Letter to the Editor: Chancellor has lost ability to lead, should resign

By Will Stephens

I am a lifelong resident of southern Illinois, a 1999 graduate of Carbondale High School, and a 2005 Graduate of SIUC. I remember when SIUC was a vibrant and bustling place filled with more than 23,000 students.

I remember the economic opportunity that came with those students and the pride that it instilled in the region.

Since that time SIUC enrollment has been in decline and now stands at 13,300 students. There are many things that have led to this decline.

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Some of which include the abysmal leadership of Illinois politically, tuition hikes driving freshman and sophomore classes to Junior Colleges, the weight of pensions on Illinois’ budget, changing desires of millennial students, surrounding states offering in-state tuition to Illinois residents, and other challenges outside the Universities control.

Another problem that has persisted as a reason for the failure of SIUC as an institution are those people who wish to use the University for their own financial gain, and the financial gain of their family.

For too long SIUC has served as both an educational institution and a nepotism factory. Too often it seems that jobs are awarded to the politically connected and not to the most qualified applicant.

A quick review of the people finder on the SIUC website can find numerous instances of people employed by the University that seem to have family ties to some person within the power structure of the University.

This fact was recently highlighted in a new way when it was reported by the Daily Egyptian that the Chancellor himself engineered his daughter and son in law into jobs that seem to have been conjured up out of thin air and never advertised to the public.

Not just any jobs, but jobs that pay $52,000 per year and $45 per hour respectively. The response from the University is to say that this is “not unusual” and it’s just a part of the hiring process.

It is particularly offensive to me because the average resident in Murphysboro Illinois makes $19,000 per year. That is less than $200.00 per week after taxes. What office should these average residents visit in order to get a job making $52,000 per year? What office should these average residents visit in order to get a job making $45 per hour? What qualifications should I tell them they need to have in order to receive such a job? What should I tell them the interview process will be like? Perhaps I should tell them to get a subscription to ancestry.com and after review of their family tree they should hope they are related to the Chancellor.

So why does any of this matter? It matters because Chancellor Carlo Montemagno has lost the ability to lead at a time when leadership is desperately needed. His plan isn’t devoid of value, but because of these hires he has lost the ability to implement it.

He now has no authority to talk about the financial difficulties facing higher education in Illinois. No ability to right size the university. If these hires were done with the tacit approval of the Board of Trustees and the University president then they should be held to account as well.

Ultimately this chancellor cannot lead and therefore he should resign. Furthermore, SIU should begin the process of instituting a real policy that will curb these type of nepotism hires. It would be a worthwhile first step toward instilling confidence in the university throughout the southern Illinois region and beyond.

These assertions may offend some, but there comes a time when to remain silent is a betrayal of our own character. I am not willing to commit such a betrayal.

Will Stephens, WXAN General Manager and Mayor of Murphysboro can be reached at 618-426-3308.

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