EDITORIAL: SIU begs for a bold reinvention — or there will be no SIU

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Southern Illinois University in Carbondale is in dire need of reinvention.

Consider two alarming facts:

♦ The school has 6,000 fewer students than it had just 10 years ago.

♦ A 9 percent enrollment drop since last year means the university might lose $9.4 million in tuition revenue.

SIU’s new chancellor, Carlo Montemagno, has served up a bold proposal to restructure the school’s academic programs, and he is on the right path. In just his first few months on the job, he is thinking big and trying to bring SIU into the 21st century.

EDITORIAL

Carlo Montemagno, Southern Illinois University chancellor | SIU website

Montemagno’s plan includes eliminating 42 academic departments, which is unheard of in higher education, and streamlining them under 18 “schools.” Montemagno also wants to reduce the number of colleges at SIU to five from eight.

People who work in higher education will tell you Montemagno’s plan is drastic. No argument here. But what’s the alternative? He’s trying to reverse a disturbing trend — college students by the thousands spurning SIU. Since 2015, the Chicago Tribune reported Thursday, SIU has suffered a nearly 40 percent drop in the number of first-time freshmen, from 2,177 to just 1,319.

“We are in a free-fall, and this is directly impacting the health of the institution,” Montemagno said at an academic forum this month, as quoted in Inside Higher Ed. “It’s occurring because we are not offering programs that are distinctive and relevant to today’s students. As we try to correct it, we face limited resources, declining faculty numbers and no help from the state.”

The university’s finances became so precarious during the state’s two-year budget crisis that it had to borrow money from its sister school in Edwardsville, the Tribune reported.

Certainly, SIU is not alone in struggling to come back from the budget impasse. Other Illinois universities have reported dramatic declines in enrollment. Even before Gov. Bruce Rauner took office in 2015, higher education in Illinois faced a budget crunch. But the governor made matters grave. Public universities took big financial hits in the state budget disaster for which he was primarily responsible, and it badly damaged their brands, with the possible exception of the University of Illinois.

The state is seeing an exodus of young residents. They are enrolling in universities in neighboring states, driven over the border by declining financial aid and rising tuition here.

SIU-Carbondale is particularly hurt because public universities in Indiana, Missouri and Kentucky are within two hours from Carbondale by car. They can more easily recruit within SIU’s traditional downstate area. And those states also haven’t cut higher education support in the ugly way Illinois has.

Public universities across the country are facing new realities. They must contend with a technological revolution, and students are looking more closely at price tags. They must change to remain relevant and competitive.

Arizona State, for instance, in recent years reduced its number of departments from 69 to 40, but did not eliminate them altogether. It also has launched successful online programs.

At SIU, professors and administrators seem to understand that substantial changes are needed. Professors have acknowledged as much to both the Tribune and Inside Higher Ed. SIU’s faculty senate passed a resolution opposing the elimination of departments by a vote of 19-11, but to us the split vote says Montemagno’s proposals have some momentum.

Faculty are concerned about the elimination of departments, the loss of department chairmen and chairwomen, and the redistribution of work. Those are valid concerns. SIU will save $2.3 million a year by doing away with department heads, Montemagno told the Tribune.

We question the speed at which Montemagno is moving. He rightly wants a new academic model in place by July 1, 2018. Or maybe we just marvel at his speed, because we understand the need to move fast. When your freshman enrollment plunges by almost 40 percent, you had better be in a hurry.

Montemagno’s wholesale, even radical, structural changes at SIU will create new difficult issues, no doubt. Here’s hoping he collaborates intensely, pulling the faculty along with him.

But SIU must act boldly. Or there will be no SIU.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com

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EDITORIAL: SIU begs for a bold reinvention — or there will be no SIU

EDITORIAL: SIU begs for a bold reinvention — or there will be no SIU

http://ift.tt/2AbtbrM

Southern Illinois University in Carbondale is in dire need of reinvention.

Consider two alarming facts:

♦ The school has 6,000 fewer students than it had just 10 years ago.

♦ A 9 percent enrollment drop since last year means the university might lose $9.4 million in tuition revenue.

SIU’s new chancellor, Carlo Montemagno, has served up a bold proposal to restructure the school’s academic programs, and he is on the right path. In just his first few months on the job, he is thinking big and trying to bring SIU into the 21st century.

EDITORIAL

Carlo Montemagno, Southern Illinois University chancellor | SIU website

Montemagno’s plan includes eliminating 42 academic departments, which is unheard of in higher education, and streamlining them under 18 “schools.” Montemagno also wants to reduce the number of colleges at SIU to five from eight.

People who work in higher education will tell you Montemagno’s plan is drastic. No argument here. But what’s the alternative? He’s trying to reverse a disturbing trend — college students by the thousands spurning SIU. Since 2015, the Chicago Tribune reported Thursday, SIU has suffered a nearly 40 percent drop in the number of first-time freshmen, from 2,177 to just 1,319.

“We are in a free-fall, and this is directly impacting the health of the institution,” Montemagno said at an academic forum this month, as quoted in Inside Higher Ed. “It’s occurring because we are not offering programs that are distinctive and relevant to today’s students. As we try to correct it, we face limited resources, declining faculty numbers and no help from the state.”

The university’s finances became so precarious during the state’s two-year budget crisis that it had to borrow money from its sister school in Edwardsville, the Tribune reported.

Certainly, SIU is not alone in struggling to come back from the budget impasse. Other Illinois universities have reported dramatic declines in enrollment. Even before Gov. Bruce Rauner took office in 2015, higher education in Illinois faced a budget crunch. But the governor made matters grave. Public universities took big financial hits in the state budget disaster for which he was primarily responsible, and it badly damaged their brands, with the possible exception of the University of Illinois.

The state is seeing an exodus of young residents. They are enrolling in universities in neighboring states, driven over the border by declining financial aid and rising tuition here.

SIU-Carbondale is particularly hurt because public universities in Indiana, Missouri and Kentucky are within two hours from Carbondale by car. They can more easily recruit within SIU’s traditional downstate area. And those states also haven’t cut higher education support in the ugly way Illinois has.

Public universities across the country are facing new realities. They must contend with a technological revolution, and students are looking more closely at price tags. They must change to remain relevant and competitive.

Arizona State, for instance, in recent years reduced its number of departments from 69 to 40, but did not eliminate them altogether. It also has launched successful online programs.

At SIU, professors and administrators seem to understand that substantial changes are needed. Professors have acknowledged as much to both the Tribune and Inside Higher Ed. SIU’s faculty senate passed a resolution opposing the elimination of departments by a vote of 19-11, but to us the split vote says Montemagno’s proposals have some momentum.

Faculty are concerned about the elimination of departments, the loss of department chairmen and chairwomen, and the redistribution of work. Those are valid concerns. SIU will save $2.3 million a year by doing away with department heads, Montemagno told the Tribune.

We question the speed at which Montemagno is moving. He rightly wants a new academic model in place by July 1, 2018. Or maybe we just marvel at his speed, because we understand the need to move fast. When your freshman enrollment plunges by almost 40 percent, you had better be in a hurry.

Montemagno’s wholesale, even radical, structural changes at SIU will create new difficult issues, no doubt. Here’s hoping he collaborates intensely, pulling the faculty along with him.

But SIU must act boldly. Or there will be no SIU.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com

EDITORIAL: SIU begs for a bold reinvention — or there will be no SIU

EDITORIAL: SIU begs for a bold reinvention — or there will be no SIU

http://ift.tt/2AbtbrM

Southern Illinois University in Carbondale is in dire need of reinvention.

Consider two alarming facts:

♦ The school has 6,000 fewer students than it had just 10 years ago.

♦ A 9 percent enrollment drop since last year means the university might lose $9.4 million in tuition revenue.

SIU’s new chancellor, Carlo Montemagno, has served up a bold proposal to restructure the school’s academic programs, and he is on the right path. In just his first few months on the job, he is thinking big and trying to bring SIU into the 21st century.

EDITORIAL

Carlo Montemagno, Southern Illinois University chancellor | SIU website

Montemagno’s plan includes eliminating 42 academic departments, which is unheard of in higher education, and streamlining them under 18 “schools.” Montemagno also wants to reduce the number of colleges at SIU to five from eight.

People who work in higher education will tell you Montemagno’s plan is drastic. No argument here. But what’s the alternative? He’s trying to reverse a disturbing trend — college students by the thousands spurning SIU. Since 2015, the Chicago Tribune reported Thursday, SIU has suffered a nearly 40 percent drop in the number of first-time freshmen, from 2,177 to just 1,319.

“We are in a free-fall, and this is directly impacting the health of the institution,” Montemagno said at an academic forum this month, as quoted in Inside Higher Ed. “It’s occurring because we are not offering programs that are distinctive and relevant to today’s students. As we try to correct it, we face limited resources, declining faculty numbers and no help from the state.”

The university’s finances became so precarious during the state’s two-year budget crisis that it had to borrow money from its sister school in Edwardsville, the Tribune reported.

Certainly, SIU is not alone in struggling to come back from the budget impasse. Other Illinois universities have reported dramatic declines in enrollment. Even before Gov. Bruce Rauner took office in 2015, higher education in Illinois faced a budget crunch. But the governor made matters grave. Public universities took big financial hits in the state budget disaster for which he was primarily responsible, and it badly damaged their brands, with the possible exception of the University of Illinois.

The state is seeing an exodus of young residents. They are enrolling in universities in neighboring states, driven over the border by declining financial aid and rising tuition here.

SIU-Carbondale is particularly hurt because public universities in Indiana, Missouri and Kentucky are within two hours from Carbondale by car. They can more easily recruit within SIU’s traditional downstate area. And those states also haven’t cut higher education support in the ugly way Illinois has.

Public universities across the country are facing new realities. They must contend with a technological revolution, and students are looking more closely at price tags. They must change to remain relevant and competitive.

Arizona State, for instance, in recent years reduced its number of departments from 69 to 40, but did not eliminate them altogether. It also has launched successful online programs.

At SIU, professors and administrators seem to understand that substantial changes are needed. Professors have acknowledged as much to both the Tribune and Inside Higher Ed. SIU’s faculty senate passed a resolution opposing the elimination of departments by a vote of 19-11, but to us the split vote says Montemagno’s proposals have some momentum.

Faculty are concerned about the elimination of departments, the loss of department chairmen and chairwomen, and the redistribution of work. Those are valid concerns. SIU will save $2.3 million a year by doing away with department heads, Montemagno told the Tribune.

We question the speed at which Montemagno is moving. He rightly wants a new academic model in place by July 1, 2018. Or maybe we just marvel at his speed, because we understand the need to move fast. When your freshman enrollment plunges by almost 40 percent, you had better be in a hurry.

Montemagno’s wholesale, even radical, structural changes at SIU will create new difficult issues, no doubt. Here’s hoping he collaborates intensely, pulling the faculty along with him.

But SIU must act boldly. Or there will be no SIU.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com

EDITORIAL: SIU begs for a bold reinvention — or there will be no SIU

MCC board president resigns citing rising taxes in county

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McHenry County College Board President Chris Jenner has resigned his post and is leaving the state — a move, he says, that’s prompted partly by rising property taxes.

Jenner, 60, now of Crystal Lake, stepped down at the Nov. 16 board meeting. He sold his house in Cary about a month ago and is moving with his family to Fort Meyers, Florida, in the first week of December.

“The prime motivation is my wife’s heath, property taxes is a close second, and the weather is a close third,” Jenner said. “Those three put together made the decision pretty easy.”

Jenner was elected to the community college board in 2013. He previously served two terms on the Cary Elementary District 26 school board since 2005.

During his tenure with the MCC board, the college has seen significant changes including the hiring of Clinton Gabbard, who became its eighth president. The board recently extended Gabbard’s contract to Dec. 31, 2020.

“We increased our transparency significantly,” Jenner said. “We finally came to an agreement and upgraded the science center expansion. We’ve had a flat property tax levy for five years now.”

Jenner said the college hasn’t been the source of rising property taxes in the county.

“The last three years, my property tax payment was higher than my mortgage and that’s ridiculous,” he added. “We were on the market for six months. We had to lower the price of our house way more than we thought we would have to. Very few people are willing to put up with that kind of tax burden.”

Jenner also was laid off last year from Nokia during massive corporate downsizing. He worked for many years with Motorola, which sold its division to Nokia in 2011, he said.

“I probably won’t work full time again,” he said.

The MCC board is seeking candidates to fill the remainder of Jenner’s term until the April 2019 consolidated election.

Eligible candidates must be a U.S. citizen, resident of the community college district, and at least 18 years old. Interested applicants can submit a cover letter and resume to pkriegermeier@mchenry.edu or via fax at (815) 455-3684 or by mail to McHenry County College — Office of the President, ATTN: Pat Kriegermeier, 8900 U.S. Hwy 14, Crystal Lake, IL 60012-2738. For information, visit communitycolleges.org. Deadline for applications is 5 p.m. Sunday.

MCC board president resigns citing rising taxes in county

MCC board president resigns citing rising taxes in county

http://ift.tt/2BiBoKC

McHenry County College Board President Chris Jenner has resigned his post and is leaving the state — a move, he says, that’s prompted partly by rising property taxes.

Jenner, 60, now of Crystal Lake, stepped down at the Nov. 16 board meeting. He sold his house in Cary about a month ago and is moving with his family to Fort Meyers, Florida, in the first week of December.

“The prime motivation is my wife’s heath, property taxes is a close second, and the weather is a close third,” Jenner said. “Those three put together made the decision pretty easy.”

Jenner was elected to the community college board in 2013. He previously served two terms on the Cary Elementary District 26 school board since 2005.

During his tenure with the MCC board, the college has seen significant changes including the hiring of Clinton Gabbard, who became its eighth president. The board recently extended Gabbard’s contract to Dec. 31, 2020.

“We increased our transparency significantly,” Jenner said. “We finally came to an agreement and upgraded the science center expansion. We’ve had a flat property tax levy for five years now.”

Jenner said the college hasn’t been the source of rising property taxes in the county.

“The last three years, my property tax payment was higher than my mortgage and that’s ridiculous,” he added. “We were on the market for six months. We had to lower the price of our house way more than we thought we would have to. Very few people are willing to put up with that kind of tax burden.”

Jenner also was laid off last year from Nokia during massive corporate downsizing. He worked for many years with Motorola, which sold its division to Nokia in 2011, he said.

“I probably won’t work full time again,” he said.

The MCC board is seeking candidates to fill the remainder of Jenner’s term until the April 2019 consolidated election.

Eligible candidates must be a U.S. citizen, resident of the community college district, and at least 18 years old. Interested applicants can submit a cover letter and resume to pkriegermeier@mchenry.edu or via fax at (815) 455-3684 or by mail to McHenry County College — Office of the President, ATTN: Pat Kriegermeier, 8900 U.S. Hwy 14, Crystal Lake, IL 60012-2738. For information, visit communitycolleges.org. Deadline for applications is 5 p.m. Sunday.

MCC board president resigns citing rising taxes in county

With enrollment plunging, SIU Carbondale chancellor pushes a radical overhaul

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Faced with plummeting enrollment and deteriorating finances, the chancellor at Southern Illinois University is proposing a radical reorganization that has spurred fierce backlash from many faculty members and stoked broad confusion about how it would be implemented.

SIU Carbondale Chancellor Carlo Montemagno is pushing to eliminate academic departments and department heads, a highly unorthodox move that eschews the customary structures of higher education. In its place, he wants to introduce a hierarchy of colleges, schools and programs that would move related areas of study under the same roofs and foster easier collaboration.

Part of the aim, Montemagno acknowledged, is to to save money. The Carbondale campus’ finances are so shaky that it borrowed from its sister school in Edwardsville during the state’s two-year budget gridlock that starved it of cash.

Montemagno said eliminating department heads would save $2.3 million a year.

But he also sees the reorganization as an opportunity to make the university’s academic offerings more attractive to students in an increasingly competitive college landscape and to chart a more self-sufficient course for SIU that is less dependent on money from Springfield.

The responses from faculty have been divided. SIU’s faculty senate recently approved a resolution opposing the move, but that vote was split 19 to 11.

Many faculty members said they agree that some revamping is long overdue, and some have said they support the plan. Others say they have not had sufficient input or time to evaluate the chancellor’s strategy and feel eliminating departments will unleash complications.

Montemagno said he wanted a final draft of the plan in place by February and the reorganization to launch by summer 2018 — an ambitious timetable in the often sclerotic world of academia.

By any comparison, the plan is as bold as it is unorthodox.

Montemagno and others say they are not aware of any other public research university in the country that has successfully dissolved whole departments. The chancellor, an engineer who arrived at SIU in July after working in teaching and administrative roles at the University of Alberta, said that he understood his proposal was sweeping and the time frame abrupt, but that SIU’s recent struggles have left him little option.

SIU’s first-time freshman classes declined from 2,177 in fall 2015 to 1,319, a drop of nearly 40 percent, data show.

“I needed to do something drastic, otherwise I wasn’t going to be able to support the programs that we had, and I was going to put myself into a crisis mode,” Montemagno said in a recent interview.”

The prospect of eliminating departments is a sticky one and many details have yet to be clarified.

Questions remain over issues like how academic tenure will work and whether faculty members will retain ultimate control over curricular decisions. Some faculty members also said they were pondering who would assume the administrative duties that usually fall to the department heads.

“I think if things can be done in a productive manner, it can be good,” said James MacLean, an associate professor of physiology in the school of medicine. “But if this is done inappropriately and it causes faculty to be disgruntled and look elsewhere, that’s not good for us.”

Plenty of dissatisfaction has emerged.

“We in the (faculty association) will have no objection if faculty in any given area determine that the chancellor’s school model works for them,” Dave Johnson, faculty association president, wrote in a blog post this month. “What we object to is a unilateral decision to eliminate all academic departments, a decision that was made without consultation with faculty and is apparently being maintained in the face of objections from faculty.”

“Synergy” is the word Montemagno returns to often when detailing his vision for Carbondale’s academic operations.

Montemagno first announced his plans to do away with departments during his state of the university address in September. He said he reviewed SIU’s offerings and found similar courses were scattered across different departments and academic majors were incongruous with their departments.

SIU’s undergraduate major in hospitality and tourism administration, for instance, is housed under the college of agricultural sciences. It would be a better fit under the college of business, he said.

“It became obvious that we were doing the right things but it wasn’t being packaged so that people on the outside could see it; and we weren’t taking advantage of the synergy that you would get from people in these adjacent areas working together,” Montemagno said.

Currently there are 42 academic departments within eight colleges at Southern Illinois. The schools of law and medicine are separate. Montemagno’s most recent draft of the plan would reduce the number of colleges to five.

Instead of academic departments, there would be 18 schools, each of which would contain several programs with an array of degrees.

As an example: The business college would include schools of accountancy and finance, and of management and marketing. There would be four divisions in the accountancy school offering 15 major, graduate, certification and minor degrees.

The schools of medicine, law and education would be their own entities not under the purview of a college, according to the draft.

The divisions are most akin to what constitutes a department, while the work of a school director would be most similar to the responsibilities of a department head, Montemagno said.

The leadership structure would look similar. Colleges would be led by deans; schools and divisions all would have their own directors. But Montemagno said SIU could realize the $2.3 million in savings by reducing the number of deans, eliminating some associate dean positions and funneling the main duties of a department chair to fewer people. School directors would receive additional compensation for taking on more work.

Montemagno said nothing short of deconstructing and rebuilding SIU’s academics will fix the disorganization.

“Reorganizing without addressing our current structural and financial inefficiencies is tantamount to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” he said in a university address on Nov. 17.

In his first detailed presentation of the reorganization plan in October, he described SIU enrollment as being in “free-fall.” Total enrollment dropped nearly 16 percent in the past three years. He also pointed to the state budget impasse, which compelled borrowing from the Edwardsville campus and continues to disrupt school finances.

“Why is this occurring? It’s occurring because we are not offering programs that are distinctive and relevant to today’s students,” Montemagno said at the time. “As we try to correct it, we face limited resources, declining faculty numbers and no help from the state.”

Some professors support the idea.

Kathleen Chwalisz, president of the faculty senate, said yearslong losses in faculty and staff hit SIU’s departments unevenly, often leaving too few people to teach courses and tackle administrative tasks.

“We’re still trying to offer the same curriculum we offered back when we had 24,000 students,” said Chwalisz a psychology professor. SIU’s fall enrollment sits at 14,554.

More broadly, Chwalisz said the chancellor’s plans offer a chance to reinvent SIU after years of decline.

“It feels like we’re renovating a really old house that has lots of little rooms in it,” Chwalisz said. “The chancellor’s trying to make it more open-concept. Ultimately it’s going to be a little chaotic, and dirty and uncomfortable for a while as we do that; but the kids have left home and we don’t need 20 bedrooms.”

MacLean said he was wary of the plan at first. The chancellor’s first version involved moving science programs out of the medical school, which MacLean said would have affected accreditation and made it harder to obtain National Institute of Health grants. That idea has since been scrapped.

Now, he said, some of his concerns center upon academic leadership.

“There’s a disconnect between what the chancellor thinks department chairs or program directors should do and what they actually do, based on my experience,” MacLean said. “If his goal is to replace administrative assistants who do that work so that the chairman is free to not have to do that, then that’s another part of the story. But that takes additional resources, and the point of these reorganizations is to save resources for something else.”

Montemagno said the plan was aimed at jump-starting recruitment efforts for the 2019 incoming class, as well as beginning a longer-term effort to reach an ideal enrollment of 18,300 students.

But to get there, he will have to win over skeptics, including Johnson, the faculty association president.

“The chancellor’s plan is already producing at least as much concern and confusion as excitement or interest,” Johnson wrote. “What the chancellor is asking us to do is to bet that this confusion and disruption will pay off in the long run. But in the absence of models or other forms of evidence this seems a very risky bet indeed.”

drhodes@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @rhodes_dawn

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With enrollment plunging, SIU Carbondale chancellor pushes a radical overhaul

Judge Rules Former NIU President Doug Baker Severance Package ‘Null And Void’ In OMA Case

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The severance package for former Northern Illinois University president Doug Baker is now null and void, according to a court ruling Wednesday. A DeKalb County judge ruled that the NIU Board of Trustees violated the Open Meetings Act. Judge Bradley Waller said in his decision that the board did not adequately notify the public of the terms of Baker’s more than $600,000 severance package. Waller also said the board agenda item “Presidential Employment – Review and Approval” was vague enough where it couldn’t be clear enough to the public whether that could mean “termination” or “severance terms.” “No ordinary citizen could possibly have had any reasonable expectation that he or she knew that the agenda item discussion was to focus on anything more than a review and approval of the president,” Waller said. Following a closed session in June, the Board accepted Baker’s resignation and awarded him a severance package worth more than $600,000. An NIU spokesperson confirmed the package was

Judge Rules Former NIU President Doug Baker Severance Package ‘Null And Void’ In OMA Case