SIU President responds to claims he holds Carbondale campus in “contempt”

Dunn: “No, I do not plan to resign”


Brian Munoz

SIU President Randy Dunn speaks to press on Friday, May 18, 2018, during a press conference in the Stone Center. Dunn held the conference following the release of emails and notes where he said that the 60/40 funding split between Edwardsville and Carbondale campuses was to “simply to shut up the bitchers from Carbondale who are saying loudly we shouldn’t even be doing the $5.125M at this time.”

By Brian Munoz, Staff Reporter

SIU President Randy Dunn said Friday he will not resign despite the calls for him to do so by two members of the General Assembly.

“No, I do not plan to resign,” Dunn said at a press conference.

“At the same time, my employment agreement is with the Board of Trustees of the SIU system and that’s where the question on hat gets dealt with – not the General Assembly,” he said.

The controversy started with an opinion piece by former SIU Faculty Senate president Kathleen Chwalisz published in the Southern Illinoisan.

In an email she obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Dunn wrote that a reference to a traditional 60/40 funding split between Edwardsville and Carbondale was “simply to shut up the bitchers from Carbondale who are saying loudly we shouldn’t even be doing the $5.125M at this time.”

The Board of Trustees later voted against the proposal to shift more than $5 million from the Carbondale campus to Edwardsville.

“In private email communication, I’m sure that all kinds of folks would have language they might look at and rethink,” Dunn said.

Dunn said that language was probably because of frustration in attempting to move things forward.

“If there was anything that it was born out of, there were probably some frustrations in trying to move a number of things forward at this time – it still doesn’t excuse the language for those offended by it,” Dunn said.

Dunn apologized for the language in an emailed statement sent on Thursday afternoon.

“I apologize for how I characterized those who reflexively refused to discuss the issue or engage in a dialogue about it,” Dunn said in the statement.

Dunn said he was not talking about any specific individuals in his statement.

Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, and Chad Hays, R-Catlin, called for Dunn’s resignation on the floor of the General Assembly, Thursday.

Chwalisz also wrote that Dunn had contempt for Carbondale or for the SIU Carbondale campus, which Dunn said was not so.

“I want to be very clear at the outset to say that is the furthest thing from the truth that could be the case,” Dunn said. “For anyone who thinks I’m about anything other than the growth and success of SIUC and the city of Carbondale, it is absolutely the case that I am invested and want it to move forward.”

Dunn said he did not know if his comments would hurt the image of the university and his effectiveness in Springfield.

“I think time will tell on that question,” Dunn said. “The situation is polarized, I don’t think anyone would argue or debate that.”

Keeping Carbondale informed
In regards to meetings with SIU Chancellor Carlo Montemagno in discussion of the proposed shift of $5.125 million from Edwardsville to Carbondale, Dunn said that Montemagno was not present at a Board of Trustees “sign-off” meeting on March 21.

The meeting was designed to put together the board’s agenda for the upcoming April meeting.

SIU Edwardsville presented the proposal for the funding shift to be brought up at the April board meeting but the materials were not ready, so the item was not included in the rough draft of the agenda created at the March 21 meeting, Dunn said.

At the conclusion of the March 21 meeting, Dunn said he spoke with Judy Marshall, executive director of administration and finance, and Matt Baughman, Montemagno’s chief of staff, to tell them that the proposal was coming.

Dunn said he then indicated to them at the time that he was not giving them any kind of instruction that they had to share or deliver that message to the chancellor, but assumed that they would.

But SIU Carbondale spokeswoman Rae Goldsmith said Dunn specifically directed Carbondale campus staff in attendance to not tell Montemagno of the proposed funding shift.  

The Board of Trustees agenda was published the morning of March 30 for the April 12 board meeting but the meeting with Montemagno was scheduled for the afternoon of March 30, after the board documents had been published, Goldsmith said.

Montemagno followed up with a memo to Dunn and the Board of Trustees on April 2, expressing his concerns on the proposal to shift $5.125 million from Carbondale to Edwardsville.

“Given this discussion, I was deeply disappointed to see a proposal on the board’s April agenda for the reallocation of $5.125 million from Carbondale to Edwardsville in FY 2019,” Montemagno said in the memo. “I was aware that such a proposal was forthcoming, but the first time I saw it was when it was released to the public.”

Dunn said if Montemagno wanted to talk more on the item, he should have contacted him.

“My assumption was given that he cancelled the meeting and there would be a reach-out if he wanted to talk about this because the material had been made part of the board agenda,” he said. “I didn’t have any further outreach until the blog was posted sometime later that week.”

Goldsmith said the issue was a distraction.

“This is pulling attention from what the real concern was from the Carbondale campus, and that was that it had no input into the development of the proposals or any of the factors that were considered,” Goldsmith said.

The Split
Dunn said a split in state appropriations in which 60 percent went to Carbondale and 40 percent to Edwardsville was a general goal.

“If you think about the percentage of the overall total appropriation from 1973 to 2018, as the Edwardsville campus has grown … they have a smaller percentage now than what they did going back to when we had good records we could pull from,” Dunn said.

Dunn said that the question on re-evaluating the split in allocations was not going away.

“Whether I am in the role as president or not, by my own hand or someone else’s, this question is not going away,” Dunn said. “This is not something that is going to roll into the next six months to a year and be forgotten about again.”

Recent events have also led to increased calls to separate the two campuses, with a current bill in the General Assembly that would break up the SIU system.

Bills to separate Carbondale and Edwardsville have been introduced in the Legislature several times through the years.

The Board of Trustees has remained neutral on the topic and Dunn said there would have most likely been an equal split on the topic by the board.

The board has called a special meeting May 30 at the SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.

“I think now it is very good we’re going to have that meeting on May 30 to get some direction on that,” Dunn said. “Whatever that is, we will follow.”

Staff reporter Brian Munoz can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @BrianMMunoz.

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