SIU Board of Trustees votes to oppose split of university system, no stance on funding study


Mary Newman

Vice Chair J. Phil Gilbert speaks on Wednesday, May 30, 2018, during the Board of Trustee’s special meeting at the SIU School of Medicine auditorium in Springfield. (Mary Newman | @MaryNewmanDE)

By Brian Munoz and Reagan Gavin

SPRINGFIELD – The SIU Board of Trustees has voted to oppose a series of bills ranging from a shift in state funding between the campuses to a call for the split of the university system on Wednesday during a special meeting at the SIU School of Medicine.

The board took an opposing stance, six in favor and one abstention, to Illinois House Bill 1294 which calls for a 50-50 split in state funding between Carbondale and Edwardsville.

“I am in favor of Edwardsville getting more funding,” Vice Chair J. Phil Gilbert said during the special board meeting, “It needs to be done in a fair fashion to where there’s notice to Carbondale’s side if they’re going to get less money and that they can adjust to it.”

Gilbert said that the adjustment in funds needs to be done in an orderly and measured way where everyone has a voice at the table.

“We’re going to allocate what’s appropriate for Edwardsville and what’s appropriate for Carbondale,” Gilbert said.

President Randy Dunn said in a press conference on May 18, 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.”

The board voted in opposition of Illinois House Bill 1293 – five in favor and two against; the bill dissolves the current board and appoints a newly constituted board.

The proposed would be made up of two student trustees – one from Edwardsville and one from Carbondale, six alumni trustees, three to be alumni from Edwardsville and three to be alumni from Carbondale and one trustee with no degree affiliation with the SIU system.

Additionally, both student trustees would have voting power.

“The reconstitution of the board gives both of the student trustees a vote so I am in favor of it for that reason alone,” Chair Amy Sholar said during the meeting. “In addition, I believe it brings balance and fairness to the board.”

The board did not take a stance on Illinois House Resolution 1051 which calls for an independent study by the Illinois Board of Higher Education in regards to the governance structure of the system and the viability of becoming two distinct universities with separate Boards of Trustees.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education filed a slip of no position, according to John Charles, SIU Director of Government and Public Affairs.

“Regardless of what the vote is, the premise of the discussion is we need the data, we need the study, we need the information should it be an independent or provided,” Sholar said.

Newly appointed trustee, Thomas Britton said that he would like a study conducted by an impartial body.

“I’d like it to be based on a study that has absolutely clear credibility and is done by an impartial body and I hope we can move forward with it,” Britton said. “I don’t support a resolution for a bill that would rob our board, our system and our institutions from determining its own financial future.”

The board voted to oppose Illinois House Bill 1292 which calls for the dissolution of the SIU system, creates separate boards for each campus and realigns the medical school, historically affiliated with the Carbondale campus, to the Edwardsville campus.

The vote to oppose the bill passed with five trustees in favor and two abstentions. Sholar and SIUE Student Trustee Luke Jansen abstained.

The special board meeting comes roughly a month after the board denied a shift of $5.125 million in state funds from the Carbondale campus to the Edwardsville campus.

Following the denial, SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook sent a university-wide email on April 12 expressing his frustration with the board and the Carbondale campus.

“Many Trustees stated that they thought SIUE should receive additional funding (i.e., “a bigger piece of the pie”) and their confidence was high that we would accomplish great things at SIUE with additional funding,” Pembrook said in the emailed statement obtained by the Daily Egyptian.

State representative Jay Hoffman, who represents SIUE’s district, will introduce legislation that would create separate trustee boards for the Carbondale and Edwardsville campus, according to Pembrook’s email sent after the board meeting on April 12.

SIUC Chancellor Carlo Montemagno said he was disappointed with the response to a request for collaboration between the campuses in an emailed statement following Pembrook’s email.

“The Carbondale campus has never been opposed to exploring the budget allocation model,” Montemagno said in the statement. “Our concern was that we were not invited to be part of a collaborative process that considered the multiple factors and metrics that should be taken into account before making changes that could have a substantial impact on our campus and region.”

The SIU Board of Trustees’ vote provides an opportunity to evaluate the allocation of resources objectively, according to Montemagno’s statement.

Five former SIUE chancellor’s called for a funding shift or a system split, through an opinion piece on May 20.

“SIUE at one time benefited from being part of the SIU System, but that is no longer the case,” the chancellors said in the open letter. “If the Board of Trustees cannot live up to its fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of Illinois and the University at Edwardsville, it is time for a change.”

Later it was revealed, through emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by former faculty senate president Kathleen Chwalisz, that Dunn had worked with SIU Edwardsville officials in an attempt to shift the funds, prior to the board meeting.

One of the emails obtained by Chwalisz through the Freedom of Information Act, Dunn said that the 60/40 funding split between campuses was to silence individuals from Carbondale.

“No, no… Im w/ you… I get it. A reference to the 60/40 now – which yes, goes back to before even Duane can identify – is simply to shut up the bitchers from Carbondale who are saying loudly we shouldn’t even be doing the $5.125M at this time,” Dunn said in an email to SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook, SIUE Budget Director Bill Winter and Vice President Duane Stucky according to a document obtained by Chwalisz.

One Carbondale man took the opportunity to sell t-shirts with Dunn’s statement on Etsy.

Following the release of the emails in an opinion piece published in the Southern Illinoisan, two representatives called for Dunn’s resignation.

“For the health of the university system, to preserve the future of SIU Carbondale, and because of his obvious and blatant disdain for my constituents and for the SIU Carbondale campus, President Dunn should resign from his position and he should resign immediately,” Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, said on the House floor on May 17.

The board did not address Dunn’s emails during the public portion of the meeting.

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

Editor-in-chief Reagan Gavin can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @RGavin_DE.

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