Daily Egyptian

Illinois House Higher Education Committee to hold hearings at Carbondale, Edwardsville regarding SIU System

By Brian Munoz, Staff Reporter

Emanuel “Chris” Welch, Illinois House Higher Education Committee chairman, will be heading a legislative panel in Carbondale on Monday afternoon to discuss stakeholders thoughts and feelings regarding the funding switch from Carbondale to Edwardsville, the proposed split of the system, the status of SIU and higher education in general.

The hearing in Carbondale will be held at the SIU Carbondale Research Park Office of Economic & Regional Development on Monday, Aug. 20 at 1:00 p.m.

Welch will be hearing from legislators representing the two campuses, campus administrators, faculty, staff, students and other stakeholders on a number of issues facing the SIU system, according to a news release.

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Welch will be heading the legislative panels at the Carbondale and Edwardsville campus “as part of his efforts to foster productive discussions around the future of higher education in Illinois in communities around the state in the coming months.”

“The turmoil seen at SIU these last few months is unfortunate, and it only further underscores the need for us to meet with everyone involved and think very carefully about the best path forward — not only for the SIU community, but for all of higher education in Illinois,” Welch said.

Earlier this year, the SIU Board of Trustees rejected a proposal to shift $5.125 million from Carbondale to Edwardsville.

Following the reallocation of funding measure’s failure, Metro-East lawmakers introduced legislation that would affect various organizational and funding models at the system level.

Last May, the board took an opposition stance to Illinois House Bill 1294 which calls for a 50-50 split in state funding between Carbondale and Edwardsville.

The board voted in opposition of Illinois House Bill 1293 — a bill that would dissolve the current board and appoints a newly constituted 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.

Last June, State Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, launched a petition calling for a study into the allocation of state funding between the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses.

Former SIU President Randy J. Dunn was later found to have worked with Edwardsville administration and legislators in drafting legislation that would dissolve the SIU System.

During a press conference last May after notes and emails were released where the former president called opposition of the reallocation “bitchers,” Dunn emphasized the need for a review of the university’s funding model.

“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.”

Dunn resigned from his position as president in July and J. Kevin Dorsey, a retired SIU School of Medicine dean and provost, was appointed as interim president for $430,000 a year.

The board agreed to hire Dunn as a visiting professor at SIU Edwardsville on a $100,000 annual salary, starting Jan. 1. His role as a visiting professor at SIUE will continue through the Spring 2020 semester.

Welch said that he looks forward to hearing commentary from the community during the hearings.

“I am looking forward to two days of hearings on the pros and cons of various proposals that will undoubtedly help us understand the challenges at SIU better and determine the best ways we can help,” Welch said.

The SIU Board of Trustees is in the process of hiring St. Louis based legal firm Bryan Cave LLP and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges to address the system’s presidential search and a system evaluation.

Each contract is to be less than $100,000 to follow state procurement law, according to board chair Amy Sholar.

If you would like to speak or submit written testimonial during this hearing, you can do so by filling out a witness slip.

The hearing in Edwardsville will be held at Birger Hall on Tuesday, Aug. 21 at 10:00 a.m.

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

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