A campus-level ad hoc committee will be formed to study a proposal from the Office of the Vice President for Research to expand classified research possibilities on all three campuses.
The OVPR effort is designed to help formulate a universitywide policy allowing higher-level projects and more research funding from the U.S. departments of defense and energy.
"The university must begin to more aggressively compete with universities that are known entities and heavily funded by the national security community," reads a letter written by Jorge Villegas, the chair of the University Senates Conference, which was distributed at the Dec. 1 SEC meeting.
Villegas said the university already has established a federal facility security clearance for all three campuses, though work in Urbana likely would be limited to an approved "compartmentalized" facility in the Research Park.
"The designation allows the university to target funding that was previously unattainable," Villegas wrote.
He said the policy also must "preserve the character of the university and the principle of campus governance."
The draft policy reads: "The University of Illinois (Chicago, Springfield and Urbana-Champaign) can accept a classified contract, after approval of the appropriate campus vice chancellor for research and a review by the Security Management Office of the Vice President for Research, provided that the classified contract can be performed without compromising the university's pursuit of its educational mission."
Peter E. Schiffer, Urbana's vice chancellor for research, said the ad hoc committee could make recommendations on the proposed policy to ensure that it is in line with campus practices and priorities.
"I don't think it has to be very complicated," he said, adding the campus's existing policy on classified research was written in 1968.
Roy Campbell, SEC chair and a professor of computer science, said any policy revision should identify who has project-granting and oversight responsibilities, and whether campus educational goals are being satisfied in the process.
"We were asked to consider this properly," he said. "There are a variety of unknowns."
William Maher, the university archivist and a professor of library administration, said the committee would need to identify campus policies, address who authorized them and decide whether they conflict or should be updated. The committee would then send its recommendations to the SEC for further deliberation.
Ilesanmi Adesida, the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said the additional research opportunities would be an important component of the university's mission, though projects would likely be narrowly focused and not student intensive.
"I don't see students participating too much in this research," he said. "It's very specialized."
Joyce Tolliver, a professor of Spanish, said the committee would be valuable in identifying all of those issues.
"We can get clarity for some of the questions that will come up on the senate floor," she said.
- Senate leaders agreed to provide a report of any senate-related meetings with administrators, including notes on who was present and what was discussed.
The move was made after Mary Mallory, a professor of library science, said leaders were meeting in violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.
"Certain people are invited and certain people are not," she said.
The OMA sets a threshold for how many members of an elected board may meet without officially calling a meeting. For the SEC, that number is five.
Campbell said any such meetings are of an unofficial capacity and involved fewer than the OMA threshold. Furthermore, he said no official senate business had been discussed, and the meetings are used to "touch base" on the progress of a variety of campus topics.
Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise said she began having regular meetings with senate leaders when she arrived on campus as a way to work more closely with the senate.
- Matt Hill, a student senator and external vice president for the U. of I. Student Senate, updated members on the progress of the student senate's review of the proposal to create a medical school on campus.
He said students currently were reviewing the business plan for the college, an effort that could lead to a future resolution. He said most students have shown support for the plan.
"There are a lot of students interested in having a say on the college of medicine," he said. "Generally, everyone's excited about it and they have a lot of questions."