In memoriam

As the SIU community mourns the passing of Chancellor Carlo Montemagno, the university would like to provide a forum for people to share their best memories of Carlo and kind thoughts about his tenure at our great institution.

Please comment on this post with your favorite story about a positive encounter with the late chancellor, condolences for his family or uplifting message for the community in this difficult time.

Discouraging bigotry and celebrating diversity

You may have seen media reports of fliers and other communication appearing across southern Illinois and nearby areas – including on campuses – that promote white supremacy groups or call out individuals who share their views. This is happening on campuses across the country, including SIU.

A flier appearing on campus and on social media over the last several days describes an SIU student as a Nazi. This student’s expression of his views has raised a number of questions and concerns, including requests that we remove the student and revoke any scholarship that has been awarded. We absolutely understand and value this feedback.

The views of white supremacists, any other group promoting hate, and all those who seek to demean and marginalize others are abhorrent. They do not align with the university’s mission or values, and they do not represent what we stand for as a campus community.

In fact, we ask all students on campus to follow the Saluki creed: “As a Saluki, I pledge to forward these ideas and ideals: I discourage bigotry and celebrate diversity by striving to learn from differences in people’s ideas and opinions. I will embrace the ideals of freedom of civilized expression, intellectual inquiry and respect for others.”

Free speech

In spite of our strong disagreement with the views and statements advocated by these groups, their perspectives are considered to be free speech protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. All students share the right of free speech, even speech with which we strongly disagree. The right to free speech includes the right to hold and express views that most of us would condemn.

Further, scholarships and financial aid are awarded based on a student’s academic achievements or financial need. As a public institution, we cannot and do not ask about political or social views when admitting students or awarding any type of financial aid. Doing so could lead to perceptions of bias and illegal discrimination.

Again, SIU is not alone in facing the serious societal issues reflected in the messages espoused by hate groups. As has been said elsewhere, the best antidote for hate speech is more speech that counters the views we disagree with – a concept that relates very much to our role as an educational institution.

Carol Christ, chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, put it this way: “[t]he most popular argument for free speech is not one of legal constraint – that we’re required to allow it – but of value. The public expression of many sharply divergent points of view is fundamental both to our democracy and to our mission as a university.”

Learn and participate

Our obligation to comply with and respect the law does not prevent any of us from proactively speaking out against racism and bias, and it does not prevent us from focusing on education and dialog about addressing these serious issues. Here are just a few ways you can learn more and participate in the conversation:

  • Next Thursday, Sept. 27, you are invited to attend the play The Defamation Experience, a play exploring how race, religion, class and gender intersect. It takes place from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Lesar Law Building Auditorium.
  • Staff, students and departments can participate in diversity workshops, which focus on maintaining the inclusive excellence of our campus and cover the concepts of diversity, privilege, intersectionality, inclusivity and being an ally. Visit the Office of the Associate Chancellor for Diversity training website to explore training opportunities and to learn how to request training.
  • University Housing’s Office of Residence Life provides programs for residents that span a broad spectrum of diversity-related topics. Residence Life staff host a series of town hall meetings to address more specific topics, including current events relating to issues of diversity. The first town hall meetings will be held throughout the month of October and will include opportunities for students to discuss incidents from this fall semester.
  • Explore the resources across campus, including the Student Multicultural Resource Center dedicated to helping all students think, grow and succeed.

The university has been expanding diversity-related programming in order to give everyone an opportunity to reflect upon what it means to be a Saluki. A new diversity event calendar, housed on the Office of the Associate Chancellor for Diversity website, is being developed to help you stay up-to-date on events and activities.

Staying attuned

The university is continually assessing all information we receive to ensure that our students, faculty and staff can work, live and learn in a supportive, welcoming and safe environment.

Students who are concerned about these issues and fliers should reach out to the Office of the Dean of Students, Saluki Cares or Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) for assistance.

As always, any individual who is threatened or aware of threatening statements or behaviors should report them to the SIU Department of Public Safety immediately.

With your help, we can work together to fulfill our mission as a university committed to diversity and inclusive excellence.

Board approves salary increases

Today, the SIU Board of Trustees unanimously approved a 1 percent salary increase for non-represented staff. Some unionized groups have a clause in their collective bargaining agreements that ties any FY19 increases to those for non-represented Carbondale employees. These employees will also receive the 1 percent increase effective July 1.

Please join me in thanking the Board of Trustees for its support of our faculty and staff.

A compensation increase has been one of my top priorities, since many or even most SIU staff members have not received any raise since 2013. While I had wished to be able to offer more, we must continue to be mindful of our budget in the face of declining enrollment. However, I am convinced that we will turn enrollment around and find other ways to provide increases in the future.

The increase is retroactive to July 1. Those individuals eligible for the increase will see it reflected in a future paycheck.

For unionized groups with open contracts, we will continue to move forward with collective bargaining, as appropriate to our contractual agreements.

Meanwhile, I remain grateful for all of the hard work all of our staff members are doing, and all they have done in recent years, to ensure that we continue to serve students in the face of budget reductions.

There are many signs that your work is paying off. Thank you.

Fall 2018 enrollment

Official enrollment figures for fall 2018 are in. Despite an anticipated decline, there is some very good news in the numbers.

For example, the average ACT scores of our first-time students saw an increase to 23.65 this year, compared to 22.82 last year. This is in part due to our efforts to tighten our admissions standards to make sure that those students who enroll can be successful here.

This is an increase of more than .8 percent over the previous year and the highest in at least 20 years. Our average ACT score is above both national and state averages and places SIU student scores among the top 26 percent nationally. That’s a jump of 10 percentage points from just a year ago.

Freshman retention rates are also up to 71.08 percent, up 3.18 percent over last year and, again, the highest in recent years. This means that many of the steps we took last year are already having an impact.

Here’s a little additional information about this year’s total student body: This year’s student body is 53 percent male and 47 percent female. In line with the past few years, nearly 28 percent are minority, and more than 8 percent are international.

A long-term effort

The enrollment figures were higher than we had originally projected thanks in no small part to the work of our faculty and staff and funds from the SIU Foundation and Alumni Association that helped close financial gaps for new and returning students. We especially exceeded our initial estimates for new, first-time students.

We took a lot of steps this year to address our enrollment challenges knowing that the greatest impact will be next year and in the future. This is because the recruitment cycle for fall of 2018 was already well underway when we got started on our transformation. Universities are always working 18 months or more ahead to get materials and strategies in place.

In fact, we did a lot in spite of being behind the curve. For example, we:

  • Expanded the number of students we recruited.
  • Streamlined the admissions application and acceptance process.
  • Conducted college-level calling campaigns.
  • Closed financial gaps for new and returning students with help from the SIU Foundation and the SIU Alumni Association.
  • Brought more students to campus through new initiatives.
  • Added housing scholarships and grants for new and returning students.
  • Expanded and increased our targeting through digital recruiting methods.

But we know that it will be a long-term process to meet our goal of growing enrollment to 18,300 by 2025.

Future impact

Many of the things we started this year look forward to fall 2019 and beyond. For example, we:

  • Hired a new enrollment management leader who is bringing the many pieces of enrollment strategy across campus together.
  • Began an academic reorganization that will make it easier for students to find the programs they are looking for and create resources we can invest to grow or add high-demand programs.
  • Began a review of our core curriculum to ensure that all students graduate with the communication skills and cultural competencies they need to be successful after graduation.
  • Completely revamped our recruitment materials and messages to reflect more energy, focus more on what makes us distinctive and more on the total college experience.
  • Began earlier outreach to all high school students, even freshmen, because the college search is beginning earlier than ever.
  • Focused on retention by centralizing academic advising, improving orientation, updating the student fee structure, enhancing career services and more.
  • Explored and are implementing enhancements to the student experience through concerts, a makerspace, e-sports and more.

We will also soon be increasing our investments in student recruitment marketing and diving deeper into retention – a core but often overlooked factor in enrollment.

Looking forward

Even as we look to 2019, we know that there will be enrollment challenges as the larger classes from earlier years graduate and the smaller recent classes move through the system. If we continue on course, it will likely be three years before we begin to see a true turnaround in total enrollment.

But as I’ve noted earlier, we need to focus on the progress we are making. Already, we are seeing increased registration for fall open houses and increased applications for fall 2019 when compared with the previous year.

Enrollment – both recruitment and retention – must be owned by every one of us. I have been encouraged that the entire university community is stepping forward to embrace this important cause. Given the signs of progress and clear commitment, I remain confident that we are heading in the right direction.

Statement on July 16, 2018, meeting of the SIU Board of Trustees

As I have said in the past, I believe that system leadership questions were between the board and the president. I am pleased these questions have been resolved.

I look forward to working with Dr. Dorsey, our colleagues at Edwardsville and the Board of Trustees to reinforce and build on the strengths of the SIU system and its campuses.

I also look forward to continuing the acceleration of the advancement of SIU Carbondale in collaboration with our strong faculty, staff, alumni, friends and community members. While there is work to be done, we have much to be proud of. I look forward to celebrating past achievements and future directions when we mark our 150th anniversary next year.

Statement regarding documents released by SIU system

A story in today’s Southern Illinoisan reviews documents outlining behind-the-scenes conversations about the recent reallocation proposal. While I was aware of some of this information, the deeper backstory is both disheartening and disturbing on a professional and personal level. I believe SIU Carbondale deserves far better and fairer treatment as a partner in the SIU system.

However, I also continue to believe that these issues must be resolved between the board and system leadership. For our part, SIU Carbondale will continue to focus on its mission and revitalization of both the university and the region. I will continue to represent the community to the very best of my ability.

I remain committed to our positive future and will continue to work to build upon SIU’s academic strengths and to establish Southern Illinois as a region of innovation focused on economic development. I fully believe we will achieve our goals to advance SIU as the second jewel in the crown of higher education in Illinois. I welcome your continued support.

Statement from Carlo Montemagno

As many of you know, I have recently curtailed my public schedule in order to address significant back and hip pain. The pain was originally thought to be cysts that have now been treated, thanks to the great team at SIH. With their help, I am feeling much better.

However, as often happens in these cases, I have more treatments ahead to address the cause of the cysts, which has now been identified as cancer.  I won’t go into more detail here other than to say we are treating it aggressively and I am confident that I will be around for a long time.

While I may not be as visible in the weeks ahead, I will remain fully engaged as your chancellor and will remain focused on advancing our institution.  We are on the right track.  During the past year, we have built a strong management team who will step up when called upon during this time.

I assure you that all of our work revitalizing the university continues. Earlier this year, Provost Meera Komarraju and her office assumed full responsibility for facilitating academic reorganization. I am grateful for her leadership and for the work of our faculty.

Health is an intensely personal matter for all of us, and I felt it was important to be transparent with you, our new extended family, regarding this matter.  My family and I appreciate the support of our many friends and colleagues here in Carbondale, and around the world.

Thank you for your support and for all you do for this great university.  I look forward to celebrating our many future successes with you.

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.