The System Connection - January 24, 2018

President's Column

Dunn and HIED

Greetings for 2018!

Well, it’s a new year and with that comes the start of another legislative term in Springfield. Though the Illinois House cancelled plans to open in regular session yesterday, it expects to be back on Jan. 30; the State Senate is scheduled to take up the same day. In Washington, the second session of the 115th Congress began for the U.S. House and Senate on Jan. 3. Governor Rauner will deliver his State of the State address a week from today and – maybe more importantly for us – his budget speech on Feb. 14.

What will this new season mean for public higher education? I figure we’re all about to find out…

If you’re a regular reader of The Chronicle of Higher Education, you might have seen an article posted last week: “The Biggest Problem for State Higher-Ed Policy? Federal Higher-Ed Policy” [emphasis mine]. The anchor for the Chronicle’s piece was the release of the annual Top Ten listing of state higher education policy issues, which the American Association of State Colleges and Universities has been publishing for nearly a dozen years.

If you want to read the full policy brief from the association, it can be found here. AASCU has become renowned in HIED administrative circles for this popular yearly list, and it’s become a kind of parlor game to guess which 10 issues will make the cut…and in what order.

Since most of you probably won’t download the full report, here is the list, in descending order: 1) Changes in federal law, including tax policy, federal financial aid, and reauthorization of the Higher Education Act; 2) Sluggish state revenue growth, certainly a concern for us in Illinois; 3) College affordability, particularly state-level “free” college plans; 4) Workforce development, or using the public universities to advance state economic development goals; 5) Undocumented and DACA students, which may shoot to the top of the list with DACA’s scheduled expiration on March 5; 6) Guns on campus; 7) State responses to policy shifts; 8) Performance-based funding; 9) Campus free speech; and, 10) Campus sexual assault.

Interestingly, 2018 marks the first time ever that federal policy issues have topped the AASCU list. The current federal landscape – especially with passage of the tax bill – has created a wild card for state budgets, particularly in higher-tax states like Illinois. When only $10,000 in state and local taxes can be deducted on a federal tax return, how much pressure will mount to push state and local taxes downward in a state like ours? Nobody knows how Illinois and similar states may ultimately respond.

Of course, the unfolding of these various policy puzzles is taking place against the backdrop of at least one proposal to reform Illinois public higher education, which was introduced last fall by Sen. Chapin Rose and Rep. Dan Brady. (The Oct. 4 System Connection provided background on the Rose/Brady bill.) Since then, we’ve additionally seen the formation of the General Assembly’s “Higher Education Working Group,” comprised of three elected members representing each of the four legislative caucuses. A team representing the SIU System provided testimony for the Working Group at their hearing held a week ago at Illinois State. And…according to the Chicago Tribune, Gov. Rauner may yet add his voice to the chorus with the formation of his own higher education commission sometime this year.   

Taken together, it suggests that 2018 is shaping up to be the year of public higher education reform in the Land of Lincoln. So if you look at the way other states are reacting to similar sets of pressures, could a couple of outcomes be on the horizon for us in Illinois?

More consideration of closures, consolidations, and mergers – whether it be of programs, academic colleges, back-office functions, or universities as a whole – will not disappear anytime soon. And these are not impossible to do. Georgia has led the way nationally, cutting the number of state institutions from 36 down to 25 over the last ten years. Wisconsin is chugging along on its plan to combine the two- and four-year systems under one unified organizational structure. Right-sizing and return-on-investment (read, performance funding) are the policy values driving such actions where they occur.

As many of you are aware, we’re carefully moving forward to increase the number and level of shared business services across the SIU System to free up funding which can then be plowed back into campus operations. Actually, this is nothing new for SIU, or the state as a whole. Until the last round of HIED reform in Illinois, over two decades ago, our state operated as a “system of systems” (i.e., four systems of state public higher education overseeing the 12 campuses, instead of the two systems and seven stand-alone universities we have today). Maybe it’s time to think about that again for greater efficiencies, cost-savings, and consistency in decision making?

Looking at the campus level, the Rose/Brady bill would limit the offering of most programs in a discipline to only the “top eight ranked academic programs” identified across the dozen public institutions in the state…followed then by an economic efficiency review for the (remaining) eight programs, which would be undertaken by the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

That would be a big lift for a currently understaffed IBHE. 

Increasing pressure to freeze tuition and cut costs – particularly on anything that is deemed as “nonessential” for university operations – is not ending either. In Illinois, this response has been especially fueled by increasing reports of high administrative salaries over the past few years, including contract payouts when leaders are terminated prior to the end of their contacts. Neither has the ever-rising cost of college athletics escaped attention on this front. Governors and legislators will continue to link state funding for public HIED in support of those programs with demonstrated ties to career pipelines for high-wage jobs in the state.

To wit, SIU will be participating in a forthcoming collaborative project – the Career Outcomes Tool – which four state agencies, including the Board of Higher Education, are sponsoring, that matches Illinois workforce outcomes to individual institutions and their academic programs. I agree this is a significant initiative and view it as something beneficial for many undergraduate students and their parents. However, a state that wants to be great must also continue to provide a level of state support (albeit, maybe not identical degree programs at every one of the 12 schools) for students who strongly desire to study in fields where a defined pathway or straight-line career outcome may not always be quite as clear.

As I’ve said many times before…universities are not simply big community colleges.

At this point, some of you loyal column readers may be saying, “looks like more of the same” for 2018. Indeed. In numerous ways I think – given the reform environment we’re clearly in - this is going to be a pivotal year for SIU. But to quote from the conclusion of AASCU’s Top Ten Higher Education State Policy Issues for 2018 report, Southern Illinois University has a great case to make for “cultivating champions, creating partnerships and building public support” for what we do to maximize individual opportunity and capacity at the same time as we drive our state’s future stability and prosperity.

We’ll keep on keepin’ on.

Randy Dunn

PHOTO ID (L-R): L to R: Sen. Tom Rooney, Rep. Katie Stuart, House HIED Committee Chair Chris Welch, House HIED Appropriations Committee Chair Kelly Burke, Rep. Dan Brady, Sen Chapin Rose, Sen. Paul Schimpf, Rep. Bob Pritchard, Senate HIED Committee Chair Pat McGuire

BOT Diversity Excellence Award – Nominations Due March 31


The Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees’ Diversity Excellence Award is an annual honor presented to an individual or group that encourages the system-wide 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 award recipient(s) will be asked to share their diversity journey at the upcoming fall Diversity Excellence Lecture and Award ceremony. It will be held at SIUE this year on Oct. 25, 2018.

The SIU System Diversity Advisory Council and this award were established as part of the Board’s recent Strategic Improvement Plan.  

To nominate someone or to apply, 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 wmcneese@siumed.edu. Questions can also be directed to Dr. McNeese at 217.545.7334.

SIU Opening Export Controls Office

Todd Wakeland

The SIU system is launching an Export Controls Office and Todd A. Wakeland, previously an SIU assistant general counsel housed at Edwardsville, will serve as the founding director.

As the federal government is becoming increasingly diligent in regulating the travel and export relationships between the United States and some foreign nations, the export controls office is being established to assure that SIU and its faculty, staff and students are in compliance with all export control regulations.

Up until now, the export control function for SIU has generally been handled through the respective campuses’ research operations. However, an audit finding and organizational review over the past couple of years drove the decision to create and formalize the office at the system level.  

The U.S. Departments of State, Treasury and Commerce all regulate export controls and the travel of people, technology, information and equipment to or from foreign nations, including China, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Iran and Cuba. There are specific regulations regarding what can be taken into those nations, for instance, so as to assure that technology that might also have commercial and military or other such dual purpose usage isn’t exported from the U.S., Wakeland said. For example, a faculty researcher’s computer might have commercial software, which could be also used for military purposes, if appropriated.  Given the federal oversight, it is probably no surprise there is a great deal of compliance and record-keeping expected of all universities working in the impacted countries. 

Penalties for violating the regulations can result in fines up to $10 million and up to 10 years in prison; individuals personally, and the universities they represent, could be liable for these penalties. SIU’s Export Controls Office will work hand-in-hand with all faculty, staff and students traveling to one of the specified countries as well as people coming from those countries to the three SIU campuses to assure complete adherence to all regulations, according to Wakeland.

The SIU Office of Export Controls will open on a part-time basis Feb. 5 as Wakeland wraps up his legal duties for the SIU General Counsel’s Office, a position he’s held since 2012. The Export Controls Office will be fully operational March 5. While this system office will be housed in Rendleman Hall at SIUE, Wakeland will be traveling among all of the SIU campuses in an ongoing rotation.

Wakeland’s earlier work on behalf of SIU has included managing export control issues, especially for the SIUE campus; representing that campus’s International Travel Office for faculty/student exchanges; negotiating and drafting business contracts and various other duties. He previously served as assistant general counsel for Saint Louis University, where his work included negotiating more than $100 million in research contracts, handling various material transfer agreements and serving as legal counselor for the Office of Sponsored Programs and Clinical Trials Office. Todd also has had experience in private legal practice, working for a number of firms in the greater St. Louis area for several years.

Wakeland earned his law degree at Saint Louis University School of Law and his bachelor’s degree in history at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Additional information about the Export Controls Office and its work can be found online. Wakeland can also be reached at 618.650.2455; please note that this number will change when the Export Controls Office is fully up and running.

We’re in the Political Season…

Ballot Check

It seems hard to believe, but we’re entering the thick of the Illinois political season. Though the primary election date is 55 days away – on March 20 – registered voters can start casting ballots at their local election offices (typically the county courthouse) as soon as Feb. 8…only 15 days from today.

We’re aware that the campuses have provided various versions of this information already – and the Illinois Ethics Matters newsletter from the Illinois Office of Executive Inspector General which is forwarded to all SIU employees has offered reminders as well. Plus, we all surely remember the election-related questions when taking our ethics training.

Nonetheless, it bears repeating as the elections ratchet up that the Illinois Ethics Act does prohibit certain political activities of employees of public universities.

While employees are, of course, free to support or oppose any candidates or referenda, it must be done entirely on your own time and using no university or state resources. Since “resources” include your time, any political activity during your defined work day would have to come from vacation, personal, or approved compensatory time. 

The Executive Ethics Commission throughout its history has levied sizable fines against prohibited political activity such as sending political emails through state accounts or using a state vehicle for doing political work or attending political events. 

We want all of SIU’s 7,000+ employees to vote and be engaged in the political process. Just do it in a way that doesn’t run afoul of the Ethics Act. Michelle Taylor, SIU’s ethics officer, is always available for questions and consultation. She can be reached by email at mtaylor@siu.edu or via phone at 618.536.3480.

Faces of SIU

Anita Joy

When Anita Joy wakes up on a Monday morning, it’s with a sense of excitement and anticipation. That’s because she truly loves her job as associate professor, director of research and chair of the Department of Growth, Development and Structure at the SIU School of Dental Medicine in Alton.

“I like to go to work. My job is never stagnant. I enjoy collaborating with colleagues and especially working with the students,” Anita said. “My favorite part is interacting with the students, in the classroom or in the lab. To be able to teach them, answer their questions and help them prepare to be dental professionals – that’s why I chose this career. And I learn so much from them and everyone I work with.”

Although her duties are extensive and diverse, she said she feels that she contributes most to SIU in “small but important ways, like seeing my students understand something I’m saying and realize it will be useful to them some day in their practice. Collaboration is also very important to me. I think I’ve been able to connect people both on- and off-campus in ways that benefit everyone involved.”

The students, particularly first-year dental students, benefit from Anita’s expertise in the classroom. She also oversees and mentors research, pairing faculty and students on research projects that are of mutual interest and assuring they have the resources they need for their work. She also helps assure that the dental school’s research presentations take the stage at various regional, national and international venues. She works closely with the faculty too, mentoring and helping them progress toward short- and long-term goals.

Her vocational aspirations once ran the gamut, from archeologist to pilot. But in the end, her passion kept coming back to one thing – teaching. Both of her grandmothers and her mother were teachers and indeed her mother continues to mentor doctoral students even after retirement. So perhaps it was natural that Anita would come to realize that what she most wanted to do is help others learn, she said.

Anita completed her undergraduate studies and her dental degree in her native India and practiced there as well. She went on to earn her doctorate at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, where she also honed her skills as a graduate teaching and research assistant.

Anita is in her eighth year at SIU. After just a couple of months as an instructor, she became an assistant professor and was later promoted to her current position. Although not an alumna of SIUE or the School of Dental Medicine, she nevertheless feels strongly attached to SIU.

“I have this strange, tight connection to SIU. It’s my first full-time faculty position but it’s more than that,” she said. “The people I work with – faculty, staff and students – are just downright nice people. We’re close, like a family. I enjoy being with them and it’s a good place for me.”

Anita also relishes time with her husband and children. She’s involved in the music and sporting activities her daughter, age 12, and five-year-old son participate in. After nearly 14 years in the United States, the family still loves to travel and explore new places and cuisines, too. They’ve taken numerous road trips, complete with unusual stops along the way. Anita’s favorite adventures so far have included driving to both coasts, even though she admits to having a ‘morbid fear of water. But I love water and the beach as long as I’m not in it.”

Even exploring close to home has been fun, she said with a smile. After all, she would never have dreamed years ago reading about the world’s largest catsup bottle that she would someday see it firsthand in Collinsville, just a 20-minute drive from her home in Edwardsville. When the travels conclude, she’s always anxious to get back her SIU family.

Thanks, Anita, for your devotion to our students and our university.

Other Voices in HIED

The Washington Post:
Here’s how Washington could shape higher education in 2018

The New York Times:
As Flow of Foreign Students Wanes, U.S. Universities Feel the Sting

USA Today:
Fewer international students coming to U.S. for grad school in science and engineering

The Atlantic:
Why Aren’t College Students Using Career Services?

Bloomberg:
Editorial: The U.S. Needs a New (and Improved) Higher Education Act