At the May 13 Senate Executive Committee meeting, Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise said that she will not support the recent efforts to revive Chief Illiniwek as the school symbol.
"I'm a biologist," Wise said. "I believe you can't go backwards."
The chancellor said she had spent countless hours in conversations with all sides of the discussion, including Peoria tribal leaders, and had come to the conclusion that the Chief should be led to a respectful final retirement.
She suggested preserving the Chief's regalia in a display case in the Alumni Center along with a contextual explanation of the era, and to make the transition a part of the upcoming 150th anniversary celebration.
Despite the symbol being a part of the university's history, she said "I really believe we have to move forward."
Wise said she had used her experience speaking with Native American officials to investigate ways to improve recruitment of Native American students, and that she would make the information part of her upcoming diversity initiative.
"I'm trying to find ways to elevate our knowledge of Native American culture as it relates to Illinois," she said.
As for a replacement school symbol, Wise said "I think having something in its place would fill a void," she said. "But it would have to be a student-driven thing."
SEC leaders discussed whether a senate resolution in support of Wise was needed, but it was noted that at least two prior resolutions had been passed in support of the university's efforts to retire the Chief.
SEC Chair Matthew Wheeler, a professor of animal sciences, said the methods being employed by the State Universities Civil Service System to audit campus academic professional positions are unfair and smack of political payback.
"This is just not the appropriate way to do business," he said, following a report by SEC member Kostas Yfantis, the chair of the Council of Academic Professionals and the manager for Teaching and Learning Services for Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services.
Yfantis said information for the 2013 audit (positions are audited every two years) shows that the number of academic professional positions being audited has increased to 320, triple the number of the previous two audits.
In addition, Deb Stone, the director of Academic Human Resources, said "the number of civil service positions they review has been decreasing."
At least three of those 320 audited AP positions happen to be held by held by CAP members who had testified against SUCSS when the organization attempted to take exemption authority away from state universities. Yfantis and Richard Atterberry, the previous CAP chair, are among those being audited.
Wheeler said the odds of their positions being included in the audit are "fairly astronomical."
Wheeler went on to say that SUCSS officials, specifically its director Tom Morelock, had been less than cooperative following a February decision by the University Civil Service Merit Board allowing universities to retain exemption authority.
He said Morelock also had yet to add faculty representation to a study group working to improve the audit process, despite promises to do so, and that the director had not responded to SEC requests to discuss the exemption and audit issues informally.
Senators voted 8 to 4 to form a summer task force to work independently on a variety of faculty-related issues on campus budgetary, governance and institutional challenges.
The 11-member group will comprise senate committee chairs and other senate leaders, whose goal will be to present a report and recommendations to the full senate and administrators by fall.
The idea was first mentioned at the April 29 senate meeting by Sen. Nicholas Burbules, a professor of education policy, organization and leadership, and Sen. Randy McCarthy, a mathematics professor.
The two senators, who previously had debated the pros (McCarthy) and cons (Burbules) of faculty unionization before the senate, jointly proposed at the April meeting a 10-point plan to cooperatively address several areas of faculty concern.
Topics the senators have outlined include addressing salary disparities; promoting policies that protect benefits; identifying and resolving unfair practices in the tenure review process; reviewing family leave practices; developing consistent policies for budget review and protecting faculty rights in the process; ensuring shared governance is being employed in new administrative initiatives; protecting faculty rights during program reduction efforts; developing a plan to address deferred maintenance; and protecting or expanding tuition waiver guarantees.
"We hope that we can begin a discussion now and through the summer that seeks concrete strategies for addressing the issues recounted here," the two wrote in a proposal that was presented to the senate.
Some SEC members expressed concern over the time it will take to go through the list of topics and make any meaningful recommendations by fall. They said the summer months are busy for many of the researchers who are members of the SEC and more meetings would be difficult to attend.
In other business, Burbules said the General University Policy committee had compiled the results of the campus Shared Governance Survey and would present them at the next SEC meeting June 10.
He said 300 faculty members had replied to the survey, which was designed to gauge the level of satisfaction in college and departmental decision-making processes. He said responses included "fairly extensive" written comments for consideration.