The U. of I. Board of Trustees appointed members to the Task Force on Open Access at its Nov. 14 meeting in Springfield in an effort to ensure the university meets the provisions of a new state law set to take effect Jan. 1.
The law changes the way researchers disseminate their published work, requiring them to make findings freely accessible to the public on the Internet.
The first step in implementing the law is the formation of the task force, which has until Jan. 1, 2015, to report its findings to the trustees, the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the Illinois General Assembly and the governor.
The task force includes faculty leaders from all three campuses and is chaired by the Urbana campus's John Wilkin, the Juanita and Robert E. Simpson Dean of Libraries and University Librarian.
Other campus members: Matthew Ando, a professor and the chair of the mathematics department; Doug Beck, a professor of physics; Joyce Tolliver, a professor of Spanish; and Peter Schiffer, the vice chancellor for research and a professor of physics.
Christophe Pierre, the vice president for academic affairs, said the task force would discuss a "cluster of issues" related to open access before developing policy recommendations.
"The charge to the task force is to review current practices and design a proposed policy regarding open access to research articles, based upon criteria that are specific to university needs," he said. "Our goal is to find the best way to meet those open access goals."
The state has directed the task force, which must meet publicly and is bound by the Illinois Open Meetings Act, to consider how to maximize the social and economic benefits of research to the public, to increase the public impact of research and to find ways to resolve restrictive publication agreements in an effort to make research materials publicly available.
The board approved several measures concerning renovation or construction.
It accepted design plans for the $22.9 million addition and renovation project for the Chemistry Annex Building, which will add 52,000 square feet of classroom space, offices and a state-of-the-art laboratory.
It also awarded the contract for the first phase of the $165 million renovation project for State Farm Center, which is expected to start in December and be completed by September 2016. The contract, for $3.49 million, was awarded to Thatcher Foundations Inc., of Gary, Ind.
A contract also was awarded to Broeren Russo Construction Inc., of Champaign, for $6.78 million for the construction of the Chez Family Foundation Center for Wounded Veterans in Higher Education.
The 32,000-square-foot building will house office and research space as well as 12 accessible student residence living units and two resident assistant units. Construction begins in December and is expected to end in April 2015.
Following discussion in executive session, trustees concluded the high-profile disciplinary case of Louis Wozniak, a professor of engineering, by terminating his contract, effective immediately.
The board issued a news release following the decision that said that Wozniak, a tenured professor for more than 40 years, was removed "after finding clear and convincing evidence" he "can no longer be relied on to perform his university duties and functions in a manner consonant with professional stands of competence and responsibility."
Wozniak is accused of violating the privacy rights of students and repeatedly ignoring warnings to cease that conduct.
"There is nothing more fundamental to the mission of a university than to protect its relationships with its students," the board release said. "This includes ensuring that student confidences are maintained and that information is not published about them without the consent required by university policies. Professor Wozniak has refused to meet this most basic understanding."
In other campus academic business, the board established the Center for Business and Public Policy in the College of Business; established the bachelor of science degree in learning and education studies in the College of Education; and approved changing the name of the Center for a Sustainable Environment to the Institute for Sustainability, Energy and the Environment.
The U. of I.'s Chicago campus was squarely in the spotlight as trustees approved a number of measures affecting UIC leadership, its hospital and academic operations.
Trustees extended the term of UIC Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares by a year to Jan. 15, 2015, following a review led by university President Bob Easter. Her base salary is $422,458.
During Allen-Meares' tenure, UIC's enrollment is up 8 percent, research funding has risen by 14 percent and the campus's ranking rose 19 spots in the U.S. News and World Report annual list of top universities.
"Under her leadership," Easter said, "UIC has continued its remarkable growth - in enrollment, in academic and research achievement and in respect as one of the world's great urban universities."
Allen-Meares later in the meeting gave a presentation on UIC's efforts to become a "Hispanic-serving institution" as defined by federal standards, an unofficial designation given to colleges and universities whose Hispanic student enrollment reaches the 25 percent threshold.
She said the campus has a Hispanic enrollment rate of 24.7 percent - and using recruitment to meet the 25 percent level could lead to additional federal funding that could be used for expanding Hispanic-centered services.
Jeff H. Nearhoof, of Northwestern University, was appointed UIC's vice chancellor for development and senior vice president of the U. of I. Foundation.
Trustees also approved the framework of a reorganization plan for UIC's hospital, clinics and seven health science colleges, aligning them all under one campus-led leadership structure.
The Chicago hospital and clinics currently operate independently from academic units.
Under the new structure, the university-level vice president for health affairs position would be eliminated and replaced by a campus-based vice chancellor for health affairs.
Easter is charged with developing new job descriptions and the reporting lines structure by the March 6 trustees meeting.
He said the reorganization would create a unified health care enterprise that integrates faculty research and expertise into clinical care.
"This reorganization reaffirms our commitment to advance health care education and foster innovation that will better serve the needs of our citizens," he said. "It creates a framework to establish high goals for achievement that would position the health enterprise at UIC to be a leader among its peers."
Avijit Ghosh, senior adviser to the university president, said the new alignment would improve efficiency of the entire health services operation.
"By having the proper structure in place we can be a more nimble organization in our decision-making," he said. "Under it we can really leverage the strengths that we've built."
He said the reorganization would improve collaboration by utilizing a comprehensive strategy, make priorities easier to set through the establishment of a unified budget, and increase accountability by having "a single point of responsibility and authority."
"To date, these opportunities have not been fully explored," he said.
Brian Kay, the vice chairman of the UIC Senate, said senators welcome the plan, that they had been consulted with during the drafting process, and that they had offered administrators a list of recommendations and concerns for consideration.
"They provide an insight into the views of the faculty," he said. "We recognize that UIC needs to develop a model that is flexible and nimble. Today's proposed action ... is an excellent starting point."
Financial pressure on the university continues to mount with the latest threat coming in 2015 when bond-rating agencies begin to include state pension obligations in rate-setting formulas.
Chief Financial Officer Walter Knorr told trustees the new approach would hold the U. of I. accountable for the $8.3 billion in pension obligations accrued by the state of Illinois, a move that could further erode the university's credit rating on $1.7 billion in debt.
The rating was downgraded in August but is still better than the state's A3 rating, which is the lowest nationally.
"It will completely wipe out our (reported) assets," he said of the rating agency accounting change.
The university's "exposure" in the risky health care field also is of concern and being monitored, as is the university's dependence on the state to solve pension and other financial problems that leave the university vulnerable.
"Ultimately, (we) own that liability," he said. "We're going to be walking on eggshells until (the state) gets the pension issue solved."
The university has considered a plan to take on some of the pension obligations now "covered" by the state as a way to ensure employee benefit stability. But doing so would mean an additional $19 million annual expenditure for every 1 percent of state pension costs shifted to the university.
A bright spot on the funding horizon came in a report from U. of I. Foundation President Thomas Farrell, who talked about the organization's restructuring efforts set to begin in 2015 and designed to double fundraising in the next seven to 10 years. The overall goal is $450 million.
He said the strategy involves making fundraising requests more specific to each donor and better overall cooperation. There also are efforts to increase the philanthropic and large-gift donor sectors.
"We really are woefully behind when it comes to philanthropy and fundraising," trustee Pamela Strobel said. "We've not had the structure, the system or the people in place."
"We feel like we've done a good job of assessing the current structure," Farrell said, and the addition of a new information technology system "that can support our ambitions" would allow the foundation to effectively carry out its restructuring plan.