The System Connection - February 7, 2018

President's Column


It’s time to renew – and improve – the Higher Education Act. As a massive piece of legislation driving over $100 billion in federal spending a year, it may seem far removed from day-to-day life on our SIU campuses. But I’ve written and spoken before about how central the Act is to every college and university for ensuring that federal student financial aid is maintained, access to higher education for low- and middle-income students is strengthened, and accountability is evident (particularly within the for-profit sector) such that students and taxpayers get some return for their investment. What part of any of that is not important for SIU?

The HEA has needed a re-do for some time now – it was originally signed into law in 1965, as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” program, and last reauthorized in 2008. The law was originally set to expire in 2013 but has had extensions since that time. Unsurprisingly, with all that has transpired politically over the last few years, Congress’ attention has been elsewhere, and it has appeared they’ve been in no particular hurry to move this up to the front burner. There was some renewed hope around 2015 that since the bipartisan crafting of the Every Student Succeeds Act for elementary and secondary education was successful, which President Obama signed into law, replacing the No Child Left Behind Act – there would be sufficient bandwidth to finally go forward on a postsecondary education bill. Congress has dawdled, although it does appear that activity may finally be cranking up. 

Last week, Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee Chair Lamar Alexander of Tennessee unveiled his framework for a rewriting of the law. Not long after that, then, Ranking Member Sen. Patty Murray of Washington unveiled a different plan, going so far as to say (according to Politico) that Alexander’s approach “would move us in the wrong direction.” 

Still, there are reasons to hope that a new HEA can get some forward momentum sooner rather than later. More than a few policy and political insiders viewed it as a marvel that the K-12 ESSA legislation finally passed – and maybe that would serve as a harbinger for the eventual success of a higher education bill. As I sit writing this column on Tuesday morning, I’m videostreaming the full HELP Committee conducting a hearing on improving college affordability, which subject matter will comprise a large portion of any successor legislation that ultimately passes. That’s a good sign.   

Pundits, policy experts, HIED types, and others generally agree that any revised legislation must contain some key elements, among them making the application for financial aid easier, increasing access to higher education for low-income students, and beefing up funding for career and skills-based programs. And on the House of Representatives side – back in December – the House Education Committee actually approved along party lines the PROSPER (Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Higher Education Reform) Act as their replacement for the Higher Education Act. That legislation would serve to accomplish some of those things I’ve listed above. 

But…and there’s always a “but”…it does a lot of other things that – in the view of many – are far removed from being viewed as improvements to the existing law. Rather than me laying those concerns out in the column, I’m going to refer you to a well-reasoned fact sheet prepared by the Association of Public & Land-grant Universities which outlines numerous problems with the House’s PROSPER Act. You can read the APLU’s document here

So, to this juncture: it appears the Senate is chugging along to consider a new higher education bill. It’s time. But the worst of the House’s PROPSER Act provisions need to scaled back, or simply removed. Can a bipartisan deal be had in an election year when one side is loath to give the other side anything that looks like a “win”?   

We’ll see. But we can hope that all individuals and parties involved still realize the need and benefit of coming together to support a national agenda for higher education that advances access, equity, accountability – and yes, even efficiency – while at the same time demonstrating that our elected officials can yet work cooperatively for something that’s in the broad public interest.

Randy Dunn

Staying Up With the BOT

BOT 18

As SIU employees receive today’s System Connection, the Board of Trustees is convening for the first of two days of meetings on the campus of SIU Edwardsville.

SIU Trustees typically hold five sets of scheduled two-day meetings throughout the calendar year – in February, April, July, September and December. Special meetings can also be added as situations demand to undertake time-critical decisions which must be acted upon by the Board between the regular sessions. Meetings rotate among the three SIU campuses, but can be held at various locations on the campuses. For instance, for the first time in many years, the Board of Trustees convened for their meetings in September 2017 on the campus of the SIU School of Dental Medicine in Alton.

Over the two days of meetings, held almost always in a Wednesday/Thursday combination, the Board generally utilizes the first afternoon as an “executive” or work session to explore a wide range of topics in deeper detail. On Thursday morning, meetings of some or all of the BOT’s standing committees – primarily Academic Affairs, Finance, Architecture & Design, and Audit – are initially held to hear reports and vet the many and varied agenda items for the full Board. The Trustees then meet in plenary session immediately following the committee sessions to take final votes on the items. As a public body under the Illinois Open Meetings Act, the Board entertains public comment and questions during a portion of the meeting anytime it convenes, subject to the rules of the Board for such participation. And any part of a meeting which is closed to the public under the open meetings law can only be done for specific purposes permitted and those must be cited at the meeting itself.      

All documents related to the SIU Board of Trustees meetings, including today’s and tomorrow’s convenings, are available at the system’s website at under the Board of Trustees tab. Any link under that tab will take you to materials for the next upcoming meeting once those are publicly released, as well as to the schedule of future meetings for the year. The “Annual Reports” link under the BOT tab archives the minutes of previous years’ meetings. 

A biographical sketch on each trustee is also available at the site. At full force, the SIU Board has seven gubernatorial appointments with staggered six-year terms, plus two students who are elected annually by the student bodies of SIUC and SIUE respectively. In a somewhat strange statutory twist, the two student trustees have only one vote between them, for which the campus is determined by the governor on an annual basis. (It is SIUE for 2017-18). The Board currently has one seat vacant with the expired term of Dr. Donna Manering almost a year ago – Governor Rauner has not made an appointment to that seat at this time.  

Other information is also available whenever needed from Misty Whittington, who serves as executive secretary to the Board out of the Stone Center in Carbondale.

GS/SI Keeps Moving Ahead

Great Schools

The Great Schools/Southern Illinois initiative announced last fall and impacting our southern Illinois K-12 schools and districts continues to evolve and expand apace.

Nascent partnerships and collaborations are beginning to come together which suggest a focus on three primary areas of concentration for future activity: 1) addressing the teacher shortage, especially in rural areas; 2) improving student wellness; and 3) expanding student career-related opportunities, particularly at the high school level.

The SIU System extends a big thank you to our early collaborators and leaders who have come from all over the central and southern parts of the state to assist with this work. Those various offices and agencies include the following, thus far:

SIU School of Medicine, SIU Center for Rural Health and Social Services, Children’s Medical and Mental Health Resource Network, SIU College of Education, Area Regional Offices of Education, Illinois State Board of Education, Association of Illinois Rural and Small Schools, Rural Schools Collaborative, Southern Illinois Health Care, Community Health & Emergency Services, Shawnee Health Services, Centerstone of Illinois, Gateway Foundation, John A. Logan Child Care Resource & Referral Center, the Illinois Education Association, and the Chicago Partnership for Resilience

Next steps will include putting together some work teams around the focus areas to set goal outcomes, examine existing programs for coverage gaps, and then figuring out potential responses and resources to meet remaining identified needs which have not yet been served otherwise. One of the key premises undergirding GS/SI is not to reinvent the wheel by duplicating services that may be available elsewhere.   

And speaking of resources, funding will continue to be a challenge as expected. But, Great Schools/Southern Illinois has been able in the last couple of months to get a couple of important grant applications out the door. Toward that end, we hope to be able to soon announce some success on that front in a future Connection story. 

Dr. Brian Chapman, SIU System executive director for regional outreach and partnerships, is coordinating the GS/SI effort to date, in conjunction with the Office of the Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs.

Attorneys Hired for Vital Roles in the System Office of the General Counsel

Brenda Pryor and Laura Frame

Attorneys Brenda Pryor and Laura Frame recently took on important roles in the Office of the General Counsel at the system level.

Brenda assumed the position of associate general counsel and FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) officer last October while Laura began her post as senior associate general counsel for healthcare and litigation on Feb. 1, both for the School of Medicine in Springfield

Brenda handles labor relations and employment law issues, responds to FOIA requests, and assists with immigration issues, conflict of interest questions and employment-based litigation. A native of Chicago, she was previously legal counsel to the Cook County College Teachers Union – Local 1600 in Chicago. The union represents faculty, staff and security officers at Cook County community colleges.

Brenda’s experience also includes serving as the associate director for external affairs for the Illinois Community College Board’s Chicago and Springfield offices.

She completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota and earned her law degree at the University of Arizona in 2001.

Laura’s primary responsibilities include coordinating services involving outside counsel, participating in any defense or litigation involving healthcare practitioners within the School of Medicine or School of Dental Medicine, representing SIU and its employees in judicial and administrative proceedings and serving as chair of the School of Medicine’s Risk Management Committee. She also advises employees regarding legal issues that could impact the university – including matters involving the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Illinois Mental Health and Confidentiality Act, medical records and documentation, risk management and medical research.

Most recently, Laura was vice president of risk management for St. Anthony’s Medical Center in St. Louis, her hometown. She previously served in other positions there including general counsel, director of risk management/assistant general counsel and risk manager as well as at Barnes Jewish Hospital as risk manager. She is also a registered nurse, completing her degree at Maryville University in Chesterfield., Mo., before going on to earn her law degree at St. Louis University in 1990.

Find out more about the Office of the General Counsel and its vast duties and responsibilities online.

Faces of SIU

Eric Linson

Eric L. Linson doesn’t hesitate a second in telling you what he likes most about his job.

“The people….unequivocally!” Eric proclaims.

Serving as assistant to the chair/department administrator for internal medicine at the SIU School of Medicine, Eric manages the operational and financial affairs for the Department of Internal Medicine. It’s a big task and one he’s been handling quite capably for about seven months now. Eric is one of the many behind-the-scenes people who work hard to keep the numerous offices and departments throughout the three SIU campuses running smoothly.

“I have always believed that it’s my responsibility to bring out the best in people,” Eric said. “At the SIU School of Medicine Department of Internal Medicine, my job is to put our faculty and staff in the best position possible to allow them to fulfill our missions. In fact, my management leadership team recently adopted the motto, “Enthusiastic Attitudes Get Excellent Results.”

Indeed, colleagues describe Eric as eager and enthusiastic. It’s easy to get enthused about your job when you feel so strongly about your employer, he said.

“The SIU School of Medicine has a rich history in medical education,” Eric said. “Our faculty genuinely care for those most vulnerable in our community. The inclusion of “service to the community” as a core mission differentiates us from many academic medical institutions and is real in almost everything that we do.”

Prior to joining the SIU team, he worked for six years at University of Iowa Health Care in Iowa City. A native of Fort Smith, Ark., and an identical twin, Eric actually spent the first half of his career at the University of Arkansas as a certified athletic trainer, fulfilling a goal he’d had since the eighth grade.

“The process of achieving that goal generated a lifetime of experiences, memories and friends along the way,” he said. He was also a clinical instructor at Arkansas, which is his alma mater as well.

Eric earned his bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, an MBA with concentration in health care management from Harding University in Searcy, Ark., and a master’s degree in health care delivery science from Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.

Eric’s family is well-entrenched in the medical field as his wife, Kara, is a physician assistant. The couple resides in Springfield with Harper, their “spirited” five-year-old daughter, Eric said. They enjoy spending time together as a family and exploring the region and all it has to offer. They also like to participate in outdoor activities, including gardening and walking. Eric plays recreational tennis and tackles small projects when he gets a chance after taking care of his myriad work obligations.

For your commitment and dedication to SIU, we say “Thank you,” Eric.

Other Voices in HIED

The Washington Post:
Did Betsy DeVos just trash America’s higher education system?

Roll Call:
Higher Education Bill Expected in Senate Soon

The Washington Post:
Higher education is headed for a supply and demand crisis

Los Angeles Times:
Students are not ‘snowflakes,’ but they need to understand free speech