The System Connection - December 20, 2017

President's Column

Greetings:

While it is not my intention to focus on this topic for every Connection column into perpetuity, given the range of comments and discussion at last week's Board of Trustees' meeting about the proposed SIUC academic reorganization, I nonetheless feel that I have to come back to it one more time here. 

As the chancellor's revised proposal from November has now moved into its mandated period of comprehensive faculty review – bringing to fruition over the coming months the full measure of shared governance involving both the collective bargaining and faculty constituency organizations at Carbondale along their respective tracks – I’m prompted to write again on this serious matter, in no small part to clarify my own thinking and beliefs regarding how the campus can best move forward.  

If you've been a consistent reader in this space, you know this isn't the first time I've taken to the column for the purpose of helping myself stake out a position on an important policy or operational matter. Considering the sobering challenges facing SIUC, which are well-known to all by now – and the magnitude of the daring solution proposed to address those challenges – I decided it wasn't pushing it too much to devote one more article to the debate. As I've been telling the many who have asked or commented to me about it...now is the time for all voices to be heard. 

Let's acknowledge what seems apparent. The reorganization proposal in front of Carbondale at this time represents a classic illustration of the ongoing debate about the balance of power between faculty autonomy and university control. To paraphrase a broader question posed by Daniel Levy on his HIED blog, The WorldView: How much democracy is appropriate for a public university which functions in a democratic political system? As Levy ultimately acknowledged, there's not just one common answer.

But instead of trying to tackle the many discrete and idiosyncratic questions which predictably arise from the reorg proposal – which I rightly leave to those individuals, groups, and units impacted by the changes that have been proffered – I’ve been focusing more on how best we ensure the widest discussion of issues preceding what ultimately are going to be democratic decisions. To turn a phrase from a faculty colleague at SIUC: How do we obtain "maximal inclusivity" around a plan that will define the collective future of the campus?   

As is typical for me – to illuminate, or at least better interpret, my own values around that question – I’ve been doing my fair share of reading lately...everything from blog posts (see reference above)...to articles largely out of the organizational studies and development literature...to passages from HIED books that have been sitting on my shelves mostly waiting to be read.

[An aside: If you want to read two basic contrasting views of the problems and prescriptions for American higher education, put a couple of books on your holiday gift list. Designing the New American University by Michael Crow, president of Arizona State, co-authored with William Dabars, presents one approach to transforming higher education. Another, quite different approach is suggested by Christopher Newfield in his book, The Great MistakeHow We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them. Both were published by Johns Hopkins University Press and remain readily available.] 

Back to my own search for guidance, though. One of the most incisive pieces I've run across thus far was actually the text of a speech given by President Willis Moore of the University of Missouri...in 1947. Moore was addressing a chapter of the American Association of University Professors and wrestling with some of the same questions about participation and decision making at the university that face Carbondale now.  His full address can be accessed here.  

At the beginning of his speech, Moore posits that strong democratic procedures and involvement make, over the long haul, for better decisions in the end:

Moreover, the wide discussion of issues preceding democratic decisions is almost bound to bring out weaknesses or dangers which would escape the eyes of the keenest-minded...It is true that large numbers of people move ponderously, even where they are well-informed; but, after all is said and done, they do move, and both fast enough to meet the most pressing needs and slow enough to avoid the most glaring errors. 

But for me, as his speech closes, Moore provides some leavening advice which may be helpful to all of us given the big and important choices ahead in the coming months. (Writing for his time, be forewarned that Moore exclusively uses male pronouns, which I have not changed in the excerpt below.): 

A university or college is a form of community in terms of which a number of people carry out their specific functions as parts of the broader society. If it is true, as I think it to be the case, that man's character is influenced by the institutionally induced behavior of political activities, which touch him infrequently and relatively remotely, how much more formative must be the university set-up with respect to the people who act within its framework. Consequently, it is my contention that it is not enough to know that a given type of university organization is efficient in regard to its primary function of discovering and disseminating truth; we must know also that it provides the conditions for the development of the best possible human beings among those who operate within its confines. And I doubt that we shall have to choose between an efficient university organization and one conducive to the production of desirable human character; for it is highly probable that, in the long run, the two are the same.  

Not just at the campus level, of course, but at the system level as well – we have much ahead of us for 2018. And if our recent history is any guide, much of what's ahead will not be easy. I'm betting we'll get the opportunity to see if Moore's words still ring true 70 years downstream.  

I wish the best to everyone all across SIU for a safe, happy, and restful holiday break. As I've said repeatedly, a university is its people – and you all are the best!

Randy Dunn

SIU Board of Trustees approves major SIU Broadcasting Service expansion and more

Board of Trustees

The SIU Board of Trustees, meeting in Carbondale last week, approved plans authorizing System President Randy Dunn to negotiate and enter into a purchase agreement that would ultimately make WSIU Public Broadcasting the largest public broadcasting station in Illinois.

Greg Petrowich, executive director of WSIU, outlined plans that have been about three years in the making for the purchase of the West Central Illinois Educational Telecommunications Corporation, including its broadcast licenses, specified transmission property, real estate and related assets. Petrowich said when the deal is finalized, it will enable WSIU to reach about five million people in an area incorporating about 70 percent of Illinois as well as into five border states.

WSIU, founded in 1958, currently serves more than three million people. WSIU includes three digital television channels, three radio stations, an HD radio channel, a website, local production units and an education and community outreach department. WSIU has provided important hands-on training and professional development experience to thousands of students through the years. In addition to delivering valuable programming, WSIU Radio operates the Southern Illinois Radio Information Service which helps nearly 1,000 people who are blind or have other physical difficulties that prevent them from reading stay connected with the world.

The purchase price won’t exceed $1.5 million and will be initially covered by an internal loan to be repaid through operating grants, fundraising and lease revenue. The acquisition would qualify the station for an additional $1.5 million in grant funding through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Healthy Network Initiative, created to increase efficiency and public television service effectiveness. Petrowich also indicated significant external revenue increases are anticipated, likely enabling pay-off within three years.

Other highlights of the Dec. 14 board decisions include:

* Approving honorary degree awards to:

       - Janice L. Jacobs (SIUC): A longtime foreign affairs officer, Jacobs has had a distinguished diplomatic career with posts in Nigeria, Ethiopia, France, Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Washington, D.C. The work of the SIUC alumna included helping visa issuance policies after 9/11 as deputy assistant secretary for Visa Services in the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

       - Richard W. Peck (SIUC): The award-winning novelist has published more than 40 novels for children and young adults during a 45-year career, winning numerous major children’s fiction awards. After serving in the U.S. Army, he earned his master’s degree in English at SIUC and went on to teach and write for major newspapers before becoming a novelist.

       - Richard Roundtree (SIUC): The award-winning actor attended SIUC on a football scholarship and went on to become a model and successful actor, playing numerous roles including private detective John Shaft in the 1971 movie “Shaft.” He is considered by many to be the first African American action hero. In addition to his success in television and movies, the breast cancer survivor has been a vocal advocate for male breast cancer awareness and participated in numerous benefits to help fight the disease as well.

       - Dr. Vaughn Vandegrift (SIUE): The former SIUE chancellor led the university from 2004 to 2012. Several building projects, a branding initiative and other notable progress was made under his leadership, and his career includes 38 years of service in higher education, serving at several other universities before becoming chancellor at Edwardsville.

* Authorizing Distinguished Service Awards for:

       - Dr. Bob G. Gower (SIUC): A double alumnus of SIUC, Gower is an international business leader in the chemical industry where he has built, transformed and co-founded numerous corporations during a 40-year career. He founded Ensysce Biosciences Inc. in 2008 to focus on using carbon nanotubes for therapeutic purposes and its technology is helping patients fight chronic pain while avoiding opioid drug abuse.

       - Harvey Welch Jr. (SIUC): A Centralia native, Welch was the first African American on the SIU basketball team and the first to complete the ROTC program. After graduating, he had a 20-year career in the U.S. Air Force, becoming one of the first three African Americans to earn the rank and then retiring in 1975. At that time he returned to SIUC as dean of students, later becoming vice chancellor of student affairs. Since retiring he continues to be active on campus and in the community, helping many organizations and earning various awards and honors for his public service.

       - Senator William Haine (SIUE): The longtime Alton resident and Vietnam War veteran has served as an elected official for 40 years including 14 as Madison County state’s attorney and as a state senator since 2002. He is a faithful supporter of the region and of SIUE, where he served on the Dean’s Advisory Board for the SIU School of Dental Medicine and he frequently speaks at various school events.

* Appointing:

       - John Shaw as the new director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at SIUC. He brings more than 30 years of print and broadcast journalism experience to the position.

       - Lori Stettler as the vice chancellor for Student Affairs at SIUC. She’s been serving in the position on an interim basis since mid-2015 and previously was assistant vice chancellor for auxiliary services for more than four years and director of the SIU Student Center for nearly seven years.

       - Laura Frame as senior associate general counsel for healthcare and litigation for the university system. A registered nurse as well as an attorney, she brings more than 20 years of experience in health care law and risk management to the post, most recently serving as vice president of a 600-bed hospital.

       - Curtis Baird, CEO of Sure Response; Rex Budde, president and CEO of Southern Illinois Healthcare; John Dosier, president of First Southern Bank; Donald Gulley, president and CEO of Southern Illinois Power Cooperative; Curt Jones, founder of Dippin’ Dots; Teresa Katubig, president and CEO of Higher Level; Angela Povolish, attorney with FMGR; and Gary Williams, Carbondale city manager, to two-year terms as community directors for the Southern Illinois Research Park. Gulley is a new board members while the others were reappointments.

* Approved replacing the roof on Prairie Hall at SIUE at an estimated cost of $1.3 million.

Higher Education Act overhaul pending before Congress

US Capitol

Federal legislators are continuing efforts to overhaul the Higher Education Act and the latest version of the House proposal, known as the PROSPER Act, includes a number of changes affecting universities and students.

It streamlines the student aid system in several ways, including consolidating the five existing income-based repayment options into one and capping the monthly student loan repayment at 12.5 percent of the borrower’s discretionary income while providing loan forgiveness for all undergraduate students after 180 months of repayment. It also simplifies the federal aid application, expands Pell Grant eligibility for short-term educational options such as job training and certificate programs, and makes available one loan, one grant and one work-study program for students.

Under this version, colleges and universities would be held accountable for a portion of the financial risk associated with student loans and would be required to provide financial aid counseling to students.

Other provisions include reducing regulatory requirements for postsecondary institutions to help reduce administrative costs and allow funds to be redirected toward educational purposes and changing the Department of Education’s grant allocation process giving states authority to address higher education needs. The proposal also addresses the sometimes overwhelming amounts of data that schools must currently provide to students, suggesting they instead receive more concise and easily understandable standardized information to help them make better informed decisions.

The issue of free speech on college campuses is also touched on, with a requirement that institutions receiving federal funds be required to provide prospective and current students with a free speech policy disclosure. The act’s provisions likewise address other timely issues including hazing and sexual assault, although the language wouldn’t typically require colleges and universities to change their existing policies.

The bill was approved along party lines in committee and a full House vote is pending. Meanwhile, the Senate is working on their own plan for reauthorizing or revising the Higher Education Act. Stay tuned for updates as the legislators continue talks.

Graduate Student Provisions Eliminated From Federal Tax Bill


A new version of the federal tax rewrite emerged last week and it provided some welcome news for graduate students. The tax overhaul, which the President Donald Trump wants to sign before Christmas, is headed for final votes in Congress this week, but without some of the provisions directly impacting higher education. Most importantly to SIU is the removal of a proposed tax on tuition waivers utilized by graduate students. The language regarding taxing tuition waivers as income was dropped after widespread objections by students.

As you know, graduate students around the country protested the change, both on their home campuses – including SIU – and in Washington, D.C. Because of their loud voices and those of others in the higher education community, the tax on graduate waivers was removed. Also saved from the chopping block was the Lifetime Learning Credit, valued at up to $2,000, and the $5,250 corporate deduction for employee education-assistance plans. Additionally, the bill does not eliminate the $2,500 deduction for interest paid on student loans.

Several members of our federal SIU delegation stepped up in recent weeks and encouraged congressional leadership to eliminate the graduate tax. It appears the work of a bipartisan group of legislators, including Congressman Rodney Davis and Congressman Mike Bost, was what was needed in this case to persuade House Republican leadership. We very much appreciate their efforts on our behalf on this issue.

Still, the bill will impact higher education in some ways. Doubling the standard deduction will reduce the number of individuals who itemize charitable contributions, like those to universities, on their tax forms, possibly limiting donations to colleges. Moreover, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the provision limiting the deduction for state and local taxes paid could put pressure on states to constrain their own spending in areas such as higher education. It appears that only time may tell the full story on the eventual impact of the bill.

Bicentennial campaign will honor Illinois veterans

Honors 200

The yearlong Illinois Bicentennial Celebration has launched Honor 200, a signature program created to honor 200 of the state’s veterans.

Department of Veterans Affairs Director Erica Jeffries and Governor Bruce Rauner recently announced the initiative to recognize veterans for their contributions to society. The IDVA will be working with veteran’s organizations statewide to promote Honor 200 and to solicit nominations for veterans to be recognized in conjunction with the program.

Online nominations can be submitted by the public at www.illinois.gov/veterans. Or, written nominations may be submitted to the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, 69 W. Washington St. Chicago, IL 60601.

Anyone can nominate an Illinois veteran for Honor 200 recognition. The nominees will be evaluated on the basis of their achievements and how their contributions have assisted and benefitted their communities.

“It is a very special privilege to honor our veterans,” Jeffries said in an IDVA press release. “Honor 200 provides us with an opportunity to showcase our veterans and the values they have when it comes to serving our communities.”

The official Illinois Bicentennial Celebration kicked off on Dec. 3 with events in Springfield and Chicago. The festivities continue with various programs and events throughout 2018, culminating with the Dec. 3, 2018, Bicentennial Birthday Party at the United Center. The Honor 200 veterans will receive special recognition during the Birthday Gala.

SIU President Randy Dunn serves as one of the three co-chairs of the Illinois Bicentennial Commission, which advises the Bicentennial Office in planning and implementing the yearlong celebration.

Faces of SIU

Jodi Miley

Jodi Miley’s father used to tease her about running away to join the circus. After all, she could ride a unicycle and walk on impressively tall stilts.  And, like many young people, the shy introvert from Leaf River, Illinois - population 500 - entered college with an undecided major.

As a student at SIUC, Jodi found direction though, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in technical careers. Along the way, she had developed a passion for the university, the students and the people who work there, so she was excited to return to her alma mater as an employee about a decade ago. She’s currently the office administrator in the College of Science’s physics department. A typical day finds her immersed in paperwork – processing contracts, schedules, payroll, purchasing, graduate applications and so much more – as she assists the department chair, faculty and students with whatever they may need.

“I see myself as a support for the good work that is going on here in physics. The research done by faculty and students here is incredible, and I haven’t even learned about most of it,” Jodi said, noting that she’s been in her current position just four months. “These people are world changers!”

Jodi began her professional career at SIU working for the associate dean in the College of Education and Human Services and was then promoted to the college’s recruitment and retention coordinator position, a spot that still holds her heart, she said.
“I met so many wonderful people there: administrators, faculty, staff and students. I learned much about SIU and all of the great opportunities here and was happy to share them with prospects and the community,” she said. Through subsequent positions at Morris Library, the College of Liberal Arts and COEHS, she learned about the “incredible” library services offered on campus and other aspects of SIU life. In the process, she’s grown even fonder of the university.

“The people here and in the community are really special,” she said. “Anywhere you go on campus, in Carbondale or in the surrounding area, the people are as down-to-earth as it gets. They make you feel comfortable. And, I think the students come to SIU and leave here knowing that people here are invested in them and they can always call it home.”

Jodi said she enjoys acquiring new skills and working with great people each day. She has been welcomed with open arms by the physics department, where she was told recently that she makes the department “cozy.”

She also enjoys making her home cozy, working around the house and in the yard. She’s also having a great time with her new hobby – bass fishing – and likes to hang out with her children whenever she can.

After becoming a mother, Jodi discovered that “my passion was to help my kids find their passion.”

Her daughter Katie, 25, followed in Jodi’s footsteps, earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing within the SIU system, at sister school SIUE in 2016. She’s acquired her nursing license for five states already and is currently doing psychiatric travel nursing in St. Louis. Jodi’s son Dylan, 21, is a junior civil engineering student at Mississippi State and is wrapping up a co-op with the contracting firm of Brasfield and Gorrie, working at the Duke Energy plant near Salem-Winston, North Carolina.

“I’ve enjoyed watching them grow into responsible young adults and find their passions,” Jodi said. “I’d like to hope I’ve helped some students here at SIU do that, too.”

“I’m hopeful for SIU’s future and thankful for the opportunities I’ve had here,” she added.

We appreciate your commitment to SIU and to our students, Jodi.

Other Voices in HIED

FiveThirtyEight:
There’s No Such Thing As ‘Sound Science’

Science:
Fraying ties among academia, industry, and government hurt scientists and science

Bloomberg:
Editorial: What Students and Workers Need Isn’t Rocket Science

The Hechinger Report:
In an era of inequity, more and more college financial aid is going to the rich

The Washington Post:
For-profit colleges may be headed for a new boom cycle – thanks to the Trump administration