Champaign Senate Executive Committee's Jan. 31 meeting with UI President Michael Hogan, members took the opportunity to ask questions concerning changes in the university's leadership structure.
Hogan meets twice a year with the SEC and Monday's meeting was designed to give faculty members and student representatives a chance to ask questions face-to-face.
"I'm making a good-faith effort to be all over the place," Hogan said of his responsibilities, over all three campuses. "It makes a big university seem smaller."
Joyce Tolliver, a professor of Spanish and SEC chair, told Hogan there is confusion across campus over how changes in the university leadership structure will affect operations and campus autonomy.
Specifically, she said the concerns are based on Hogan's plan to take on some of the powers once reserved for campus chancellors.
"It leaves open the possibility these responsibilities could change," she said. "The question is, 'How will it change?' "
Hogan said his plan, in which campus chancellors would add "vice president" to the title, is not really a change. In fact, he noted, his plan is to simply revert to the statutory definitions - a course that hasn't been followed by past administrations and which had created a leadership void that led to some of the recent controversies. Hogan said those controversies showed administrative structural deficiencies that needed to be corrected.
"There was some serious breakdown of the governance of the university," he said.
"They got used to a certain way of doing business. I've always intended to stick to this (statutory) definition."
Nicholas Burbules, a professor of educational policies studies, said the concern on campus is that the chancellor's role might be diminished under the plan. He pointed out representation at the Big 10 conference as one example, noting the role had traditionally been filled by the chancellor.
Hogan said his efforts are designed to empower the university as a whole and that any changes are meant to promote more collaboration among UI leaders at all of the campuses. He said the effort was meant to "explicitly clarify the chain of command.
"I don't anticipate that the substance (of the chancellor's position) will change," Hogan said, "but there had been some confusion over who was on first and who was on second. If you read the statutes, you'll see it was all straight to begin with."
And while there will continue to be efforts to promote the university's three-tiered "organic whole," that collaboration will be aimed at reducing duplication, not directly integrating the three campuses.
He said the chancellor's position will continue to include "as-assigned" duties at the direction of the president and its role as "CEO of campus" will not change.
"That's always been the situation and I'm not changing it," he said. "There's nothing wrong with having a president."
Burbules said the meeting with Hogan was welcomed because the topic of leadership continues to loom large on campus.
"There's a tremendous amount of uncertainty and anxiety," Burbules said.
Hogan said campus-based rumors of tenured faculty being cut to meet budget shortfalls are unfounded.
"A little trust wouldn't hurt," he said. "I would resign before I sanctioned any attack on tenure. I wish I could eliminate these issues. It's just a tough time."
He said cost-cutting measures currently being undertaken, including UI's Administrative Review and Restructuring team and the Stewarding Excellence @ Illinois program, would make more than just dents to the university's bottom line. And, he said, the UI is nearing opening its Washington, D.C.-based lobbying office - one of the last of the Big 10 schools to do so.
"I believe we're going to work our way out," he said. "We can manage without throwing people out of work."
Hogan said job-description wording for the chancellor's position is almost finalized and that advertising for the search could be ready within a month.