Serious concerns remain among faculty members and student members of the Urbana-Champaign Senate regarding changes to the university administration and to key university governing documents proposed by the UI Board of Trustees – and now those concerns are in writing.
The senate on Nov. 1 approved a slightly amended "Response to the Proposed University Reorganization," submitted by the Senate Executive Committee, which spelled out three primary reasons it could not accept the board's proposals in their current form. Those reasons centered mostly on the issues of campus independence, lack of detail about implementation and costs, and the potential negative effect on the quality of the three campuses.
The voice vote approving the response appeared to be unanimous.
The concerns about campus independence, and finding the proper balance between centralization and decentralization, appear to get top billing in the response.
"We believe that the commitment to maintaining the distinct identities and excellence of the three university campuses must be prioritized above the discourse of 'one university,' " according to the response. "This is probably the area that is causing the greatest consternation among faculty, staff and students."
The proposed changes the response addressed came out of a Sept. 23 meeting of the board of trustees in which UI president Michael Hogan was asked to move forward with a plan to restructure the university administration in order to reduce costs, streamline operations, create opportunities to generate new revenue and better coordinate shared teaching and research missions.
Among the proposed changes, several of which require amending the University Statutes or General Rules: changing the three campus chancellors' titles to "vice president and chancellor," adding "research" to the title and portfolio of the vice president for technology and economic development, establishing a position of vice president for health affairs, enhancing the duties of the vice president for academic affairs, and establishing executive directors of human resources and enrollment services.
Many of the concerns expressed in the response approved Monday were voiced in a question-and-answer session with Hogan on Oct. 18. Joyce Tolliver, chair of the committee, said that the senate leadership also "carefully considered the responses that had been given to the questions and concerns raised thus far."
The three-page response document now goes to the University Senates Conference, which is responsible for collecting comments from all three campuses and putting together a response to the board prior to its Nov. 18 meeting.
The approved document, submitted by the Senate Executive Committee, was condensed from a longer, 13-page document, which the senate voted to append to the shorter document for reference. Tolliver said the longer document was intended to synthesize comments from all sources, including previous meetings and online comments, as well as to expand on the rationale for the expressed objections.
At one point in Monday's meeting, a motion was made by Tom Overbye, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, to substitute the longer document for the shorter document, but it was defeated. Several senate members, however, lobbied for adding the longer document as an appendix because they felt it more extensively gave a sense of campus concerns and the rationale behind its response.
George Francis, a professor of mathematics, voiced concerns several times about some of the tone and language in the longer document. But no one spoke directly against approving the three-page response.
In comments at the start of Monday's meeting, Tolliver said the senate and faculty were "absolutely committed to continuing the conversation, and we hope the board is too." She objected to concerns about "negativity" in the senate's actions, saying the intention was just the opposite.