Champaign Senate that would create an independent task force to advise future Illinois governors on selecting members for the UI Board of Trustees.
Some speakers expressed concern about the erosion of public funding for higher education and called for a leader who would advocate for reversing that downward trend and would limit tuition increases.
Zach Poppel, a graduate student in history, asked what criteria the committee would use to measure the likelihood that the next president might obtain an increase in public funding.
Trustee Pamela Strobel, who chairs the presidential search committee and led the forum, responded that the committee was emphasizing the importance of good communication skills and experience with university funding - but cautioned that Illinois' struggling economy made it "unrealistic" to expect that the state would increase significantly its financial support for the UI. However, Strobel urged members of the campus community to advocate on behalf of the university with elected officials at every opportunity, including at polling places.
"We are really jeopardizing the quality of higher education in this state if we don't get at it," Strobel said, and added that the UI needs a president who will develop a strategy for dealing with the university's funding challenges head on.
History professor Diane Koenker said, "We recognize in these difficult economic times a president needs to exert leadership in budget and economic issues, but we wish to strongly advocate that without defending the core mission of knowledge production the university won't command respect nor deserve support."
Koenker and other speakers objected to the corporatization of the university and said that the UI needs a president who is an educator, not a chief executive officer, and who is supportive of shared governance and willing to engage with students and faculty members.
Several speakers talked about the need for creating an inclusive campus climate and enhancing recruitment and retention of minority students and faculty members.
Similar public forums were held at the Chicago campus on Dec. 2 and at Springfield on Dec. 8. The input provided by students and faculty and staff members will be included in a "white paper" profile of the ideal candidate that will be shared with Isaacson-Miller, the executive search firm assisting with recruiting a successor to White. The committee hopes to have the next president in place before the fall semester of 2010.