Those wishing to comment on the proposed closing of the UI Institute of Aviation have until next week to make their voices heard.
According to Abbas Aminmansour, chairman of the Academic Senate's Committee on Educational Policy, a public hearing March 8 and a written comment deadline March 10 are the last chances for public comments to be registered. The hearing will be from 3:30-5 p.m. in Room 100 of Noyes Lab. Faculty and staff members will be allowed five minutes to speak; community members two.
"We are getting comments right now and have been receiving them every day," he said. "We want to ensure everyone has the opportunity to have their comments included."
An evaluation of the institute started last year under the Stewarding Excellence @ Illinois process, which included a review of nearly 20 other academic and administrative units. The process, started as a response to the troubled economy and threatened state funding, is designed to ensure all university units are operating effectively and efficiently.
Last year the Stewarding project team studying the Institute of Aviation submitted its report to administrators, though the report stopped short of recommending entirely shutting the program down.
It did, however, point out declining student participation and an annual $2 million operation cost that is offset by almost half in university General Revenue Funds.
The team also noted the institute did not carry a deficit and had created an acceptable replacement-aircraft fund.
Institute of Aviation leaders have said closing entirely, which wouldn't happen until 2014 so that current students could complete degree requirements, would have an overall negative economic and academic effect on the university.
Aminmansour said, following next week's public comment period, the senate's Educational Policy Committee could take up the issue in time to make a recommendation to the full Academic Senate at its March 28 meeting. He said a meeting date of March 14 had been established to discuss the proposal.
"It's a very specific process we have to follow when there's a proposal to shut down an academic unit," he said. "This could roll over to the next (senate) meeting if we don't finalize a recommendation."
Should the committee and senate recommend closure, the measure would go to the University Senates Conference, then to the UI Board of Trustees and finally the Illinois Board of Higher Education.
Aminmansour said the Institute of Aviation's tenured faculty members had already transferred to other academic units and rules require they be given a vote.
He said, though no longer a part of aviation, those faculty members would be granted advisory voting rights under senate rules covering unit reorganization.
"We're going to solicit their secret ballot votes," he said.