Daily Egyptian

Dunn says system priorities this year are diversity, administrative cost-saving, supporting K-12 in region

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Daily Egyptian file photo

Daily Egyptian file photo

Daily Egyptian file photo

By Marnie Leonard

During a taped State of the System address uploaded on Youtube on Tuesday, SIU System President Randy Dunn laid out his three priorities for the university system in the coming year: diversity and inclusivity, reducing administrative costs and supporting public education in the region.

In July of 2016, the Board of Trustees created the Diversity Advisory Council to “provide advice and counsel on issues of diversity and inclusion,” according to a university news release.

Dunn said he has asked the council to look into establishing partnerships with historically black and Hispanic colleges in the Midwest to expand upon that effort.

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The system must address inequity in student opportunity and success and create sustainable campus change to ensure all students feel welcome, Dunn said.

“Numerous times during my tenure as SIU president, marginalized groups and populations have told me personally about the ways they feel excluded and unwelcome at SIU,” Dunn said. “It is critical that all members of our SIU community have equal access to the benefits of a university that shows it values social justice and equality and will take concrete steps to dismantle bias and other discriminatory actions.”

Another priority, Dunn said, will be continuing to identify the areas in which administrative operations and costs can be streamlined, reduced and centralized across all SIU campuses.

A designated team is examining whether a shared services approach would be applicable for responsibilities like Title IX and Civil Rights Act compliance.

Dunn said a comprehensive review will be conducted by a nationally recognized firm to determine what area has the best chance for successful cost saving, whether it is information technologies, human relations, budgeting or something else.

“The public higher education business model faces an unprecedented set of challenges, making it even more critical that we get the biggest bang from scarce resources,” Dunn said. “The decades of expansion of higher ed have come to an end, and that demands a shift in strategy around the condensing and sharing of business operations to take full advantage of the efficiencies that come from truly operating as a system.”

During the video address, Dunn also announced the creation of Great Schools SI, which he said is a collaborative initiative to support public K-12 education in southern Illinois.

The effort, he said, will focus on supporting teacher preparation, promoting new models of educational delivery and building overall confidence public schools in the region.

More information will become available soon, Dunn said, adding that it is SIU’s responsibility to lead the initiative.

“Supporting the public schools is in our DNA,” Dunn said. “It’s in my DNA, too.”

In July, state lawmakers reached a budget deal after a two-year impasse that led many Illinois public universities — including SIU — to make extensive budget cuts, lay off staff and axe campus departments.

Though the deal was struck for fiscal year 2018, Dunn said it doesn’t mean the state is out of the woods for future fiscal years.

“While we’ve had some budget success at long last, we can’t take for granted that the 2019 spending plan will readily be agreed upon next year,” Dunn said.

Because 2018 is an election year, Dunn said longtime Illinois political observers have said there could be a scenario in which “we’re doing the same dance all over again.”

“Please be reminded that we must all be fierce advocates for our university specifically and higher education generally in the state of Illinois,” Dunn said.

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

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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