The System Connection - April 18, 2018

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Joint statement from SIU Board of Trustees Chair Amy Sholar and SIU President Randy Dunn Regarding HB5861/HB1292

[NOTE: Please see accompanying this statement bill analyses from SIU staff regarding House Bills 5859/HB1294 – equalizing the FY19 general state appropriation for SIUC and SIUE; HB5860/HB1293 – reconstituting the SIU Board of Trustees and changing membership requirements; and HB5861/HB1292 – creating SIUC and SIUE as separate universities with independent boards. This joint statement addresses only those issues surrounding our review of HB5861/HB1292.]

To begin, we acknowledge the issue that would be addressed by HB5861 is not a new one, nor is this the first time legislation has been proposed to dissolve the SIU System and operate the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses independently under their own separate boards.

As early as 1975, State Senator Sam Vadalabene introduced legislation that would have established a separate board of trustees for Edwardsville. While the measure passed both houses, ultimately the Illinois Senate overrode Gov. Dan Walker’s veto of the Vadalabene bill, but the House of Representatives declined to do so.

News coverage these last few days has also reported on more recent attempts in 2003, 2005, and 2013 to accomplish a similar outcome. The 2013 bill, also filed by Rep. Hoffman, similarly changed the affiliation of the SIU School of Medicine (SOM) to SIUE – expanding Edwardsville’s focus on the health sciences by joining the Schools of Dental Medicine, Pharmacy, and Nursing which are already affiliated with that campus – though the physical location of the SOM would remain in Springfield.

By definition, as an entity of the state under the Southern Illinois University Management Act, the ultimate decision about system dissolution will and must be a legislative one. Admitting the different missions of SIUC and SIUE, the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses are, by any measure of organizational scope and strength, equal partners in the SIU System. There are tangible benefits for the two institutions which derive from being part of a larger public higher education system (about which more will be said below), but in the end, the legislative calculus – and that of the citizens those legislators represent – will rest on whether or not those benefits are of a greater value and import than the perceived gains that may come by each university being independent of the system...and each other.

The SIU System Board of Trustees has not yet taken any official position on the three bills at this time. The Board is not set to meet again in regular session until July 12 – after the scheduled end of this legislative session – but it is possible Trustees could convene a special meeting for that purpose. Any such meeting held would be a public meeting and subject to applicable requirements of the Illinois Open Meetings Act. Until directed otherwise by the governing body of Southern Illinois University, the position that the SIU President’s Office will take on these and any other proposals that could still emerge is “neutral” – restricted to providing data, background information, and technical expertise which may be requested by elected officials or their staffs.

Without a doubt, there are benefits that attach to being part of a system – SIU is one of about 45 public higher education systems in the nation. It has been pointed out during debate over the previous bills to split SIU that our multi-campus system can earn better bond ratings as compared to some single-campus institutions in Illinois, due to our combined fiscal strength. This in turn holds down interest and insurance costs on bonds. Too, all campus funds are comingled for investment purposes to obtain the highest rate-of-return; likewise, SIU’s risk pools are comingled for purposes of insurance savings and reduced liability.

Possibly the most challenging aspect of a dissolution would be breaking out the bond debt by campus which could entail not insignificant legal and financial consulting expenses, albeit on a one-time basis.

Finally, it’s been noted over the years that our combined political leverage is stronger as a system – representing the common interests of 66 counties of central and southern Illinois, including the Metro East area – than it would be for the Edwardsville and Carbondale campuses individually. Nonetheless, the natural evolution of those regional interests also creates a demand for change over time, contributing to the rationale for a careful review of the legislation in front of us.

Dissolving the SIU System would be far from easy, but it is not an impossible task. The system is already one of the most decentralized nationally, providing shared services in the areas of Legal, Internal Audit and Ethics, Technology Transfer and Export Control, Treasury Services, Governmental Affairs, and Risk Management. Those functions – and the people undertaking them – would need to be reassigned and absorbed by the stand-alone campuses; fortunately, system personnel working in most of these functional areas already have work locations across the various SIU sites now, preventing major disruption in most of the impacted employees’ lives. Another positive in the eyes of many is that salary savings would be generated as there would no longer be system administrative leadership and their related staff to pay for. Rather, it is anticipated that the respective chancellors currently in place would become the interim presidents of their campuses, until newly appointed boards for SIUC and SIUE could make a decision about permanent institutional leadership.

The SIU Board of Trustees, as part of a major revision of the system’s strategic plan about two years ago, adopted a goal to study and incrementally expand system-wide shared services across a variety of “back office” and other non-academic service functions (e.g., Purchasing, Human Resources, IT). Those business centralization efforts may be paused temporarily in the event HB5861 garners sufficient support to move forward this legislative session. Additionally, an effective date of this legislation no earlier than July 1, 2019, (as opposed to the current July 1, 2018) would minimally be necessary to guarantee a smooth governance transition to the new boards as well as to ensure a careful unwinding of the combined operations to the campuses.

When the 2003 version of the dissolution bill was being debated, Illinois’ beloved Sen. Paul Simon opined in the Springfield State Journal-Register that SIU “ a powerful political and financial voice for the entire region. Dividing the university will diminish that important voice.” The question some 15 years later for all of us who love our university – students, employees, alumni, donors, community members, taxpayers, our elected representatives, and so many others – is to determine if the current governance and board structure remains the optimal one for a collective voice in Illinois and beyond.

SIU All-Campus Commencement Schedule

SIU Medical Commencement

It’s indeed that time of year once again.

Please note below the commencement schedules as announced for the Edwardsville, Carbondale, and Springfield campuses.

The presence of faculty and staff who are able to attend ceremonies is always noted and appreciated – as is the work of those dozens of employees on each campus whose efforts throughout the entire year ensure all our commencements are dignified yet celebratory, well-run events that honor our graduates’ accomplishments and provide a lifetime of memories for them and their families. 

So to all involved...Happy Graduation! 


Friday, May 4 (All at the Vadalabene Center Gymnasium)

10:00 a.m.
    School of Business undergraduates

2:00 p.m.
    School of Nursing graduates and undergraduates – pinning and graduation

6:30 p.m.
    Graduate School

Saturday, May 5

8:30 a.m. – Vadalabene Center Gymnasium
    School of Education, Health and Human Behavior undergraduates

12:30 p.m. – Vadalabene Center Gymnasium
    College of Arts and Sciences undergraduates in:

  • Applied Communication Studies
  • Art
  • Art & Design
  • Criminal Justice
  • English
  • Foreign Languages
  • History
  • Integrative Studies
  • International Studies
  • Liberal Studies
  • Mass Communication
  • Music
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • Social Work
  • Sociology
  • Theater and Dance

2:30 p.m. – Morris University Center, Meridian Ballroom
   School of Pharmacy hooding and graduation

5:00 p.m. – Vadalabene Center Gymnasium
   School of Engineering undergraduates

   College of Arts and Sciences Undergraduates in:

  • Anthropology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Economics
  • Earth & Space Science Education
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Geography
  • Mathematical Studies
  • Physics

Saturday, June 2

10 a.m. – Morris University Center, Meridian Ballroom
    School of Dental Medicine commencement ceremony

SIU Logo

Friday, May 11

3 p.m. – Shryock Auditorium
    School of Law commencement ceremony

Saturday, May 12, 2018 (All at the SIU Arena)

9:00 a.m.
    Colleges of Agricultural Sciences, Liberal Arts, Science and Medicine

1:30 p.m.
    Colleges of Business and Education and Human Services

5:30 p.m.
    Colleges of Applied Sciences and Arts, Engineering, and Mass Communication and Media Arts

SIU School of Medicine

Saturday, May 19

Noon - Sangamon Auditorium at the University of Illinois Springfield
    SIU School of Medicine commencement

SIUE’s Van Meter Running for SURS Board Seat


In the April 4 issue of the Connection, we wrote about the importance and benefit of being involved with the State Universities Annuitants Association. As noted at that time, the role of the SUAA organization is to advance and support interests and concerns on behalf of all faculty and staff of public universities and community colleges – both retired and current employees – as well as their spouses and survivors, who are participants and beneficiaries of the State Universities Retirement System, or SURS.

In a related vein, and subsequent to that article, it was learned that one of SIU’s own – Collin Van Meter who works in Information Technology at the Edwardsville campus – has presented himself as a candidate for the SURS Board in an election being conducted from April 2 through May 1 to fill the expiring terms of two “active-member” trustees of that board. Van Meter is running against two other candidates: Steven Rock, an economics professor at WIU’s Macomb campus; and Timothy Spila, a materials research scientist at UIUC. 

SURS members have received voting materials via email if they have a valid address on file with the retirement system; if not, a ballot should have arrived via U.S. mail. The election is being administered for SURS by Election-America. The winners of the two open seats are scheduled to be announced on May 4. 

Statements are available online for all candidates and Collin’s information has been placed below to introduce him to SURS-eligible employees within the SIU System.

The SURS Board of Trustees is comprised of 11 members – five are appointed by the governor; four must be active members, elected by active members; and two are retiree/annuitants, elected by SURS annuitants. The Chair of the Illinois Board of Higher Education – currently Tom Cross – also serves as chair of the SURS Board.

Collin A. Van Meter

Collin Van MeterCandidate Statement – Collin A. Van Meter has been a member of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s Information Technology Services Unit since 2011. During that time, he has worked closely with faculty, staff, and students assisting with the implementation and utilization of educational technology across the University. Collin has worked in the IT field for the last 13 years and has earned a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Illinois College and a Master of Science in Computer Management and Information Systems from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Collin stays involved at SIUE by serving on the University Staff Senate as a Senator representing Civil Service Open Range employees while also acting as the organization’s Treasurer. He also volunteers in the community assisting with local campaigns and political groups including university student organizations. As a trustee on the SURS board, Collin will work to secure the pension benefits for active state employees as well as current annuitants. He is committed to ensuring proper state funding and suitable investments that will safeguard the system now and into the future.

The System Connection Goes on Summer Hiatus


As has been standard practice since the Connection debuted back in 2014, we’ll be starting our own summer break following publication of the last edition for the 2017-18 academic term on May 2. In keeping with our biweekly Wednesday schedule again next year, we’ll crank things back up for 2018-19 with a “welcome back” issue appearing on Aug. 29. 

Throughout the summer, as has always been the case, the President’s Office will continue to utilize all-employee email blasts to keep system-wide faculty and staff updated on any big developments as they arise.  Given remaining uncertainty about the state budget picture...the progress of legislation that’s been introduced, whether around the bills to change the SIU governance structure or other important topics...or yet unknown critical issues that could impact the system or the campuses over the next few can be sure we’ll do our best to keep you apprised as status changes warrant.

Faces of SIU

Sha'Donna Woods

As an academic advisor in the School of Education, Health and Human Behavior Student Services Office at SIUE, Sha’Donna Wood assists students majoring in exercise science, nutrition, public health and speech-language/pathology and audiology.

One of two applied health advisors for the university, Sha’Donna, of Alton, thrives on those individual interactions with the students.

“I love getting to know the students, and bearing witness to their growth and success,” she said. “It’s phenomenal to watch how much they grow; from the first meeting when they are sitting quietly while their parents ask all of the questions, to the last meeting when they can speak confidently about the research they are conducting with a faculty mentor.” 

Born in Chicago, Sha’Donna grew up in Rockford and was a first generation college student. She’s quick to say that the impact college had on her life is immeasurable. So, it’s not surprising that she’s excited to have a job “where I can have a real impact on the experiences of college students, especially for those, like me, who are the first ones in their families to attend.”

A five-year employee of the Edwardsville campus, she was initially hired as an advisor for the College of Arts and Sciences, working with students majoring in biological sciences, chemistry, environmental science, mathematical studies and physics. She moved to her current position in June 2017, and said she sees her role as providing support and professional advice to support students as they pursue their academic goals and ultimately achieve success.

“I get particularly excited when talking with students who genuinely love learning,” Sha’Donna said. “I love having conversations with students who have found a field they are genuinely passionate about. When they start to make connections between the difference courses and start to ask about classes that are interesting to them, instead of just asking about the minimum requirements, I get a bit tingly.”

Since many of the pre-health students she advises are interested in going on to the SIUE School of Pharmacy or SIU’s School of Dental Medicine or School of Medicine, she’s proud to play a role in contributing to the success of not only the students she works with and SIUE, but to the SIU system as a whole.  

Growing up, Sha’Donna had aspirations of being a cartoonist or animator. She refocused her energies to earn her bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2008 and then complete her master of education with emphasis in student affairs in 2012 at Northern Illinois University.

SIU already holds a special place in her heart, since it’s where she got her first “real” job in the field she loves and where she’s found wonderful people, from the students to her colleagues. That “real” job keeps her pretty busy, but when she has a little down time, she enjoys reading and studying Korean. Then, it’s back to work, helping students realize their dreams.

Thanks for your commitment to our students and our university, Sha’Donna.

Other Voices in HIED

Trump's Man on Campus

The subtle ways colleges discriminate against poor students, explained with a cartoon

The Hill:
Op Ed: Bridging the growing college divide among young Americans

The Washington Post:
Battle over college course materials is a textbook example of technological change

The Atlantic:
The Future of College Looks Like the Future of Retail

U.S. News & World Report:
Op Ed: What Happens When 2-Year Schools Offer B.A. Degrees?