Column: The chancellor’s move toward darkness


Daily Egyptian file photo

By Sam Beard

An analysis of the details of the chancellor’s academic reorganization plan reveals his vision for the university to be a swift step towards dystopia.

With unprecedented climate change and a wildly unpopular government that’s ruled by a real-life billionaire super-villain as our backdrop, Chancellor Carlo Montemagno calls for creating and maintaining programs that cater to the needs of Big Data, Big Oil and the police state.

This directly aligns SIU with the interests of Big Brother and its hyper-militarized Stormtroopers that patrol our streets.


While most everyone on campus understands the need to rethink and grow SIU, Montemagno’s proposed police academy is quite possibly the last thing that this school needs.

A few weeks ago in his State of the University address, Montemagno said in order “[t]o secure the resources to invest in current and new programs, we need to identify programs that are weak and terminate those that are no longer necessary.”

These include women and gender studies and, of course, black studies, as they apparently have had their time to shine and are “no longer necessary.” Clearly, they are unworthy of departmental autonomy and must be terminated immediately.

Instead we will focus on Big Data and open a cyber-security department because the National Security Agency needs all the help they can get after that gadfly Edward Snowden ratted on them.

Not only that, but we must create a program to pump out more cops because we do not have enough of them already and nothing says “Black Lives Matter” like proudly dissolving the Department of Africana Studies and opening up a police academy.

To top it all off, the chancellor’s fantasy for SIU is one in which the university remains complicit in literally destroying the planet.

Understandable indeed, as he did get his master’s in petroleum and natural gas engineering. But that was all the way back in 1990 before the scientific censuses on the evidence of man-made climate change emerged.


But the facts are in!

Global warming is seriously exacerbated by the burning of fossil fuels and is leading to unprecedented severe weather.

Dozens of wildfires and a string of hurricanes have ravaged the American landscape over the past several weeks and NASA said that 2016 was the hottest year on record.

The oil and gas industry are one of the main culprits in these string of environmental catastrophes and the chancellor wants align this institution with industry by maintaining an advanced energy and fuel management program.

We must keep fossil fuels in the ground and immediately shift away from their use if we want earth to remain habitable for future generations.

How is this even up for debate?

If SIU is to be a force of good in what is quite possibly the single most important issue of our time, that of climate change, it must cease to offer the oil and gas industry graduates, workers, research or support of any kind.

Instead, we should offer cutting-edge research into renewable energy and stop trying to push fracking and the false narrative of clean coal down everybody’s throats.

According to a report by the Environmental Defense Fund published this year “[s]olar and wind jobs have grown at rates of about 20% annually in recent years and are each creating jobs at a rate 12 times faster than that of the rest of the U.S. economy.”

So not only is this in the best interests of job-seeking SIU students, but also everybody on Earth who doesn’t care about the profit margins of one of the most destructive industries in human history.

To protect our planet and all who reside within it, we must have a zero-tolerance for practices that accelerate its demise.

Yes, SIU must be redefined, just not as a direct extension of totalitarian state power and an apparatus of corporate control.

As student trustee, my responsibility is to look out for the interests of my peers and do what is best for the university.

Therefore, I cannot in good faith allow the chancellor’s imposition to move forward without resistance.

There is obvious potential in creating a university with lessened inter-departmental barriers, but the devil is in the details.

Our society is at the tipping point.

The question is will it tip over the edge and plunge into the depths of hell or will it reinvent itself as a force of good in a society that is oh so ill?

We must not allow Southern Illinois University to become an accomplice in the making of a new dark age.

“Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Student Trustee Sam Beard can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at (618)-453-8418. His office is located in the Registered Student Organization Suite on the third floor of the Student Center and his office hours are Mondays/Wednesdays: 11 a.m.-12:50 p.m., Thursdays: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., or by appointment.