In January, UI President Michael J. Hogan shared with members of the Senate Executive Committee his vision of how the new Urbana chancellor will fit into the future administrative hierarchy.
And at the SEC meeting Feb. 7, SEC chair Joyce Tolliver shared her vision.
Tolliver released a statement countering some of Hogan's assertions - namely that the widely reported ethical lapses of leadership over the past few years were in fact a rallying cry for structural administrative change.
Tolliver went as far as to call that argument a "fallacy," noting the university's structural strength was what rooted out the problems - and it's what continues to make the university a pre-eminent research university.
"I, for one, refuse to participate in a discourse of shame built upon the fact that, for a limited time, a previous board tolerated or even established a culture of corruption," Tolliver read from a prepared statement.
"On the contrary," she said, "the past 18 months have revealed how strong our structures are."
Vice president was added to the chancellors' titles last fall, though Hogan assured SEC members last month the core of the chancellors' duties and responsibilities would not change.
SEC members have said the move is not being entirely embraced by faculty members, an exclamation Tolliver put a point on with her statement.
"As a university, we must decide together how best to not just survive, but to flourish," she said.
"I repeat the call today for a real conversation about those crucial choices," she said. "Productive conversations involve listening and questioning on both sides, and they take some time."
Tolliver made it clear that her prepared 900-word statement, which she said would be entered into the minutes of the SEC meeting, was an expression of her individual beliefs as a faculty member, not a statement on behalf of the committee. At the end of the meeting, however, the committee discussed and approved a draft statement on the roles of the campus and the chancellor. That SEC statement - posted on the senate website - will be presented during the full senate meeting Feb. 28.
"Shared governance ... that's the message we should be sending as we seek a new chancellor," she said. "We deserve nothing less than a world-class scholarly leader who is granted the respect and authority that is essential for the creation of the sort of place that makes (everyone) proud to be associated with it.
"To settle for anything less, or to enable a decision-making process that would be more worthy of a staff member than a true leader, would indeed represent a threat to the structures that have allowed (this campus) to become what we are today.
"We must not go in that direction."
The statement was followed by applause from the other committee members.
In other business, Mike Andrechak, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs and associate provost for budgets and resource planning, provided SEC members a PowerPoint presentation on the state of the Urbana campus and the work being done to set the stage for the future.
He said the revelation of future funding realities over the last 18 months marks a point of "cultural change" for the university.
But, he added, "there's a lot of momentum in this place and it's heading in the right direction."
He said the state's massive budget shortfall has only intensified the UI's efforts to trim excess expense and get the most return from current assets. He said recent moves by the Legislature - including tax increases - could lead to an eventual reduction of backlogged payments.
"We've had years and years of bad news," he said. "The state was falling off a ledge and it's not doing that now. While it will take weeks to fully sort out implications of the tax increases, the state's financial position has improved dramatically."
Andrechak noted campus officials had improved budget oversight and were working aggressively to eliminate deficits. He said the Stewarding Excellence @ Illinois process has produced savings and efficiencies, and that more focus was being put on improving the return for patents and intellectual property.
So far, some 400 full-time employees have left the university through incentives, saving an estimated $17 million, and another $8 million has been realized in energy savings.
In just the past year, he said, cash balances held by academic units increased by more than $62 million, overall balances increased significantly and deficits were reduced by 23 percent.
"Our permanent and cash set-asides, held by college and campus, will allow us to move forward in a deliberative manner," Andrechak said.
He said plans to implement the Unified Communications plan and create service centers would save millions more over the next five years.
"This kind of self-evaluation will go forward," he said. "We've taken steps to ensure we're not just cutting costs, but investing in areas we need to."
Andrechak said the savings would allow the university to increase undergraduate student access and would be used to bolster quality of life and retention efforts.
He said the university also is moving to capitalize on accessing international and out-of-state students, which includes offering self-supporting master's programs and enhanced Web-based class offerings during the summer.
"We're doing all of this in a deliberative manner that can protect quality," he said. "We've learned a lot over the last year and a half. As an institution, we are learning new skills and changing our culture. That takes time.
"In this remarkably challenging period, we have shown the capacity to take necessary steps to protect and advance our institution."