Campus community criticizes chancellor’s reorganization plan to Board of Trustees

By Amelia Blakely

At the regularly scheduled Board of Trustees meeting Thursday, faculty and students expressed concerns with Chancellor Montemagno’s proposed university reorganization and leadership.

David Johnson, president of the Faculty Association, said if Chancellor Montemagno’s proposal was truly built on shared governance and didn’t eliminate departments then the campus community would not be outraged.

“He is trying to turn this place upside down and inside out,” Johnson said.


During the special Board of Trustees meeting on Dec. 13, Montemagno presented two slides that he did not present during the regularly scheduled meeting on Dec. 14.

The first slide was a shiny new sports car representing the value a SIU degree used to have. The second was a beat up and rusted car that now represents the value of an SIU degree.

“In Chancellor Montemagno’s view, everything is broken,” Johnson said. “SIU is a piece of junk that only Montemagno can fix.”

Feeling insulted by Montemagno’s comparisons, Johnson asked the Board of Trustees to look around the room and see all of the students and faculty who attended the meeting during finals week.

“Ask SIU students if their education here is Yugo level, ask faculty if their research is substandard, ask department chairs if their work is standing in the way of progress, and ask for evidence for what they say,” Johnson said. “I’m proud of SIUC.”

Johnson said he was confident the real problems that the university faces can be solved with making hard decisions based on evidence, build on what is working and change what isn’t.

He said he fears Montemagno’s proposal because it is clear what it will eliminate, but vague about what will replace the eliminations.  


Natasha Zaretsky, an associate professor in the History department, said the claim that concerns for Montemagno’s proposal are from a small group of disgruntled faculty or campus members who are unknowledgeable or resistant to change are untrue.  

“Our deeply committed faculty and staff know that adaptation is necessary for the survival of this institution,” Zaretsky said.

Zaretsky said in midst of the university’s existential crisis, she’s afraid for her job, for the university and for the southern Illinois region.

In this crisis it is time to think critically and collaboratively, Zaretsky said.

She said Montemagno’s proposal raises elemental questions including asking for evidence and data that his proposal will be effective.

“The chancellor has not been able to answer any of these questions,” Zaretsky said. “He’s provided no data, no evidence, no models, and no best practices he can cite to back up his plan.”

Lauren Schaefer, a representative from the Graduate and Professional Student Council, said the council disagrees with Montemagno’s claim that the current structure of the university and the use of graduate assistants as instructors of record is correlated with the university’s enrollment crisis.

In response to those claims, Schaefer said that according to Illinois Economic Policy Institute, more than 72,000 students left Illinois during the budget impasses in September 2017.

In addition to the lack of newly enrolled students, according to a recent SIU Diversity Council survey, current students and faculty reported a climate that is unwelcoming. This is specific towards African-American students and faculty.

Brandon Kyles, an undergraduate studying journalism and coordinator for the Black Affairs Council said, “The idea that we have nothing to offer and that we don’t understand what is going in this institution is a spit to our face.”

Kyles said as a student, he intimately understands why students choose not to stay at the university.

“We as undergraduates do not feel we are supported when we get here,” Kyles said.  “As a black individual I do not feel supported while being at SIUC. A restructuring does not fix the inherent problem.”

Joshua Bowens, Undergraduate Student Government President ended the public comments section of the meeting by addressing the lack of university support of the Africana Studies department and the previous decision to eliminate the department.

“How is this decision parallel to our university’s mission, which is to embrace unique tradition of access, opportunity, and inclusive excellence,” Bowens said.

Additionally, at the meeting, the Board of Trustees approved the appointment and salary of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute director John Shaw, and Lori Stettler, vice-chancellor of student affairs.

Staff writer Amelia Blakely can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @AmeilaBlakely.

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