SIU Board of Trustees fail to pass motion ousting SIU President Randy Dunn, approves release of documents


Brian Munoz

SIU President Randy Dunn speaks on the reallocation of funds from Carbondale to Edwardsville Wednesday, April 11, 2018, during the SIU Board of Trustee’s working day meeting in the student center. (Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz)

By Brian Munoz, Staff Reporter

In a 4-4 split vote, the SIU Board of Trustees failed to obtain the votes necessary in order to place SIU President Randy Dunn on administrative leave. 

At least one-half of the total membership of the Board shall be required for the initial selection of the President or the termination of the President’s services, according to board bylaws.

Trustees Sambursky, Britton, Ryan and Gilbert voted in favor of removing the president. Trustees Sholar, Jansen, Portwood and and Thomas voted against removing Dunn.

The board has also voted to release over 1000 pages of correspondence through the Freedom of Information Act that led for two trustees to call for Dunn being placed on administrative leave.

All trustees voted in favor to release the documents except for Thomas.

Board Vice Chair J. Phil Gilbert told the Southern Illinoisan that the university’s general counsel had sent 1,000 pages of unredacted correspondence to the trustees beginning the night before the May 30 special board meeting.

The contents of the correspondence warranted a special meeting to be called to consider placing Dunn on administrative leave while an investigation is conducted by an external legal counsel, Sambursky said in an emailed statement on June 7.

Sambursky further alluded to Sholar’s claim to transparency in the open letter to the system written last May and called for the immediate release of all documents that the board has received on the matter.

The special meeting of the full board comes after Trustees Joel Sambursky and J. Phil Gilbert called for a special meeting of the executive committee to be held on June 8.

See more: Board executive committee to hold special meeting on SIU president

The day after the announcement, Sholar said that the executive committee does not have the authority to remove president Randy Dunn from the presidency and appoint an acting president.

See more: Board chair announces executive committee can’t remove Dunn

“I am not convinced the executive committee has the authority to remove President Dunn or appoint anyone as a replacement,” Sholar said through an emailed statement on June 7. “Also, I do not believe that the matter is so urgent that an executive committee meeting is permissible for the purposes stated by these trustees.”

View the second half of the SIU Board of Trustee’s special meeting on June 21 below. 

Campus funding disparities

The board unanimously approved the hiring of a contractor to assess the funding model between the campuses during today’s special meeting.

Previously, the release of notes and emails in an opinion piece written by former faculty senate president Kathleen Chwalisz showed that Dunn was working with SIU Edwardsville officials in an attempt to shift more than $5 million in state funding from the Carbondale campus.

In the emails, Dunn spoke on the 60/40 state appropriation split between the campuses and said that it was an attempt to “shut the bitchers up from Carbondale.

See more: State legislators call for Dunn’s resignation following release of emails

Following the release of the emails, two state legislators called for Dunn’s resignation.

“President Dunn, calling the people in my district, the constituents that I serve, ‘bitches’ (sic) is not acceptable,” Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, said.

SIU President Randy Dunn said on May 18 that he will not resign in response to the calls to do so from the General Assembly.

“No, I do not plan to resign,” Dunn said at a May 18 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 that gets dealt with – not the General Assembly.”

Following the repeal of the $5.125 million funding shift on April 12, SIU Edwardsville chancellor Randy Pembrook sent a university-wide email expressing his frustration with the board and the Carbondale campus.

See more: SIUE chancellor pushes back on board vote

“The time has come for SIUE to capitalize upon its strengths and potential to create a new era, something that has been recognized by our legislators,” Pembrook said. The intercampus feud led lawmakers to present legislation that could potentially dissolve the university system, create separate boards for each campus or even require a 50-50 split in state appropriations for each campus.

Sambursky criticized Dunn during today’s special meeting, citing his failure to stay neutral to proposed separation legislation.

“The neutral position was intended to privately fan the flames of the seperation legislation while falsely waving the flag of neutrality,” Sambursky said.

Sambursky said while president Dunn was claiming on staying neutral on the bills since the board had not given a direction otherwise, he was anything but neutral on the legislation.

“President Dunn and his staff worked with Chancellor Pembrook to craft messaging in support of the legislation before the April board meeting,” Sambursky said. “Even asking area legislators to edit SIUE’s press release after the April board meeting supporting the legislation.”

Sambursky said that Dunn went as far as crafting talking points for Metro-East legislators that were filled with misleading information to potentially anchor efforts in gathering support for the separation legislation.

Effectiveness to lead

Chwalisz claimed that Dunn had contempt for Carbondale or for the SIU Carbondale campus in her opinion piece, which Dunn said was not so in the May 18 press conference.  

“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 at the press conference. “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.”

Some faculty believe that Dunn has lost the ability to lead effectively as the president of the system and some are calling for his removal.

Leading up to the May 30 special board meeting in Springfield, the SIUC Faculty Senate sent out a survey to faculty members asking what they wanted to say to the board members during their special meeting, according to a document obtained by the Daily Egyptian.

The open-response question was distributed to 906 SIUC faculty, and 232 provided responses, according to the document.

“Dunn has lost the confidence of the Carbondale campus and can no longer lead our university,” one faculty member wrote.

The responses also called for the removal of SIU Chancellor Carlo Montemagno in lieu of topics covered by the media since the chancellor’s arrival.

The Faculty Senate does not have an official stance on the matter, senate president Jonathan Bean said.

You can view the full document by clicking on the tab below. 

[aesop_document type=”pdf” src=”” caption=”Faculty Senate Comments to BOT – May 2018″]

During the public commentary, fourteen faculty members SIUE addressed the board in support of Dunn and one faculty member, from Carbondale, opposed.

Jonathan Pettibone, a professor in psychology at SIU Edwardsville, said that he saw Dunn as a leader.

“Sometimes leaders have to tell people, campuses and Boards of Trustees [what] they don’t want to hear,” Pettibone said. “He has my respect and I find that if this board may remove [Dunn] in the best interest of the system, it would be ironic at best and hypocritical at worst.”

Pettibone said that Dunn’s removal would be hastening the growing calls for seperation and would be a clearly partisan move that would be seen at the system, state and national level.

SIU Carbondale professor Kathleen Chwalisz said that Carbondale’s experience with Dunn has not been the same as what the Edwardsville staffers told the board.

“SIU Edwardsville has found a champion in president Dunn,” Chwalisz said. “SIU Carbondale has also been doing great things and has had the opposite experience with this president.”

Chwalisz also told the board that the proposal to realign the medical school with the Edwardsville campus would be “devastating” to southern Illinois’ healthcare system.

Shelley Price-Williams, SIUE School of Business Student Services and Transitions Coordinator, also said she supported Dunn and his courage.

“My trust in President Dunn is not broken or abused,” Price-Williams said. “I value [Dunn’s] visibility on our campus… especially in matters specific of diversity and inclusion. I value the transparency President Dunn exudes in communications with our system members and finally I value his courage.”

Anne Hunter, incoming president for SIUE staff senate, said that there has been a perception that Edwardsville is less than Carbondale.

“In the ten years that I have worked in the SIU system there have always been voices in the SIU system painting Edwardsville less than Carbondale,” Hunter said. “In some cases it has been subtle – such as referring to the Carbondale campus just as ‘SIU’ and others its been a matter of not accepting that Edwardsville is no longer the small commuter campus of 50 years ago.”

Hunter said that the loudest voices were heard earlier this year when the Board of Trustees very clearly stated that Edwardsville was not worth a $5.125 million reallocation.

Laura Scaturro, SIUE civil service employee, agreed with Hunter’s sentiments on the reallocation.

“I am here today to express my support for SIU President Randy Dunn and to express my frustration in delay of the reallocation process,” Scaturro said. “I would also like to express my disappointment in the Board of Trustees in what seems to be a backdoor process to remove President Dunn.”

View the public commentary portion of the SIU Board of Trustee’s Special Meeting on June 21 below. 

Dunn’s journey to the SIU presidency   

Randy J. Dunn is the eighth president of the SIU System, appointed in 2014.

Dunn started at the Carbondale campus as an professor in the Department of Educational Administration and Higher Education in 1995 and was named EAHE department chair in 2000, before being appointed state superintendent of education by the Illinois State Board of Education.

During his term as chair, Dunn also taught in the joint doctoral program in educational leadership at SIU Edwardsville.

Before taking the helm of the SIU system, Dunn was president at Murray State University from 2006 to 2013.

In a March 2013 meeting, the Murray State Board of Regents voted not to extend Dunn’s contract.

A report reviewed by the board members prior to the vote indicated that the university’s academic standing had fallen since Dunn took over leadership and enrollment at most of the regional campuses had fallen while enrollment at the main campus remained relatively flat.

The report also showed that in at least three major academic rankings, the university dropped significantly.

Murray State’s graduation rate dropped from 59 percent in 2006 to 51 percent in 2012 and the freshman retention rate dropped from 77 percent to 71 percent over the same time period, according to the report.

The vote to not renew Dunn’s contract was deemed controversial after a social gathering the night before the vote at one of the board member’s home in Murray, Kentucky, was revealed.

There was opposition to the vote claiming that the social event held the night prior constituted an illegal meeting since a quorum of members was present, public business was discussed, no minutes were taken and there was not a public notice of the alleged meeting.

Constantine W. Curris, board chairman at the time, moved for a re-vote, noting that the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office had ruled the social gathering in March 2013 as an illegal meeting because a quorum of board members was present and university business was discussed.

After the ruling, the Murray State Board of Regents took a secondary vote on Dunn’s contract renewal and upheld its 7-4 vote in opposition of the renewal.

Less than three weeks after the Murray State Board of Regents initially voted to not renew Dunn’s contract, he was named a finalist in the Youngstown State University presidential search.

Dunn said in an interview with The Murray State News that he was aware of the opening at YSU prior to the board’s vote, but did not apply for the position until its decision was officially made.

“When it became clear given the action of the board on March 15 that my time as president at Murray state would be ticking down in the next 16 months, that obviously called renewed interest to take a look at it,” Dunn said in an April 2013 interview with The Murray State News.

Dunn had previously applied for other positions while president at Murray State University.

Dunn applied to be president of the University of Tennessee system in October 2010, the president’s position at Missouri State University in 2012, the Florida Commissioner of Education in 2012 and he was a finalist in the presidential search at his alma mater, Illinois State University, in 2013.

Curris claimed that Dunn’s willingness to leave Murray State led the board to seek another president.

After leaving his position at Murray State, Dunn became the president at Youngstown State University for the 2013-2014 academic year.

Seven months into his new contract, Dunn announced he would be leaving his position at Youngstown State to become the president at Southern Illinois University.

When asked about the SIU presidency, Dunn told The Vindicator in Ohio , “I didn’t apply per se” for the Southern Illinois job.

The contracted presidential search group SIU used, William Funk & Associates, had approached Dunn multiple times during his time at Youngstown despite Dunn originally turning down the offer to apply.

“This will be the last job for me. I do not plan to leave this position until retirement,” Dunn said in a 2014 interview with the Daily Egyptian.

The board also approved expenditures on PBS’s station dues for WSIU and WUSI, the award of contracts in the Founders Hall renovation at SIUE, the purchase of mailing services at SIUE and a contract with JP Morgan Chase for credit cards on both campuses.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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

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