relying on cuts.

“You can cut your way to a balanced budget or you can grow your way to a balanced budget,” he said, “and I’m very much a proponent of the growth model.”

Hanley spoke with faculty, staff, students and community members at a public forum on campus Tuesday morning. Later in the day, he also spoke with students during a separate session.


Many of the questions asked related to the current state budget impasse, which is nearing its second year. Hanley said the budget standoff is “the big elephant in the room” for the university.

He said SIU must operate with a balanced budget. As a potential solution, he proposed increasing revenue by boosting international student recruitment, creating a stronger focus on recruitment outside of the 18 to 24 year-old demographic and by not relying on state funds.

He said the university must stop thinking about traditional reliance from state funds and move forward, suggesting it may need to switch to methods used by private universities.

“I think there’s room for potential growth for SIU to become the sustainability university for the entire state of Illinois,” he said.

Hanley said recent cuts have decreased morale in both students and faculty.

“Every institution I’ve been at, when I arrived there, it always like it was just the darkest of midnight,” he said, “but I think through some positive energy, some brainstorming and not being afraid to put some new ideas on the table and follow through with those ideas … we’ve been able to turn around the fortunes of those institutions.”

Regarding his goal to increase the international student population, he said SIU “is out of balance” with enrollment figures of other international students at other regional universities. He wants to increase international student enrollment by 10 to 15 percent.


According to the 2015-2016 SIU Factbook, about nine percent of all students were international students during that academic year.

Part of Hanley’s reasoning for increasing the number of international students is creating more diversity in the university. He said he would also require all senior administrators to annually undergo diversity performance evaluations.

“I believe the greatest threat to higher education in the United States today is the channelization and the exclusion of diversity in the academy,” he said. “It is a profound problem.”

Hanley’s ideas are what he called parts of strategic planning. He said he had a hard time finding any strategic plans for the university budget online, joking the plans were in “witness protection” on the school’s website.

But faculty like Sosanya Jones, an assistant professor in the higher education program, said they worry what the future holds for their positions as many non-tenure track faculty either receive non-renewals or still do not know their contractual status for the fall, and as other faculty leave for more stable positions at other institutions.

“With institutions that are experiencing financial stress, it’s very easy to have that brain drain play out,” Hanley said.

According to Hanley, the insurance of pay and increasing compensation over time is the most effective way to retain faculty at the university.

“Very talented, very active professors will have employment options elsewhere,” he said. “We want to make sure that our best people don’t jump ship, especially on issues around compensation.”

When asked by Dean of Science Laurie Achenbach what he believes the university will look like in five to ten years, he said a focus on interdisciplinary studies will be key.

Hanley said an interdisciplinary focus is not solely relegated to STEM fields.

“When I look at what’s going on in society as a whole, I see more than ever the need for a strong liberal arts education,” he said. “I just can’t allow the liberal arts to die in the line.”

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Hanley, a Decatur native, currently serves as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Fisk University, as well as a professor in its Department of Biology.

A first generation student, Hanley served in the National Guard in his youth. He is a graduate of Eastern Illinois University with a bachelors degree in environmental biology.

He graduated with a doctorate in biology from the University of Kansas before going to the University of North Dakota for post-doctorate research.

After an opening for the dean of science at University of Winnipeg, Hanley applied for and was offered the position. At Winnipeg, Hanley said oversaw the construction of a new science center.

After three years at Winnipeg, Hanley served as provost of Lakehead University in Ontario. According to Hanley, the school was in a state of declining enrollment — a factor currently affecting SIU —  and part of his job was to increase enrollment. It was increased by 268 percent over a three year time span, according to Hanley’s CV.

Hanley moved back to the U.S. after three years at Lakehead and started his current position at Fisk University, a historically black college.

Joining Hanley in the chancellor search are current interim Chancellor Brad Colwell, George Hynd of Oakland University and Carlo Montemagno of the University of Alberta.

Colwell was appointed the interim chancellorship in Oct. 2015, nearly a year after the death of interim Chancellor Paul Sarvela in Nov. 2014.

Hynd is currently president of Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan.

Montemagno is a professor in engineering, chemical and materials engineering at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. He will host his forums on Wednesday.

Editor-in-Chief Cory Ray can be reached at or on Twitter @coryray_de.

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