In preparation for this week’s board meetings and future conversations, concerned faculty and staff met for the second time to discuss strategies to achieve the long-held goal of fair funding allocations between the Edwardsville and Carbondale campuses.
While the meeting was full of differing views, not one person in the room detested that the current disproportionate funding model negatively impacts SIUE students — a main message in the push for fair funding.
“I think just to reflect back on what everyone has been saying: reallocation is necessary to support our students,” Mark Poepsel, associate mass communications professor and faculty association president, said. “That can be how we start every statement to the Board of Trustees. It’s not a question of need, it’s a very clear need, and we need it for our students. So, let us serve our students better by giving us a fair allocation of the funds.”
Dave Heth, former SIUE finance director, said in the meeting he believes showing the Board examples of how students are missing out on the best possible education would help strengthen the argument.
“One argument we might make is lost opportunity,” Heth said. “What can’t we do because we don’t have the funding? What are new programs that are leading for the region that we can’t do? I don’t know … enough to answer that question, but that might be something that would resonate.”
Lost opportunity, specifically for program expansion, is something Electrical and Computer Engineering Chair and professor Andrzej Lozowski knows all too well. During Friday’s meeting, Lozowski spoke on how inadequate funding has made it so his department has had to limit graduate course options, as most resources are devoted to undergraduate courses so as not to lose accreditation.
“It’s just independent study, independent study, project, project because there are not enough courses to take, and that is a serious problem,” Lozowski said.
Nicole Klein, a professor of applied health, has seen her students be impacted in a different way: lack of classroom space.
“I was able to speak about the fact that I had literally, I think the day before [class], called around trying to find an extra classroom for one of my classes, and there was not a single open classroom on all of campus — that is how packed we are,” Klein said. “Then, I was on Carbondale’s campus for one of the Board of Trustees meetings there, and they have empty wings, suites and buildings.”
According to Poepsel, a common fear is that reallocating funds will negatively impact the city of Carbondale. However, he said he views SIUE’s responsibility to advocate for their students’ needs.
“That seems to be the MO of the whole discussion, [that] we couldn’t possibly withstand any cuts [to SIUC] because everything in Carbondale will collapse, and I’m saying maybe we stay out of that discussion and just focus on ourselves for the first four or five times that we do this and we’re like ‘Yeah, but what about our students?’ Our responsibility is to our students and we need a fair allocation to serve them,” Poepsel said.
It’s the same reason why Poepsel is pushing hard for student involvement — changes to funding allocations will impact students, just as he said the current unbalanced allocation is harming students.
History professor Jeff Manuel said it’s not only important that students be involved, but that they start advocating now.
“I feel like an important part of the message, if driven by students, is ‘We all know reallocation has to happen, but what we’re going to push for is it needs to start now,’” Manuel said. “It’s not an issue for two years, three years, four years down the road — they can figure out a way to scale it or figure out a path by which it gets reallocated over three years — but there needs to be a firm commitment to start it now, not just for us, but for the students.”
Students looking to get involved in the issue can contact Poepsel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Poepsel will be speaking at this week’s board meetings on the issues.