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Editorial: SIU is on life support, what happens if the board pulls the plug?

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Editorial: SIU is on life support, what happens if the board pulls the plug?

The sunset illuminates Pulliam Hall with warm light Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. (Brian Mu–noz | @BrianMMunoz)

The sunset illuminates Pulliam Hall with warm light Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. (Brian Mu–noz | @BrianMMunoz)

Brian Mu–noz | @BrianMMunoz

The sunset illuminates Pulliam Hall with warm light Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. (Brian Mu–noz | @BrianMMunoz)

Brian Mu–noz | @BrianMMunoz

Brian Mu–noz | @BrianMMunoz

The sunset illuminates Pulliam Hall with warm light Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. (Brian Mu–noz | @BrianMMunoz)

By The Daily Egyptian Editorial Board

SIU Carbondale in its glory days had peak enrollment of more than 24,000 students and was considered the proud flagship campus of the Southern Illinois University System.

Today, the university has a dwindling enrollment of 13,346 students, low morale, lack of school spirit and a loss of its own identity.

The chancellor’s reorganization has left a complete lack of clarity and has created a void of understanding between students and faculty by delivering reorganization content in academic jargon.  

Since 2000 the university has seen nine different chancellors, four of which were interim, emphasizing a lack of stability in the most important leadership role.

How can a chancellor advance an institution they are supposed to lead if the university is often used as a stepping stone to a bigger paycheck?

The last chancellor in a permanent position before Chancellor Carlo Montemagno was Rita Cheng; she left after only four years to become president at Northern Arizona University.

SIU is stuck with a chancellor who sits in his ivory tower updating a blog in an attempt to justify his decisions and enthusiasm for SIU — only interacting with students if it is part of his PR campaign to spin his reorganization plan in a positive light.

How did the university that has hosted a United States president, the secretary general of the United Nations and the university whose students participated in protests during the Vietnam war come to such a demise?  

The former jewel of southern Illinois is now at risk of losing its essential funding with a potential state allocation shift to its sister campus at Edwardsville.

At the hand of Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, a knife was stabbed into the state’s higher education system and as the state faced a budget impasse – politicians in Springfield twisted that knife bit by bit over the span of three years.

A common argument made is that SIU Edwardsville “saved” the Carbondale campus from its demise with a loan of $35 million last May.

The university paid back the loan to Edwardsville in July 2017, according to university spokeswoman Rae Goldsmith.

The Edwardsville campus relied heavily on the Carbondale campus for support during the years of growth into the successful university it is today.

In 1956, the original goal of the SIU Board of Trustees on the expansion campus was to make an accelerated provision for higher education facilities in the Metro-East as quickly as state funding became available.

The haste in expanding the university to serve the St. Louis area during the ‘50s is often forgotten.   

When the Southwestern Illinois Council for Higher Education executive committee and the SIU Board of Trustees agreed to expand the reach of SIU to the metro-east community, it is certain that it was never expected the expansion of the campus would attempt to take over as the flagship.

The proposed shift of approximately $5.1 million dollars in state funds is only the beginning of SIU Carbondale’s death by a thousand cuts.

A death that could end in Edwardsville receiving $23.3 million in state funding over four years, which would previously have been allocated to the Carbondale campus.

As Montemagno stated in his blog, if the funding shift is approved, Carbondale’s financial recovery and stability would be compromised — the shift in funds being equivalent to the layoff of 110 faculty and staff, and would take more than $39 million from the local economy.

What does this look like for the Carbondale campus and the southern Illinois region as a whole?

If enrollment continues to decline and funds continue to be shifted, the towers won’t be the only desolate buildings in the foreseeable future.

The university, which has been an economic catalyst — adding thousands of students every year to the local economy — would turn into a community college that could potentially only serve the remaining blue collar families left in southern Illinois.

Other students will flee to surrounding out-of-state universities, paying less and receiving more than what SIU could now offer them.

The university turning into a community college would result in the loss of diverse and educated academics which add to Carbondale’s unique and diverse culture.

While the outcome may look bleak, there are various things that set SIU and southern Illinois apart from your average midwest university and region.

We’re located in some of the most scenic land in the state, with the heart of Shawnee Forest only minutes away from the university.

For now, the Carbondale community sustains the local economy of artisans, chefs, musicians and businesses which add to Carbondale’s rich culture.

The beloved local breakfast and pizza spots students and the community enjoy will not survive if the university continues to be depleted of resources and students.

The Carbondale campus provides a window to the world for the locals. Losing the university will inevitably close the window to Carbondale’s diverse culture and opportunity for students and the community.

Before approving the funding shift of approximately $5.1 million dollars, the Board of Trustees should consider what SIUC and its unique community has generated.

SIU offers hundreds of academic programs and research opportunities at all levels — bachelors, masters and doctorate programs.

There aren’t many universities where you can dive into research your freshman year and create substantive work in your field.

Our alumni have reached success across the country and internationally.

Jackie Spinner, former Washington Post reporter, attended the SIU School of Journalism and covered the war in Iraq after her time at SIU.

Darryl Jones, the bassist for the Rolling Stones, attended our beloved alma mater and received his bachelor’s degree in political science and a masters degree in higher education.

Curt Jones, the creator of Dippin Dots, Melissa McCarthy, famous for her roles in the Gilmore Girls and Saturday Night Live, Walt Frazier, former NBA player — the list goes on and on.

An investment in SIU Carbondale is an investment in the betterment of future generations of students and it will not go to waste.  

If the SIU Board of Trustees gives up on our university, the Carbondale campus will die — and with that, so will the community that many call their home.

Do not let Edwardsville gain a name through the death of Carbondale.

The Daily Egyptian Editorial Board can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @dailyegyptian.

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18 Responses to “Editorial: SIU is on life support, what happens if the board pulls the plug?”

  1. Sam D on April 11th, 2018 11:54 am

    Love the final line of this open letter.

    Also feel that it’s beneficial for Edwardsville to change its name it Edwardsville State University and become a stand alone public university.

  2. Amad on April 11th, 2018 12:02 pm

    Unfortunately SIUC admin is the most corrupted university admin I have ever seen in the US
    I used to be a PhD candidate at SIUC Poli Sci program from 2014 til I was forced to transfer to a different university in California..
    I loved SIUC Campus and I love Cdale, but the program was horrible, I and many other students in the Poli Sci department got many issues and when we complain to the dean he failed to even meet us..

    The last thing the school did hired Joseph Grant the chair of the department whom I wouldn’t even put as the chair of my table.

  3. Jennifer Presar on April 11th, 2018 1:02 pm

    Change the narrative. It seems the DE is part of the self-fulfilling prophecy of a closure (which is possible, but it is also not so.) You, as the student paper, could be part of the change. Be balanced. For every “doomsday” article (front page) you put out – find a positive, amazing article to focus on. The faculty and students at SIU are doing amazing things. Change the narrative. You might help change the direction of the ship.

  4. Bill Wilson on April 11th, 2018 1:33 pm

    I agree if SIUC closes up shop Carbondale will die. This is the result of bloated admin costs. Get rid of most of those crooks and SIUC might thrive again.

  5. Steve Brown on April 11th, 2018 1:47 pm

    The challenge ahead remains the need to revitalize the Carbondale campus. Hopefully the financial consultant determines to slow he shift of funds or determines a better distribution measure relates to the real cost of students. The so-called 60-40 split is rooted in anything other than a well worn tradition. It is akin to the idea that U of I should get 50% of the state dough. Why? They were the big dog. SIU got 25% and the rest was sprinkled over the other directional.
    Notice no mention of the reorg which does not seem to be a tool in the enrollment expansion tool box.
    If focus is kept on building enrollment other troubles will take care of themselves.

  6. Jason Stulgate on April 11th, 2018 2:31 pm

    SIU-C was a great school when I graduated in 1992. I revisited in 2014, and noticed some new development and the housing looks to be an eyesore, like at Thompson Point (or Pit then, maybe now too). Having toured various college campuses for my family members, I see that housing is an area for improvement at SIUC. Times have changed and attracting students with better accommodations could help. I haven’t followed all that is going on at SIUC, but I’m sure that they’re Marketing could also help (was once ranked in top 5% of nation). Best of luck Salukis!

  7. Barbara Pfeffer on April 11th, 2018 2:58 pm

    I worked & attended classes from 1992 & retired 12/08. From the “small” workers who did all the work, saw this entire scenario being played out. The administration became too heavy & treated civil service personnel as dirt. Back in the early 2000s the administration wanted to b another Uof I. I’ll told my boss at the time it would never happen. But who was ? Just another Civil SERVANT whose opinion meant nothing because I didn’t have letters after my name. When I retired from SIU in Dec/ 2008 after sixteen years of service i was only making $11-12/hour as an office manager. Since I retired I have discouraged everyone who has expressed interest in SIU to go elsewhere. SIU was deteriorating. When I came to SIU in 1992 campus enrollment was 23,000 to 24,000. With the interest in administration & politics it has deteriorated to nothing. I visited campus a few months ago. 2 of the 3 towers were empty. Thompson point was opened. Greek Row was deserted except for a few offices. It looked like a deserted community. I was actually ashamed where in the past i could brag about SIU. RIP Adimistration. Good luck SIU to regain your satus. Get rid of 99% of admin & political jobs & regain our SIU PRIDE. GREAT LOOKING ATHLETIC FACILITIES THOUGH! Maybe could use it to increase crop production in Illinois!

  8. Mark Henning on April 11th, 2018 4:04 pm

    “SIU is stuck with a chancellor who sits in his ivory tower” seriously? Self-fulfilling much?

    This is horrible, biased journalism which in my opinion destroys any legitimacy that the DE ever had.

    Not only are the facts of this statement off but the presence of a clear bias against one single person seems very inappropriate, especially for a student paper. Sounds a lot like FOX NEWS instead of the DE. This article essentially says that the new chancellor should have came in and changed nothing, wake up, the university needs a drastic restructuring to even survive. Also on a side note, the chancellor has been meeting with student groups as well as entire schools to speak with students about restructuring. Actually promote the school instead of dragging it through the dirt.

  9. Tony Williams on April 11th, 2018 5:30 pm

    A responsible and very serious editorial. Well done, present editorial DE Board and investigative reporters. Keep up the good work.

  10. Stacy Fischer on April 11th, 2018 5:53 pm

    I graduated in 1990. I lived on Greek Row and a couple of apartments in town. This makes me want to cry. I had some of the best years of my life at SIUC. I’m so sorry that other young adults will never have the opportunity to experience SIUC the way that I did.

  11. Jonathan Self on April 11th, 2018 6:18 pm

    I am an Alum of SIUC, Class of 2000. I graduated with a bachelors degree which set a strong foundation for my future. This includes two graduate degrees, as well as a solid career in education and a growing career in game development. I attribute this entirely to the powerful psychology department (shout out to Drs. DiLalla and Dillinger), as well as a cohesive group of friends that I maintain to this day. I got my voice and my calling at SIUC.

    Part of the power of the university when I attended was the countercultural influence that permeated the university from the days of the Vietnam War. Much like Youngstown and Standord, our university was tempered in the fire of social unrest, which created a culture less focused on fraternities and sports, and more focused on ideas and the arts.

    The university, in its shortsightedness, killed campus culture following the riots of 1999. Yes, the riots were uncalled for, but the university response was heavy handed. The university, once a place people remained during breaks, suddenly became a dead zone. The local music scene still struggles to flourish. The local art scene took a serious hit. Restaurants, bars, and other gathering places began to close up. The culture that I experienced, that had persisted since the 1960’s, went away.

    They tried to replace it with “academics, sports, and fraternities.” The problem is, if folks want that, there are already other great choices in the state. If you want a crucible of national change, with a strong countercultural vibe, where you are encouraged by your environment (and the inability for so many of us to get home on the weekends due to a long drive) to explore yourself and new ideas, while still getting a great education… The administration killed that. Now, SIUC is bereft of an identity and is a sad shadow of before.

    If the university is serious about revitalizing itself, it needs to get back to its roots. Revitalize the local scenes, empower student protest about serious issues in our state and nation, and build the international base that brought new ideas and perspectives to campus.

  12. Mary Rosenow Greer on April 11th, 2018 8:11 pm

    You are so right, that the erosion of SIU programs will lead to the demise of the rich and varied Carbondale culture. Not to mention the precarious local economy, which heavily depends on the university. In my mind it is the mandate of the Board of Trustees to stand in stout defense of this culture and economy, NO matter the political pressures to preserve certain less than reputable people and extravagant but nonproductive programs. Earth to SIU: you serve middle and lower middle class students, capably and earnestly and often zealously seeking to pursue professions, often as the first college graduate within their families. Witness the inspired and low budget efforts of the DE staff. Get rid of costly pretentious programs that do not serve these people, trim the budget to preserve popular and productive programs. Hire a chancellor who understands this, and I can think of a number of dedicated LOCAL people who understand this!!!

  13. RLogan on April 11th, 2018 8:38 pm

    I really just want to echo the sentiments of Mr Self. You can get a solid education at many places (including Edwardsville), but siuC used to offer an experience that set it apart from classroom only environments. Why trek from Chicago, STL… for a classroom only experience?

  14. Matt Denny on April 12th, 2018 6:49 am

    Amen Jennifer! A lot of flat out blatant lies in this article about the chancellor, as has been the case for several DE articles lately. The DE is clearly on a mission. Positive news articles could help the university. Set a trend in journalism, stop the negative lies and look and write about the positive things on campus, and there are a lot. Every prospective student and their parent while on a campus visit pick up and read a DE. Would that make you want to send your kids here? Do your part, make a difference! A positive difference!

  15. Gus Bode on April 12th, 2018 2:43 pm

    Build up do not destroy. Provide an atmosphere that is conducive to learning in an enjoyable safe environment that will attract potential freshman and transfer students that will improve retention and graduation rate.

  16. goofball on April 12th, 2018 6:49 pm

    Stop DE bias!

  17. Phyllis Wagner on April 12th, 2018 7:13 pm

    The heart aches that the place where I found myself, had refuge, made lifelong friends with sorority sisters, and was friends with the people who eventually helped me meet the man I am married to for 31 years, is on the ropes. Our four daughters as also graduates of SIU and one also earned her MA. I fear for the town, which is one of the best small towns in America- I would hate to see SIU become one of the many towns you can pass through on Route 51, heading to Chicago. When I57 went in, that destroyed small southern towns. Now some behemoth is destroying a southern Illinois University. Shameful!!

  18. Barbara Manning on May 25th, 2018 9:56 pm

    It was a long, long time ago that I graduated with a BS in Journalism from SIU in 1973 (yes, I’m THAT old). It was a beautiful campus then, but hello? Thompson Point is *still* using the same housing? Yep, it’s time for the administration to stop thinking of itself and think of the university and the community.

    Is there something that can be done to get the community involved? I agree that the area has much to lose if it loses SIU.

    I can appreciate that the editorial lambastes the administration, that’s their job. Ours is to organize to correct the errors and pave the way to the future. I’m not in much of a position to help because I’m seriously far away (Japan), but I don’t want to see SIU close or become a mere shadow of its former self.

    And, oh, P.S. what’s wrong with uploading a pic? What’s up with Gravatar only?

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.

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