The System Connection - March 21, 2018

President's Column


As the Illinois General Assembly convenes for its spring session each year, it’s not unusual for those of us working in the public sector – particularly as part of the state university system, given what we went through during the impasse – to focus the bulk of our attention on the introduction, review, and adoption of the state budget for the coming fiscal year. 

That should be no surprise, since so much rides on it when you work at an Illinois public university.

From the time the budget is introduced by the governor, usually in mid-February – until the thing is legislatively adopted and signed by the chief executive, usually right at the end of session on May 31...or maybe June...or July...or whenever – the most minute and intricate developments of the state’s budgetary process are pored over like tea leaves to divine that future which next year’s budget will hold. 

So it’s easy to forget that during any given spring when the Illinois Legislature is meeting, literally hundreds of non-budget bills will be filed by state representatives or senators. (And while many of those bills can certainly have extreme fiscal implications, by using the modifier “non-budget” I am referring here to those proposals not directly associated with the budget document itself, or its implementation.)

SIU’s governmental and public affairs team, located in Springfield, reads the text of every bill filed that could have any possible impact or implication, no matter how remote – for the system, our campuses, or any one of the myriad responsibilities and operations that we undertake. 

Each year, we – SIU – usually will “run” two or three bills which we think are important for advancing our unique interests and purposes. Toward that end, we work with legislative staffers to draft bill language, seek out an appropriate sponsor(s) in one of the chambers, and then attempt to advance the bill by advocating for it at the committee level and finally, if we’re successful in getting the bill out of committee, with the entire House or Senate. 

The bill to allow alcohol sales at SIU’s athletic and other large public events passed in 2016 – Public Act 99-0795 – is one example of that.

But at other times – indeed, probably the majority of the time – SIU is playing defense on a bill, often in cooperation with the other Illinois postsecondary institutions. The community college bachelor’s degree in nursing bill from last year comes to mind in this regard. Oddly enough, this posture can be just as tough as working a bill in the affirmative, depending upon not only the special interests of the opposing side...but also on who comprises that opposing side. Those bills we don’t like have sponsors too, of course, and it’s not in the interest of the university to create legislative antagonists if we can prevent it. Many times, then, we end up working cooperatively to change or soften bill language to make the legislation a little less onerous.

And for that reason, SIU’s most frequently taken position on the mountain of bills we track is “neutral.”

Given that we’ve passed the nominal deadline for bills to be introduced in their respective chambers, and the GA won’t be back in Springfield until the week of April 9, I decided it was safe enough to use this week’s column to list out a few of the legislative proposals making their way through the process at this time.

There is no rhyme nor reason to the few examples I share below – other than they might give you a good sense of the variety of subjects we get to deal with! The sponsor of each bill is listed in parentheses: 

Senate Bill 2597 (Chapin Rose) – Consolidates the Illinois Student Assistance Commission and the Illinois Community College Board with the Board of Higher Education in 2019. This is a component of the Brady-Rose HIED reorganization bill I told you about last fall. For numerous reasons, I’m a fan. 

Senate Bill 2904 (Heather Steans) – Increases the staffing ratio to allow a physician to supervise more physician assistants to increase the quantity and quality of care, especially in areas where shortages of health care professionals exist. A very important bill for our graduates of the School of Medicine’s renowned P.A. program – elevating clinical responsibilities and professional status as mid-level providers.

Senate Bill 2927 (Pat McGuire) and House Bill 4781 (Kelly Burke) – The Senate proposal requires each public college or university that is required to have a coordinator of Veterans and Military Personnel Student Services to report to the Board of Higher Education information on its efforts in attracting, recruiting, and retaining veterans and military personnel. The House bill requires a public college or university to use its best efforts to hire a veteran of the armed services as the coordinator of Veterans and Military Personnel Student Services.

Senate Bill 3176 (Dan McConchie) – Creates a (new) Board of Regents to allocate funds to public universities based on a funding formula recommended by the Board of Higher Education.  It also provides that the Board of Higher Education shall prepare a comprehensive statewide plan to increase efficiency and enrollment in public institutions of higher education and prohibits the Board of Regents from providing any funds to a public university that does not adhere to the plan. Let’s just say...lots of questions on this one.   

Senate Bill 3567 (Chapin Rose) – Provides that students who meet MAP award renewal requirements are not required to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid to obtain the renewal of an award. Additionally, beginning with the 2020-2021 academic year, MAP grants awarded to first-time, full-time freshman would be guaranteed for renewal until the student completes their baccalaureate degree or achieves 135 credit hours and continues to meet MAP renewal requirements at the same institution. Given there are well over 5,000 MAP students at the SIUC and SIUE campuses, this is something for us to throw support to. 

House Bill 4167 (Lindsay Parkhurst) – Allows a student with at least 90 credit hours in an educator preparation program to apply for a substitute teacher license. SIU is taking a positive position given the many challenges in finding sub teachers for schools across the southern Illinois region.  

House Bill 4710 (Sue Scherer) – Prohibits university boards of trustees from entering into agreements with credit card companies that specifically target students for new credit card applications.

House Bill 4213 (Mark Batnick) – Eliminates a state mandate and allows state-owned vehicles to have their oil changed based on the manufacturer's suggested oil change frequency instead of current law which requires oil changes every 3,000-5,000 miles. Yes, it would seem that the various state agencies and institutions could be trusted to change the oil in their assigned vehicles according to the manufacturer’s schedule...

House Bill 4956 (John Cavaletto) – Provides that by the 2019-2020 academic year, every public university in the state that offers an educator preparation program must offer to those students enrolled in the program a 3-year degree completion program. It also provides that upon completion of the program, a student shall receive a bachelor’s degree and qualify for entitlement and licensure. As Rep. Cavaletto was a long-time high school administrator and a good colleague of mine in the K-12 years, I’ve talked with him about this bill - and while I believe he has the best motives in mind with this legislation, again, the devil will be in the details if it passes.

And, as mentioned above... 

Senate Bill 888 (Andy Manar) – This bill from 2017 allows community colleges to offer certain bachelor degree programs, notably nursing. The bill did not pass last spring, but it is rumored to make a reappearance this year. We want to explore with the sponsor if there are any avenues for compromise which may exist. 

You get the general idea. SIU works on many fronts for many weeks on many bills. Granted, many won’t move because of the politics involved, but we still are obliged to follow the path and progress of each one. Things can change on a dime, plus amendments to bills that run the gauntlet toward adoption can always be filed. (If you have any interest in doing your own bill tracking, SIU’s Office of Governmental and Public Affairs prepares a weekly update you can find online.)

Oftentimes, too, SIU’s governmental staff has to reach out to many of you for information, research, background, and subject-matter expertise as we deal with various legislative proposals – for those of you who get summarily pulled into those efforts, let me add my personal “Thank you” for the assistance that almost always is freely and readily provided to our office.

So now, we’ve made it to the half-time intermission of the Spring 2018 session. If you have any questions or issues about a bill you hear about or happen to be following, don’t hesitate to contact me; John Charles, SIU’s executive director of governmental and public affairs at; or Mark Kolaz, director of legislative affairs at

Randy Dunn

SIUE’s Venessa Brown Appointed to IBHE Diversity Board

Venessa Brown

Dr. Venessa Brown has been appointed as the SIU system representative to the board of the Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois program – a program created to enhance the diversity of higher education faculty in the state.

This Illinois Board of Higher Education “DFI” initiative provides financial awards and support services to eligible underrepresented students pursuing graduate and professional degrees at the state’s institutions of higher education. In return, the award recipients pledge to accept teaching or professional staff positions within an Illinois higher education institution or governing board, or at an education-related position within a state agency, for a time period equivalent to the number of years the student participated in the program.

The 11-member board, which includes Venessa, will establish policies and procedures for administering the program. Board members are appointed for two-year terms.

Venessa is chief diversity officer, professor of social work, and associate chancellor for institutional diversity and inclusion at SIUE. She came to the university in 1995 to help create the master’s in social work program and was promoted to full professor in 2006 as well as becoming department chair. She has extensive experience in the areas of diversity and child welfare.

The IBHE will benefit from Venessa’s broad professional background. Notably, a book she co-edited with Menah Pratt-Clark, A Promising Reality: Reflections on Race, Gender and Culture in Cuba, was recently published by Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. The book is a collection of narratives reflecting the thoughts and experiences of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education delegation members that visited Cuba in July 2015. As relations between Cuba and the U.S. evolve, her book offers intriguing stories and perspectives regarding the island nation and US-Cuban relations.

FY Audits Released for SIU

State of Illinois Seal

As a “quasi-”state agency, the Southern Illinois University System is subject to annual comprehensive audits from the Illinois Office of Auditor General (OAG).

Auditor General Frank Mautino released the Fiscal Year 2017 financial audit and Government Auditing Standards reports for the Southern Illinois University System yesterday.

SIU’s financial report is clean – having no findings – while the GAS report contains just one finding, dealing with the reporting of restricted cash in certain financial statements.

Two additional required reports, covering compliance issues and the audit of federal programs, have yet to be finalized, but are expected to be released by the OAG no later than March 31. 

Copies of the released audit reports for the system can be found by visiting the auditor general’s website:

Additionally, SIU Executive Director of Internal Audit Kim Labonte will present a summary of all the audit reports at the next meeting of the Board of Trustees on April 12 in Carbondale.

Magazine with SIU Connections Explores Workforce Relationships in Current Issue

Continuance Winter-Spring 2018

Continuance magazine has been published for 31 years with funding from the Illinois Board of Higher Education – and in magazine format since 1999 with production assistance from SIU Carbondale’s printing and duplicating operation and support from the Corporation for National and Community Service.  

Dr. Jane Angelis, the founder, editor, and publisher of Continuance, had previously been at SIUC, working in affirmative action and as director of the Intergenerational Initiative at SIU School of Law.  

The long-running magazine reports on statewide activities, events, and initiatives that strengthen communications and partnership linkages across the generations. The Winter/Spring 2018 edition has a special focus on the governor-appointed Illinois Workforce Innovation Board, which was mandated by the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. IWIB’s four goal areas of business engagement, service delivery, technology, and board impact are tailored for implementation across 22 local workforce innovation areas throughout the State of Illinois. 

The ongoing interface between workforce innovation and P-20 education in our state is a highlight of the current issue of the magazine, which can be found here. So for those who want more information about those connections – especially how they contribute to the development of the future workforce in Illinois – the Continuance, which is now out will serve as a good primer for that purpose.    

For additional background, or if you are interested in receiving future issues of Continuance, feel free to contact Jane at

Updated Information on BOT Diversity Lecture and Award

In the Jan. 24 edition of The System Connection, information was shared about the SIU Board of Trustees’ Diversity Excellence Lecture and Award. The award is an annual honor presented to an individual or group that encourages the systemwide SIU community to think and practice equity, diversity, and inclusion in more creative and collaborative ways. SIU System faculty, staff, students, and groups can be nominated for the prize, which will include a $1,000 cash award to support their specific diversity efforts. 

The deadline for nominations for the BOT Diversity Excellence Award has been extended from March 31 to a new deadline of Friday, April 20.

To nominate someone, or to apply on your own behalf, submit the application, found here, by mail to: SIU Board of Trustees, Diversity Excellence Award Selection Committee, 1400 Douglas Drive, Carbondale, IL 62901, with attention to Wes McNeese. Or, submit by email to Questions can also be directed to Dr. McNeese at 217.545.7334.

Additionally, the date for the Trustees’ annual diversity lecture – to be held this fall at SIUE – has been moved to Monday, Oct. 22 (instead of the Oct. 25 date originally announced).

Watch the Connection after the summer break for more information on this important event as it becomes available.

Faces of SIU

Phillip Meyer

If you spend much time at the SIU School of Medicine campus you’re sure to see Phillip Meyer out and about.

As a campus police officer he’s always on the move, patrolling on foot or by car. He enjoys the diverse experiences his job offers and especially his interactions with the people he encounters along the way.

“My main duty is to deter and respond to criminal activity or disturbances, working toward keeping SIU Medicine a safe and peaceful place to go to school, work or visit,” he said. “I love the variety the position offers. I get to drive around; walk the lots or buildings; interact with employees, patients, visitors or our awesome medical students; and all the while I’m doing my job.”

A Springfield native, Phil launched his SOM career about six years ago as a security guard. Sixteen months later, he was promoted to police officer and said he is “sincerely grateful for the position I have. SIU has given me the opportunity for a really great career doing something I enjoy and can making a good living at.”

He also appreciates the great camaraderie within the SOM police department and enjoys working with other agencies as needed. Colleagues say he is dependable, friendly and that he cares about the people he encounters on the job and it shows.

“He always goes the extra mile to help people on our campus,” Greg Damarin, chief of police for the SOM, said. “He is a great ambassador for SIU School of Medicine and the Office of Police and Security.”

Phil attended Lincoln Land Community College and SIU Carbondale before entering the workforce and is a graduate of the Illinois State Police Academy. He also participates in annual law enforcement continuing education opportunities and has earned multiple certifications. He’s found the Defensive Tactics and Crisis Intervention Team (C.I.T.) certifications particularly beneficial in his work.

“Defensive Tactics gave me effective tools to handle resisting or combative subjects quickly and safely. I don’t need to use them often on our campus, but when I have to, they’ve definitely worked,” he said. “I’ve also had the opportunity to share these techniques with my department as an instructor.”

“The C.I.T. Training has been really helpful for the local hospital and clinical environment we work in,” Phil added. “These clinics at times serve people who are living with mental illness and/or experiencing a crisis, and we may be called to stand by or assist in these situations. The training I received has given me a greater understanding for people living with mental illness and how to effectively and safely provide assistance.”

At any given moment, there’s no telling what Phil may encounter as he makes his way around campus. It might be spotting a breaking and entering in progress and apprehending the perpetrator, breaking up a heated argument, helping someone with a vehicle problem or simply assisting someone in need of directions.

“That’s something I really enjoy about the job. Each patrol has an opportunity to be of service in a variety of ways,” he said.

As the days get warmer, Phil will be spending more time on foot patrols, something the self-described “landlocked ocean lover of Greek descent” is looking forward to.

In the meantime, he’s keeping quite busy with “one project or another” at the new home he recently purchased.

A true officer of the law at heart, Phil said he recently heard some good advice that “rings true for all of us – ‘Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.”

Thanks for your commitment to our university, and all you do to make it a wonderful, inviting place to be, Phil.

Other Voices in HIED

The New York Times:
What College Students Really Think About Free Speech

Education Dive:
Is the idea of higher ed as a private good holding back public support?