The Urbana Academic Senate voted Dec. 3 to create the Center for a Sustainable Environment to help develop campus sustainability strategies and provide support for interdisciplinary education, research and engagement.
"This is going to be a thriving, intensive center," said Ilesanmi Adesida, vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost, who ran the meeting for Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise, who was in India on an outreach trip.
"It could actually become bigger as time goes on," he said.
The center will be housed in the chancellor's office and is designed to "take advantage" of the campus's academic strengths in sustainability and to "position itself in roles of facilitating, coordinating and organizing campus resources" as they pertain to sustainability.
"Although we have many active individuals," the proposal read, "we don't have an overarching framework in which these highly productive efforts can achieve interdisciplinary synergies."
The proposed center was reviewed and recommended by the General University Policy Committee, chaired by Sen. Nicholas Burbules, a professor of education policy, organization and leadership.
"It's something that's a major concern across many units on campus," Burbules said. "It made sense for this to be a campus-level position."
The center's initial budget will be $495,000, with $450,000 coming from campus funds and a $45,000 endowment from the Baum Family Fund, half of which will be used to support an endowed professorship. A tenured professor will serve in a half-time capacity as director.
The center is eventually expected to incorporate the Office of Sustainability and will be led by a campus steering committee composed of an interdisciplinary group of 16 students and faculty members.
Adesida said the Center for a Sustainable Environment concept dovetails into the current Visioning Excellence initiative created by Wise last year. The topic of sustainability regularly came to the top in discussions with campus groups asked to help plot the university's future.
"We are doing a lot on this campus," he said, "but we don't have the impact we should be having. We have to find out how to really walk together."
Senators also approved the permanent establishment of a second center recommended by the General University Policy Committee - the Grainger Center for Electric Machinery and Electromechanics - though the center has been on campus since 1999 and is funded exclusively by non-university sources.
Burbules said the committee had been working on the two center proposals as part of its charge to "formalize" the review process for campus centers and institutes. He said that responsibility would be shifted next year to the Educational Policy Committee.
Senators unanimously approved two proposals recommending that campus and university leaders make needed policy changes to accelerate the process of academic-space renovation.
The senate's Committee on Campus Operations developed the proposals after a series of meetings in the past year with Facilities and Services leaders concerning the lengthy lag time from office and laboratory renovation requests to completion.
Chair Ben McCall, a chemistry professor, said complaints over the lag time were particularly evident in the construction of academic space for new and incoming professors.
"Projects that could be completed in several weeks in the private sector routinely take several months, and sometimes even years, on our campus," the committee's report said.
"It's very detrimental to our academic mission," McCall said.
The first proposal asks Wise to follow through on five recommendations formulated by F&S Director Jack Dempsey during discussions with the senate committee.
The recommendations center on campus-level policies that Dempsey said serve as impediments to work orders being processed faster. (See below for Dempsey's recommendations).
The second proposal asks U. of I. President Bob Easter to lobby state legislators to change five legislative rules that could expedite the renovation process. (See below for legislative suggestions.)
Annual updates, as well as news of any legislative changes, would be provided to the senate committee through the Office of Governmental Relations.
- Senators approved a student senate-written resolution proposing the Urbana Academic Senate write a "comprehensive integrity statement" in light of "scandals in recent years" that "affect Illinois' standing and distract from the pursuit of academic excellence."
- Senators agreed to a U. of I. Board of Trustees recommendation to change the title structure of campus chancellors, asking that the chancellor title precede university vice president.
The title was added in the reverse order by the prior administration led by Michael Hogan and was seen widely as an attempt to administratively centralize decision-making processes.
"It may be a small step, but I think it's a step in the right direction," said Senate Executive Committee Chairman Matthew Wheeler.
- Senators heard a report from Adesida about a recent meeting of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, whose members include leaders of Big Ten Conference universities.
Adesida said much of the conversation centered around the Big Ten's decision to accept the University of Maryland and Rutgers University in the conference and on the rising national popularity of massive open online courses.
"The question is, 'What is the optimal size of the Big Ten and of the CIC,' " he said.
Adesida said he had the opportunity to consult several leaders about the online movement in higher education, conversations he said will help inform the campus as it decides how to most effectively leverage its partnership with free online course provider Coursera.
University policy recommendations
To streamline university policies to enable the rapid completion of campus-space renovations
- Increase procurement limits.
- Revise the state procurement law to permit the university to implement the design-build project-delivery system, which helps planners to more clearly define project needs from the start.
- Revise the state procurement law to permit the university to adopt the Construction Manager At-Risk project delivery method, whereby a construction manager serves as a general contractor and as the point person for planning, deadline and construction decisions.
- Revise the state procurement law to permit the university to adopt a single prime contractor delivery process that gives the project to a single general contractor.
- Change wording in Senate Bill 51, which makes oversight of projects overly complex and expensive because of unwieldy additional review steps.