23, No. 7, Oct. 2, 2003
Provost: Campus facing challenges with ‘dedication, imagination,
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
Despite an effective budgetary cut of more than $48 million this fiscal
year through baseline reductions and reallocations for unavoidable expenses,
the Urbana campus is making progress in many areas, Provost Richard
Herman said at the Urbana-Champaign Senate meeting Sept. 29.
This fiscal year, administrative units were told to plan for budgetary
cuts of 10 percent or more and academic units for decreases of 8 percent.
Cuts were made differentially rather than across the board, with the
primary goal being that of protecting the university’s core missions,
As a result of the administrative review that was undertaken, several
senior administrator positions were eliminated and other measures were
identified that will save more than $3 million annually, Herman said.
Since last fiscal year, staff has been reduced by more than 460 FTEs,
comprising about 32 faculty positions, more than 110 graduate teaching
assistant positions and 310 net FTE academic and civil service positions.
Student Affairs cut 35 FTE staff and more than $500,000 in operating
During the past
two years, the university’s general revenue funds have declined
21.5 percent and tuition revenues have increased by 41.2 percent.
Salary increases for faculty and staff members were deemed high priorities
in the FY04 budget; the preliminary state budget request for FY05 contains
a 4 percent general salary increase and a 2 percent retention increase,
As of the 10th day of instruction this semester, 260 courses and sections
had been eliminated, with 229 of those being 100-level courses. However,
administrators are considering restoring some of the Freshman Discovery
courses that were canceled for spring semester 2004, especially those
related to the cross-campus initiatives.
“In summary, the cuts we’ve had to make this year are real
and large, and they’re troubling for all who care about the quality
of this institution,” Herman said.
However, despite its fiscal constraints, the campus’s external
funding for research and research expenditures are at all-time highs,
and Illinois leads all universities in the receipt of National Science
Foundation funding for the fifth year. Other initiatives, such as the
Institute for Genomic Biology, the Siebel Center and the new department
of bioengineering, are moving forward as well.
“From my point of view, this institution is facing serious challenges
with dedication, imagination and excellence,” Herman said. “We
are choosing to keep Illinois the type of place that attracted all of
us here, a place of exceptional faculty members doing remarkable things,
offering the best qualified students access to the public higher education
system, to an education equal to the best anywhere, a place where cutting-edge
research and quality education are our hallmark. I am proud of how this
campus is meeting its challenges, and I’m proud of what we are
accomplishing here. All of this is the work of extraordinary faculty,
staff and students.”
In other business, the senate approved revisions to the Campus Code
that changed how the dean’s list is compiled. Under the new rules,
each college will establish its own GPA cutoff to ascertain the top
20 percent of its students each semester. Students taking at least 14
semester hours for letter grades will be eligible. The new policy is
expected to take effect in the fall 2004 semester in conjunction with
the Banner software implementation.
However, after considerable debate, the Senate voted to remand a proposal
about grading to the Educational Policy Committee for further study.
The proposal recommended implementing 0.3 and 0.7 as the letter grade
weights for pluses and minuses respectively. Current policy uses the
decimal equivalents of 0.33 and 0.67 for pluses and minuses, which the
committee said conflicts with Senate policy stating that GPAs should
be calculated on “effective numerical grade weight increments
The committee’s proposal said this practice is imprecise and produces
false 1.99 GPAs that can be a disadvantage for students with borderline
scores. The committee said the change would not only render greater
mathematical precision in grading, it would also conform to Senate policy
and to the practices of peer institutions.
Several faculty and students objected to the proposal because they believed
the rationale behind it was software inflexibility.
“Our computers should implement the principles we decide, not
change the principles because of a perception that the computer can’t
do it,” said George Friedman, a professor of engineering. “I’m
very tired of hearing unimaginative computer professionals tell us that
the (computer programs) can’t handle true thirds. That’s
absolute and utterly ridiculous nonsense. Let’s do this if and
only if we really want to have the difference and abandon the idea of
Architecture professor Abbas Aminmansour, vice chair of the educational
policy committee, said the impetus for the proposal was not the limitations
of Banner, UI Direct or any other program, although they and any commercially
available software are incapable of utilizing true thirds grading system.
“The point is whether we want to carry those decimal places,”
During discussion, Aminmansour and history professor Vernon Burton,
committee chair, said modifying the programs to accommodate the true
thirds system would be cost-prohibitive, according to the software vendors
they have consulted.
Other senators rejected the proposed change in grading saying it would
have a negligible effect on GPAs and would not correct existing problems.
Some senators said they believed it also would exert undue pressure
on faculty to adapt their grading to conform to the system.
The senate also:
- Approved a proposal
to establish a doctoral degree program in chemical engineering with
the National University of Singapore (NUS). The doctoral program supplements
the joint master of science program that UI established with NUS in
1998. The programs are intended to help students develop an international
perspective on their profession through approximately two years of
research and study at each institution and to enhance UI’s visibility
with corporations and agencies that support the university and employ
- Passed a proposal
sponsored by the deans of the colleges of Agricultural, Consumer and
Environmental Sciences; Engineering; Liberal Arts and Sciences; and
Veterinary Medicine to found an interdisciplinary master of science
degree program in bioinformatics. The program, which will be offered
in the fall semester 2004, will offer options in the department of
computer science and the department of chemical and biomolecular engineering,
with other campus units expected to develop additional options later.
The steering committee cited a need for the program based upon student
interest and a burgeoning global demand for scientists and engineers
trained in the analysis and application of biomolecular data. Numerous
institutions, including Harvard University, Indiana University, Bloomington,
and the University of Michigan have founded interdisciplinary bioinformatics
programs, centers and degrees.
- Granted formal
approval for establishing the bachelor of arts/master of arts 4+1
degree program in urban and regional planning. Although the program
has been listed for several years in the Programs of Study catalog,
it had never received formal approval.
- Voted to discontinue
the undergraduate economics major in the College of Business.
- Passed a proposal
that supported adding a seventh goal to the Illinois Commitment, the
principles for colleges and universities adopted by the Illinois Board
of Higher Education, to the effect that the institutions will enhance
and enrich the quality of life for all Illinois citizens. Ken Andersen,
senate representative to the faculty advisory council of IBHE, sponsored
the proposal, which he said is intended to help “slow down the
slope” of reduced public funding for higher education.