The turbulence surrounding the closing of the UI Institute of Aviation diminshed April 4 as members of the Academic Senate's Educational Policy Committee voted to shut down most of the institute's functions. The vote was announced at the meeting of the Senate Executive Council.
The recommendation will go to the Academic Senate April 18, when senators will be asked to take an advisory vote on the institute's closure. The issue will then go before the University Senates Conference and then to the president's office before it is presented to the UI Board of Trustees.
The institute has been under the microscope for the past year as part of the Stewarding Excellence @ Illinois initiative, which has studied several academic and managerial structures to increase efficiency and reduce costs.
The Stewarding Excellence project team that reviewed the institute recommended it close, citing a savings of $500,000 to $750,000. UI officials say half of the institute's total budget comes from the university's general revenue fund, with the other half supported by institute tuition.
Supporters of the institute have been adamant in its defense.
Last month, the committee voted to not offer its support for the administration's proposal to close the institute. Abbas Aminmansour, chair of the committee, said at the SEC meeting that new information had led to the committee's turnabout, though he did not share details. "This has been an evolving situation," he said. "We'll present our rationale with a statement to the senate (prior to the closure vote)."
The committee voted to support the proposal to drop the bachelor's of science degree and the professional pilot programs, as well as to close the institute. But, under the committee proposal, a reprieve would be granted to the master's degree program, which has been temporarily accepted by the Graduate College. Aminmansour said each issue was voted on separately.
SEC members put out a call to meet face-to-face with UI President Michael J. Hogan.
Members have already asked for ongoing dialogue about the president's course in reconfiguring the administration - as evidenced in last week's senate call for a universitywide summit with administrators and the board of trustees.
SEC members say the administrative changes dilute the power of campus chancellors and there has been a reluctance to include the senate in decisions, despite statues outlining the university governing structure.
The request for a meeting with Hogan came after discussion of the Institute of Aviation, when a letter from Hogan responding to a state senator about its closure was circulated at the meeting.
SEC members said the letter failed to mention the senate's role in the process and painted the issue as already having been decided. There also were concerns it didn't contain any mention of the current interim chancellor.
In fact, they said, the senator was directed to call Hogan with questions - which they said is an example of the dilution of the chancellor's responsibility and authority.
"There is a process that's written in the statutes," said chairman Joyce Tolliver.
Senator Nicholas Burbules, a professor of education policy, organization and leadership, was a little more pointed in his criticism, citing a "particular pattern of behavior" by the president "increasingly asserting his role as spokesman of this campus."
"There has been no decision on this campus (about the Institute of Aviation)," said Richard Wheeler, interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.
Wheeler said he hoped future conversation on the topic would be less "incendiary" and more "helpful."
Senators said they would likely call a special meeting to adhere to the president's schedule.
The results of last month's Academic Senate election also were announced.
Matt Wheeler will become chair of the Senate Executive Committee beginning Aug. 16; Tolliver, the current chair, will serve as vice chair.
Faculty senators elected to the Committee on Committees: Harley Johnson, mechanical science and engineering; Prasanta Kalita, agricultural and biological engineering; and Brendesha Tynes, educational psychology.
Official results will be presented at the April 18 senate organizational meeting.
SEC members discussed adding more meeting dates in the coming year because of the numerous issues facing the campus.
A subcommittee will be formed to propose exact meeting dates.