Leaders of the Urbana campus's College of Engineering say not pursuing an Urbana-based school of medicine could render the renowned engineering program irrelevant in the future.
"We need to look into the future," said Rashid Bashir, a professor of bioengineering and the department head, speaking at the Nov. 13 board of trustees meeting on behalf of an absent Andreas Cangellaris, the dean of the Urbana College of Engineering. "We believe this is a system engineering problem that needs a system engineering solution."
Bashir said the Urbana campus is uniquely suited to take on the task.
"We're one of the most influential colleges of engineering in the world," he said. "We've changed the world and will continue to do so; the world looks to us. Being first in this coming health revolution matters. The time is now."
The comments followed a board directive giving U. of I. President Bob Easter until March 12 to report on the efficacy and long-term implications of forming an engineering-focused school of medicine, either as an extension of the UIC College of Medicine or as a separate Urbana college.
That directive follows a detailed business plan presented by Urbana Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise at the Nov. 3 board of trustees health care committee meeting, which outlined the course and cost of establishing a new college of medicine.
The board instructed Easter to study the current system and its impact financially and organizationally on the U. of I. campuses and the state; how other universities are approaching the concept of engineering-based medical education and the challenges they face; and all options for meeting the challenge.
He was further instructed to specifically study the Urbana proposal, which, in partnership with Carle Health Care, would use its campus's College of Engineering as a central point for a new medical school and curriculum; and the Chicago proposal, which would keep the current Chicago-centered medical school configuration but create an Illinois Translational Bioengineering Institute in Urbana.
Mary Jo LaDu, a UIC professor of anatomy and cell biology, also spoke during the public comment section and advocated for the Chicago proposal.
She said the proposal would "maximize the collective potential" of the campuses, which already offer 60 joint degrees and 260 active partnerships, including with the College of Engineering and throughout the Chicago health care industry.
"We can use what we already have to build on the existing structures in these areas," she said. "It's important to identify ways that all campuses can work together. Our goal is to do what's best for the entire university system."
Some campus faculty leaders said Easter's March deadline is a positive development for the Urbana plan, which has gained preliminary approval at the campus level but would return for more detailed discussion before implementation.
"It means more time at the campus level to really vet this proposal," said Nicholas Burbules, a senator and professor of education policy, organization and leadership, at the Nov. 10 Senate Executive Committee meeting.
He said that time could be used to further buttress the positive aspects of the chancellor's plan and for the campus to "show broad-based support" behind it.
"It's useful to have people discuss this more broadly," said Roy Campbell, SEC chair and a professor of computer science, at the same meeting. "I'm pleased we have more time; it gives everyone more time to put it all together."
Ilesanmi Adesida, the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said at the SEC meeting that he prefers the Urbana campus proposal because it would provide access to the Institute for Genomic Biology, the Beckman Institute and to the top-ranked College of Engineering.
"And those are things we already have," he said.
- The board approved $180,000 in incentive-based compensation for Easter. Last year, trustees approved a program that ties university presidential pay to performance, rather than longevity.
The board also approved a 3.5 percent increase in Easter's base salary, which, at $478,588, ranks ninth among presidents of the 14 universities in the Big Ten.
Board chairman Christopher Kennedy said Easter has helped maintain the U. of I. as a world leader.
"President Easter's leadership has been instrumental in both maintaining the university's excellence and charting a course for the future that will continue its long, rich legacy of service to our students, our state and our nation," he said.
- Board members unanimously approved a resolution endorsing UIC's response to the Barack Obama Foundation's request for proposals for the future home of the Obama Presidential Library and Museum. As one of four finalists for the future museum, UIC must submit a final detailed proposal by Dec. 11. The other finalists are the University of Chicago, Columbia University and the University of Hawaii.
"The Obama library promises rich dividends for both the university and the people of Illinois - a global attraction that would add to UIC's growing reputation for excellence while also supporting the state's economy through the many visitors that it would draw," Easter said.
The Obama Foundation will share its recommendations with the president and first lady, who will make the final decision in early 2015. If UIC is selected for the museum, the board must approve the project before the campus can enter into final negotiations.
- The board officially approved a request to rename the Institute for Genomic Biology the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology. Woese, an evolutionary biologist, is one of the founders of the institute and is credited with discovering a third domain of life. The name is subject to approval by the Illinois Board of Higher Education.
- The board approved several infrastructure-related contracts for the Urbana campus, including:
- Adding $900,000 to the $25.7 million budget and approving a $9 million contract for the second phase of addition and renovation work at the Chemistry Annex Building.
- Awarding nearly $16 million in construction work for the $170 million State Farm Center project.
- Increasing by $1.35 million the $8.8 million contract to replace a gas boiler at Abbot Power Plant.
- The board approved hiring a construction manager for the $50 million renovation of Everitt Laboratory. The contract includes a fixed fee of $1.7 million and hourly staff cost not to exceed $830,000, plus reimbursable expenses estimated to be $200,000.
- The board approved leasing 25,000 worth of office space in the Research Park for $425,000 to house the offices of Grants and Contracts, Government Costing and Sponsored Programs.
- The board of trustees released the statement below without comment after its Nov. 13 meeting:
"The board of trustees today engaged in a robust debate that represented a wide range of divergent viewpoints regarding the issue of part-time adjunct employee James Kilgore.
"While the board has clear statutory responsibility to act on tenure/tenure-track faculty and permanent staff hiring decisions, the board traditionally has not been involved in part-time and adjunct employee hiring decisions. Therefore, the board is asking the president to develop a clear policy to guide future hiring decisions for part-time and adjunct staff throughout the three-campus university. In the meantime, chancellors and provosts at each campus should continue acting under their existing hiring practices for these types of positions."
The board expects the president's report on hiring to be presented at the January cycle of board and committee meetings.
Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise said Adesida would communicate the directive to academic units.
"We're going to follow the recommendations of the report, and the report basically says that (Kilgore) be allowed to continue to work if units want his services," Wise said.
- Kennedy, a Democrat, announced he would step down as a member of the board after his term expires in January.
Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner, a Republican, will be given the power to appoint someone to fill Kennedy's spot, as well as those of trustees Edward L. McMillan, a Republican, and Pam Strobel, a Democrat, whose terms also expire in January.
The board's makeup by law cannot exceed more than five of nine members from one party.
UIC's Christy Levy contributed to this story.