Insights into the reallocation proposal

Many of you may have seen the opinion piece that includes details about the development of a recent proposal to transfer funds from the Carbondale to the Edwardsville campus. (Ultimately, the board did not pass the proposal; shortly after the vote, some legislators proposed separating the SIU system.)

I will let the statements that have been shared speak for themselves. I am, of course, dismayed and disappointed by what appears to be an active, deliberate effort to undermine the Carbondale campus and, by extension, the entire SIU system. The process and lack of transparency did not serve us or our colleagues at Edwardsville. I must add that the disrespect to Carbondale’s faculty, staff and community is especially disturbing. However, these concerns are best addressed by the Board of Trustees and system leadership.

Our focus at SIU Carbondale remains firmly on our exciting future. We will continue the revitalization of our campus with strong, comprehensive academic programs, a vibrant student experience, and meaningful research. I am grateful to our many friends, faculty and staff members who are committed to our students and our mission. Thank you for your support.

Together or separate?: The system question

The recent board vote defeating a proposal to transfer $5.1 million in state appropriations from SIU Carbondale to Edwardsville has led to a call from Edwardsville-area legislators to separate the system. I understand that this is not the first time this discussion has been raised.

The renewed call for separation is a disappointing response to a request for collaboration. The Carbondale campus has never been opposed to exploring the budget allocation model. Our concern, expressed by many members of the campus community, was that we were not invited to be part of a collaborative process that considered the multiple factors and metrics that should be taken into account — before making changes that could have a substantial impact on our campus and region. The board’s vote provided the opportunity to evaluate the allocation of resources objectively. We still hope that happens.

A stronger voice

There are incredible strengths to being part of a system. Together we serve more than 28,000 students, which gives us a greater footprint to serve the southern part of Illinois and adds to the power of our voice in Springfield. A number of complex factors must be studied carefully before we can determine whether a separation of the system is in the best interests of either campus.

For example, the campuses benefit from a number of efficiencies by sharing services that reduce costs or duplication. Included are some IT contracts and a number of services through the system office such as governmental affairs, general counsel, internal audit and risk management. In addition, the Carbondale campus provides a number of services to the system office, including accounting, payroll, procurement, communications and other support.

It is likely that a separation of the campuses could yield both additional costs and additional savings. These must be itemized and analyzed to assess the impact.

Academic impact

There are academic implications, as well. The pre-nursing program at Carbondale feeds into the nursing program at Edwardsville, and the Edwardsville campus relies on Carbondale’s Graduate School to train all of its joint Ph.D. students.

I should note that the proposed legislation to separate the campuses includes aligning the School of Medicine with Edwardsville. My understanding is that this was also included in past legislation but was sorted out before the proposal died. Obviously, the School of Medicine is deeply interconnected with the Carbondale campus. First year medical students are taught in Carbondale, many faculty have research facilities here, and the research office provides the school with support. The medical school is important to our research mission, and it is part of our governance system. Most importantly, the School of Medicine’s accreditation is tied to Carbondale. The medical school is an integral part of SIU Carbondale and must remain so.

Power in numbers

Perhaps the most important consideration is that there is power in numbers. As I noted earlier, we have a stronger voice as part of a larger system — one of just two in the state. And as a system, we have more flexibility to weather change.

For many years, the Carbondale campus and its leadership worked hard to make Edwardsville possible. And Carbondale benefitted last year from a temporary, three-week shifting of funds — on paper only — until the state reimbursed its funding for the FY 17 fiscal year.

A side note about this shifting of funds: By all accounts, it had no impact on Edwardsville’s operations. Yet the timing and impact of the decision has been compared with the timing of the proposal to permanently reduce $5.1 million from the Carbondale budget. It is unfortunate that this comparison has clouded discussion about the reallocation.

Regardless, my point is that the institutions have long relied on each other and may need to do so again in the future. As we rebuild Carbondale to a position of reputational and financial strength, there may be many benefits to Edwardsville, just as Edwardsville may benefit Carbondale in ways we haven’t anticipated.

Further, the call for separation is based on an assumption about future state funding that may or may not be true. Both campuses may find greater benefit in the collaborative approach initially agreed to by the board.

Details matter

I have been asked many times over the weekend what I think of a potential separation of the campuses. My answer is that I believe we are stronger together, the details matter, and we all need to be careful what we wish for.

In short, until we have done a careful analysis, we can’t know the impact or wisdom of such a move as it relates to the Carbondale campus. To lead that analysis, I am reconstituting the Chancellor’s Planning and Budget Council with cross-campus representation. I will ask the committee to make sure that all members of the campus community have a voice.

In spite of the unknowns, we can be confident of one thing: This will be a long, intense conversation requiring significant collaboration with our legislators and the engagement of our faculty, staff, alumni and many friends.

We must be a part of the discussion even as we cannot let it distract us from our continued revitalization. SIU Carbondale will continue to move forward.

Thank you for your passion, commitment

Those of you following today’s Board of Trustees meeting already know that the proposal to shift $5.1 million in state appropriations from the Carbondale to the Edwardsville campus effective July 1 did not pass.

I am grateful to the faculty, staff, students, community members and trustees who spoke about the importance of maintaining these funds until a possible new funding model is developed with campus input, a shared understanding of the metrics that will be considered, and guidance from an external consultant.

I was proud of the passion and commitment shown by the Carbondale campus. I was equally impressed by the commitment our many colleagues at SIU Edwardsville have for their institution. Clearly, there are great things happening on both campuses. My hope is that this discussion brings us closer rather than driving us apart. We are different but symbiotic institutions that, together, strengthen the entire SIU system.

Trustees also approved the promotion and tenure of 53 faculty members  and the appointment of Dr. Meera Komarraju as interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. Congratulations to all.

Responding to a funding proposal

I have received a number of questions from our campus and community about a proposal to be considered by our Board of Trustees regarding the potential reallocation of state funding from the Carbondale campus to the Edwardsville campus. The proposal requests the reallocation of $5.125 million in funding for Carbondale to be shifted to Edwardsville effective with the new fiscal year. It is described as the first phase of a funding shift based solely on enrollment.

A sudden, $5.1 million reduction in state funding:

  • Could compromise our financial recovery and stability
  • Would be equal to the layoff of as many as 110 faculty and staff
  • Could damage our student recruitment efforts
  • Would take more than $39 million from the local economy

Given the harm that could be caused by an immediate change, and to allow adequate time for the Carbondale campus to provide input, I have asked trustees to consider delaying potential alterations to the funding formula until an impartial analysis is conducted with the expertise of an external consultant.

Further exploration needed

There are many concerns related to the proposal that should be explored.  Many of the metrics cited are misleading or unclear. Further, the proposal presumes that enrollment is the primary factor upon which any future formula will be based, but there is far more that should be considered.

The Edwardsville and Carbondale campuses have very different missions, affecting each institution’s faculty profile and the cost of program delivery. Hiring faculty at a doctoral research institution is more competitive. In addition, many of our programs require small faculty/student ratios and some, such as agriculture, require a large infrastructure to support student learning. In addition, research institutions must support a larger, more complex physical infrastructure to support their missions.

While the long-term impact of the proposal would be very damaging, the impact of reducing our budget by more than $5 million in just a few months is our most immediate concern. Since 2014, SIU Carbondale has reduced its budget by more than $31 million and has about 500 fewer employees. We cannot absorb any part of the additional $5.1 million reduction by further increasing tuition, by further deferring maintenance of our facilities, or by reducing staff without damaging the quality of programs and services we provide.

Investing in the future

SIU Carbondale is repositioning itself for the future. We are actively working on growing enrollment, and we are already seeing progress. For example, attendance at our most recent open house last week was the highest since 2016 and included a number of high school sophomores and juniors.

We have managed our budget challenges carefully and responsibly. We are working to further reduce administrative costs and redundancies so that we can reinvest in our programs and people. If we stay on course, even with our expected fall enrollment, we project that we will end FY19 with a balanced operating budget. We should also begin to see some enrollment growth in fall 2019 due to our reorganization and our investments in student services and campus life.

Changing the funding formula now, when we need to be investing in the future, takes us off course. It will inhibit our ability to grow enrollment, to end FY19 with a balanced operating budget, to provide our faculty and staff with the raises they deserve, and to realize the promise of SIU Carbondale.

I do not fault my colleagues at SIU Edwardsville for making a case that they believe is in the interest of their institution. However, I feel strongly that a sudden, unexplored plan to advance one institution while damaging another is not in the best interests of the SIU System, any institution that is a part of it, or the Southern Illinois region.

Being Transparent

As someone who believes in being open, I am sharing the following statement with the campus community:

In the interest of transparency, we are providing information about the status of moving expense reimbursement for Chancellor Carlo Montemagno, as well as proposed costs for the move of his laboratory equipment that he is donating to the university.

The chancellor’s employment contract included up to $61,000 to cover “actual costs of expenses related to moving and storage, if needed, of household, personal, and professional office possessions from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to Carbondale, Illinois.”  What was to be included in the contracted amount was not part of a detailed listing, so there was a misunderstanding about what could be covered in the move.

The chancellor owned two homes in Edmonton, and when the moving costs for the homes exceeded the contracted amount, not including the lab equipment, Chancellor Montemagno paid the difference to the moving company directly.  He has also agreed to pay for and has already reimbursed the university for the move of the second home.

The final cost of the move as allowed under the chancellor’s contract is $49,853.58.  Related documentation is being released with this statement.  The pending move of the chancellor’s laboratory equipment remains under discussion and will be addressed separately.