Tension between SIUE and SIUC has been brewing, and with the SIU system being called to split, both communities are looking for a solution.
A panel was opened to SIUE Tuesday to discuss the funding issues within the Southern Illinois University system.
After losing its president due to the mutual agreement from former SIU president Randy Dunn and the SIU Board of Trustees to part ways following months of controversy with Dunn, the SIU System became a topic of state legislation to split the two campuses.
A state lawmaker from Cook County made trips to Edwardsville and Carbondale to hear from concerned members of both communities regarding equal appropriations among SIUE and SIUC.
State Rep. and Illinois House Higher Education Committee Chair Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, brought a legislative panel to SIUE to discuss the challenges and possible solutions for the future of the SIU community.
Representatives such as Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, and Norine K. Hammond, R-Macomb, were present.
“There has been some leadership issues and they’ve tried it on their own and now the General Assembly has been asked to get involved,” Welch said.
The General Assembly was asked by local legislation to step in as a bipartisan group to solve the funding issues.
A proposal to split the two campuses was introduced by State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, after a $5.125 million reallocation plan was rejected by the board in April.
Supporters for the proposal believe SIUE should be given more funding due to the increase of enrollment in Edwardsville and the decrease of enrollment at SIUC.
Chancellor Randy Pembrook said there are some differences within the missions of the two institutions, but some similarities as well.
“Our current distribution of students is between 82 and 83 percent of undergraduates, 12 percent masters and six percent doctoral, which closely compares with Carbondale which has 77 percent undergraduate, 14 percent masters and 8 percent doctoral distribution last year,” Pembrook said.
Pembrook said he knows SIUE and SIUC doctoral programs are expensive, but higher education in Illinois is underfunded.
“Additional funding would allow SIUE to make investments that would greatly help our communities by creating or expanding programs,” Pembrook said.
Interim SIU President and former School of Medicine Dean Dr. J. Kevin Dorsey said his first goal is to help the two campuses understand each other’s point of view.
“Part of the healing for each of us is to recognize the value that every one of us brings to Southern Illinois,” Dorsey said. “For the next several months it is my intentions to work at the job and make the present position attractive to the best candidates we can find and making the system stable financially, administratively and academically so that my successor can continue to grow these great institutions in this system.”
At the last Board of Trustees meeting, the board decided to begin a search for a permanent successor to Dorsey.
Despite the calls from the board for unity, the rift hasn’t yet healed from what Dunn at one point called the “SIU wars.”
The Daily Egyptian reported Tuesday that Sean Cooney, a graduate student at SIUC, spoke at the Carbondale event on Monday, and called for the removal of Board Chair Amy Sholar.
Emails obtained by a Freedom of Information Act in July showed Sholar working closely with Dunn on many of the matters that board members Joel Sambursky and Phil Gilbert decried in the board’s June special meeting that ended in a 4-4 vote on whether or not to remove Dunn.
“I don’t know how we can justify removing a president for the things he did … and then not remove other people who also did the exact same thing,” Cooney said. “I don’t understand how we can sit here and justify moving forward if we can’t clean up the past.”
Tempers over the funding issue and Dunn's controversy do not seem to have lessened on SIUE's campus, either.
While some faculty and staff are looking for a fair allocation plan from the Board of Trustees, others believe complete separation of the schools could be beneficial for SIUE.
Kim Archer, associate professor of composition and president of the SIUE Faculty Association, said Carbondale is taking a lot from SIUE.
“The arguments I hear is that Carbondale wants to keep us together because the system is important, but what I see is that Carbondale is doing a lot of taking and the things they are claiming are benefits to the system are things we are giving to them,” Archer said. “I am personally in favor of separation.”
When asked if the General Assembly should get involved over the Board of Trustees, Archer said she no longer felt the board could fairly represent both campuses.
“I no longer have faith that this Board of Trustees will do this equitably and I would like to see the General Assembly take a hand in this disparity,” Archer said.
Hoffman said he wants both SIUE and SIUC to flourish, but asked those attending if SIUC’s survival should be at SIUE’s expense.
“I think they need to survive and flourish on their own,” Hoffman said. “Equitable doesn’t mean equal, but it doesn’t mean 64 percent to Carbondale and 36 percent to Edwardsville. We all know in this room that is not equitable.”
Hoffman said he faced a similar situation when Western University wanted to have its own board back in the ‘90s. He voted on the separation to allow Western to move forward with their strengths and address their weaknesses.
Welch said making the two trips to Edwardsville and Carbondale was important before making a decision.
“Anytime you are asked to sit around a table and make a decision that impacts something, it’s better to make that decision when you’ve been informed than when you are uninformed,” Welch said.
When asked how he will start the discussion on equitable funding for the SIU system, Welch said the information gathered from both panels will help guide a discussion.
“I think it starts with what we’re doing as a bipartisan, bicameral working group and that is how do we get this funding issue right? If we can get that right, this discussion is going to disappear,” Welch said.
Additional reporting by Editor-in-Chief Ryan Bieri