Reactions mixed over Montemagno’s plan to shake up academic departments


Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz

Southern Illinois University Chancellor Carlo Montemagno gives the “State of the University” speech Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, at Shryock Auditorium. Montemagno spoke on his vision for the university and the steps administration plans to take to increase enrollement numbers. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

By Cory Ray

Chancellor Carlo Montemagno sent an email to deans early last week detailing the first draft of his plan to reorganize the university’s academic units, which would result in a massive overhaul of every college on campus.

As it stands, the plan known as the “straw man” reorganization plan would consolidate the number of undergraduate colleges on campus from eight to five.

The plan follows the July approval of the Financial Sustainability Plan, a proposal from System President Randy Dunn which reduces the number of academic colleges on campus by one.


Under Montemagno’s plan, all colleges would be affected by the reorganization in some way.

The College of Science, which was referenced as a potential target for being merged into other colleges in the Financial Sustainability Plan, is drafted to be split between the College of Agricultural Sciences and the College of Engineering.

Life sciences would be absorbed into the College of Agricultural Sciences, while physical sciences would be transferred to the College of Engineering. Both colleges would then undergo name changes to represent programs within them.

The College of Mass Communication and Media Arts would be absorbed into the College of Liberal Arts, which would then be called the College of Liberal and Performing Arts.

“The object is not just financial,” MCMA Dean Deborah Tudor said. “It’s a way to put programs together that logically belong together.”

However, Faculty Association President David Johnson said he questions if departments will truly use the reorganization effort for the reforms Montemagno said he intends to put in place.

Journalism student Brandon Kyles, an undergraduate student government senator and senior from Chicago, said he worries where many departments could end up.


“At the end of the day, they’re different — the focuses are different,” Kyles said. “Why are we trying to mush everybody together to have one joint focus when that’s not that case?”

The College of Education and Human Services would be dissolved, with the induction of a new College of Health and Human Services.

This would also create a freestanding School of Education, which would still have its own dean.

The College of Applied Sciences and Arts will also be dissolved under the new plan, with some programs potentially falling under the College of Health and Human Services and the also newly-established College of Engineering, Physical Science and Technology.

“I am terrified, in all honesty, for the students that come after me,” Kyles said. “I do not know how this will produce better students.”

USG Vice President Emily Buice, however, said the changes make sense.

“As we move forward, we’re becoming SIU as we need to be instead of SIU as we were,” said Buice, a senior from Tallassee, Alabama studying public relations and history.

During his Sept. 26 State of the University address, Montemagno said the restructuring will save $2.3 million in administrative costs.

Johnson said this accounts for about one percent of the school’s overall budget.

He said the restructuring could “have some good effects in some cases” but could also be disruptive and a large undertaking.

“All the work that people could be doing to improve their programs, a lot of the service energy, service work that faculty could be doing is … all going into this reorganization,” he said. “Is that the best use of our time and energy?”

Right now, colleges like MCMA have schools, which house individual departments. Other colleges, such as the College of Science, contain no schools, and are only divided into departments.

Under the chancellor’s plan, every department would belong to a school, which will be lead by a director.

“It’s kind of a one-size-fits-all approach,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he has issues with the draft because Montemagno was not in close contact with faculty or student groups when organizing the plan.

“If people in the units decide what makes the most sense for them, then great,” he said. “But just telling everybody you’ve got to merge with somebody is problematic.”

The plan is a first draft of the reorganization, and it may change before any permanent decisions are made. Further, the draft does not specify where specific programs may end up.

Montemagno said in his speech the second draft will be published in November following input from constituency groups.

Still, Johnson said it’s a “top down” approach, as opposed to a bottom-up approach in which Montemagno would come to academic units first for input.

The finalized draft is scheduled to be implemented by July 1, 2018, according to Montemagno’s speech.

Buice said the best way for students to be involved is to communicate to USG senators, professors and other students about their concerns.

“Change is scary,’” she said. “It’s just a part of life … But once we get past that and we look at this, we start putting our voices forward and saying, ‘Yes, this is what we want. No, this is not what we want.’ That’s when we’ll able to make collaborative changes that will substantially help the university.”

Campus editor Marnie Leonard contributed to this story.

Staff writer Cory Ray can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @coryray_de.

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