With two SIU-system Board of Trustees meetings next week, SIUE’s Faculty Association has reached out to students to speak at the meeting about how the current funding allocation between SIUE and SIUC has impacted them.

Next week’s meetings will be the first BOT meetings of 2020, as well as the first meetings since the board approved a 50/50 split of new state funding until Fiscal Year 2022 and selected a new system president in December. The split applies only to an increase in funding. All other state funds will continue to follow the traditional funding model, which gives SIUC around 64 percent of available funds and SIUE 36 percent. This model has been in place since around 1975.

Ian Toberman, the assistant director for the University Honors Program and president of the Staff Senate, said he is not satisfied with the 50/50 split of new funding because a reallocation of all funding is still needed.

“First of all, let’s remember that this is new money only, and there’s never any guarantee of new money from the state of Illinois. So, number one, what looks nice on paper is not a given,” Toberman said. “I think the other thing is, [the board has] been making some kind of promise on reallocation and agreeing that something needs to change for years now … and they’re not touching anything with the underlying problem and challenge.”

Mark Poepsel, an associate professor in the Department of Mass Communications and the president of the Faculty Association, led a meeting on Jan. 31 to raise awareness of the current funding allocation. Poepsel said he decided to hold the meeting because many students may be unaware of the situation, especially because the 50/50 split was announced at the end of the Fall 2019 semester, right before break.

“I think it takes some awareness, and you have to do sort of a consciousness raising because people are very focused on graduating and getting through their courses, and you have to tell them, ‘Hey, this is an opportunity for us that they tried to take away, frankly, by making the announcement about the split between the two schools in the system right before winter break,’” Poepsel said.

Poepsel said he also wanted to hold the informational meeting to encourage those interested, especially students, to speak at the upcoming BOT meeting.

“I’m inviting students and all stakeholders to participate in the discussion about how state funding gets balanced between us and Carbondale within the SIU system,” Poepsel said. “And the main reason why students have to be involved is because people listen to them because they are on the receiving end of all these decisions made … We couldn’t have a school without professors or staff or administrators, but there’s no reason to have a school without students."

According to Toberman, student voices are important on this issue because students are the ones affected the most by the current funding allocation.

“It is more powerful when the complaints [and] the advocacy is done by the people most directly impacted and in their voice,” Toberman said. “We say in education it is about the student experience and the student voice, and when those two things are absent, it is very easy for people in the room to assume that they’re unimportant.”

Joel Rahlfs, a senior computer engineering major from Ellis Grove, Illinois, was one student who attended the Jan. 31 meeting. Rahlfs said a few main points from the meeting stuck with him afterwards.

“The first is ... the question of, ‘Is a student at SIUE worth less than a student at SIUC, since we get less funding?’” Rahlfs said. “[The second] is the enthusiasm of the people there, the faculty and students at the meeting, to start to take action on the issue.” 

While Rahlfs said he does not intend to speak at the BOT meeting, he said he does plan to talk to other students about this issue and share what he has learned about it.

“[The meeting] was really impactful, and it certainly sparked my interest in getting SIUE fair funding and encouraged me to talk about this with students in my classes and organizations to help spread the message,” Rahlfs said.

Anyone interested in learning more about the SIU-system funding allocation can attend another informational meeting hosted by the Faculty Association at 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 7 in Student Success Center Room 0200.

The first BOT meeting next week will be held at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12 in Birger Hall, and opens with public comments. The second meeting will be held at 9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 13 in the Meridian Ballroom, and public comments are the third item on the agenda. Those interested in speaking at either meeting should contact Misty Whittington at mistyw@siue.edu.

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