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.

Eight months of progress

When I arrived on campus nearly eight months ago, I knew I was coming to a university with strong faculty and staff, loyal alumni and friends, and a welcoming community. I also knew that that we had a lot of intense, meaningful work to do to fulfill the promise of the university’s mission.

Looking back at the last eight months, we have accomplished a great deal toward the revitalization of this great institution. Today, I am sharing an update outlining the progress we have made as a campus community. We have much to be proud of, and much more to do. Thank you for all you do to position us for the future.

A special tie to the Special Olympics

I have spent a lot of time recently talking about the future of SIU, but I have also been impressed by the amazing things this institution has accomplished throughout its past.

For instance, you may know Special Olympics is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, a celebration that kicks off Friday at Touch of Nature. But I recently learned that Special Olympics might never have happened at all if it weren’t for the contributions of SIU.

How Special Olympics is linked to SIU

Here’s a little information about how it all started. The university “loaned” faculty member and recreation pioneer William Freeberg to the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation by special request of Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

Freeberg taught workshops showing people how to work with individuals with disabilities. One of the participants was Anne McGlone, now better known as longtime Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne McGlone Burke.

She was so enthused she returned to Chicago and began planning a citywide track meet. Freeberg helped, securing funding from the Kennedy Foundation and permission from the International Olympic Committee to use part of its name. On July 20, 1968, the Special Olympics was born at Soldier Field with 1,000 athletes from 26 states and Canada participating.

Don’t miss Friday’s kickoff celebration

Burke and Freeberg’s granddaughter, Brittney (Freeberg) McGovern will be special guests and speakers at Touch of Nature’s Special Olympics 50th Anniversary Kickoff Celebration.

Opening ceremonies are set for 10 a.m. Friday at Touch of Nature, located about eight miles south of Carbondale on Giant City Road.

Activities will include free food, sports, crafts, backyard games, exercises, camp songs and dance, musical entertainment and much more.

Join me to help celebrate a big milestone for an amazing organization at my favorite university.

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.

Big things are coming April 7

The Big Event: A Saluki Day of Service April 7

This Saturday, hundreds of Salukis will fan across Southern Illinois to participate in community service projects. The Big Event started last year as a way for the SIU students, faculty and staff to further our mission of making our community a better place.

Community service is at the heart of SIU’s mission

SIU is already a major economic driver for the region, providing jobs and attracting people from around the country to study, live and visit.

Our students also contribute more than 30,000 hours of community service every year through registered student organizations, coordinated drives and individual volunteerism. That’s in addition to the time our faculty and staff contribute on their own time.

The Big Event is a way to celebrate and expand that commitment to our community.

Making the Big Event even bigger

During last year’s Big Event, 772 Salukis served 2,316 hours for 15 local non-profit agencies. They helped agencies such as The Boys and Girls Club, Keep Carbondale Beautiful and the Jackson County Humane Society.

For many participants, this was their first exposure to volunteerism, and many also continued their service long after the day ended.

This year, our goal is to recruit even more volunteers to serve at least 16 nonprofits. Even one additional volunteer can go a long way.

Step up and help out

You can still join the excitement. They will be taking walk-in registrations the day of the event. Volunteers will be taken on a first come-first served basis.

Any student, faculty or staff member who is at least 18 years old is welcome.

Join me on April 7 to make BIG things happen.

Collecting input on college-level changes

Aerial shot of Student Services Building

We have received a number good questions and thoughtful feedback following last week’s post announcing that we would move forward with the renaming of the colleges as well as the movement of some departments to new homes as a consequence of the proposed renaming and refocusing of colleges.

As a reminder, the proposed restructuring and renaming of the colleges is separate from the process we are currently engaging in to create academic schools, although the intent to do so was signaled in the school proposal RME’s submitted last October. Since then, we have had numerous suggestions, most from faculty, that have greatly influenced the suggested college names.

Modifications anticipated

The college-level RMEs were submitted to our colleagues in the colleges with the understanding that they might be modified based on discussion and input. Given the importance of consultation at the college level, I have decided to extend the timeline for review by the colleges to ensure that we can engage faculty in extensive discussion and feedback, much as we have throughout the academic restructuring process. I do so believing that we will all benefit from additional opportunities to share questions and information as we stay true to principles of shared governance.

To gather input and faculty ideas, as well as to help answer questions, I have asked Associate Provost Lizette Chevalier, Associate Provost Dave DiLalla, and Interim Vice Chancellor for Research Jim Garvey to meet with faculty in the proposed colleges about the college-level changes. Details about the meetings will be shared through our deans. Of course, you may also continue to send questions and thoughts by email.

Update on schools

Throughout the academic reorganization process, we have welcomed and benefited from faculty input regarding the best location for their programs, names of schools and other areas. This has resulted in many, many positive changes to the proposed school structure and in the development of strategies for effectively implementing and managing it. We have updated the chart showing where we are in the school-creation process to keep you posted on our progress.

Overall, your feedback has led to more than 100 changes to the original straw man proposal released in October. Together, we have created a proposed academic reorganization that belongs not to any individual, but to the greater university that shaped it.

We will continue to move forward as elements of the plan are approved. We have an exciting year of transition ahead. I deeply value all of the input received to date on both the school- and college-level proposals. Your engagement is essential. Thank you for helping us stay on the path to accomplish an ambitious, critically important revitalization of our university.

Embracing Accuracy

Following is a statement I have issued in response to a press release from the Illinois Education Association’s regional office and the Faculty Association.

Statement of Chancellor Carlo Montemagno

The Faculty Association’s continued efforts to mislead our community by misrepresenting information is a disservice to everyone who cares about the future of SIU. Here are some of the areas where the information provided is misrepresented:

  • Faculty votes to extend the time for dialogue are just that – a vote to create time for more information and discussion as allowed in our collective bargaining agreement. These votes do not reflect either positive or negative perspectives.
  • Straw polls are a normal part of the negotiation process among faculty to assess where they are starting from. They are not final votes, and many have been positive. In fact, the only final vote to date was unanimously in favor of creating a School of Computing.
  • Based on the comments of a number of individuals, including faculty, it appears that the referenced survey by the Coordinating Committee for Change was distributed selectively; many have indicated that they were never aware of it.
  • Averaging the enrollment of existing schools hides the fact that two schools in high demand fields – allied health and architecture – had more students in 2017 than in 2012 in spite of an overall campus enrollment decline. In both schools the most significant growth was in graduate enrollment. The total undergraduate and graduate enrollment increase from 2012 to 2017 for allied health was 11.6 percent, and the total for architecture was 20 percent. There are a number of factors that affect a school’s enrollment beyond the structure itself. It’s also important to know that the school structure, if implemented effectively, creates administrative efficiencies that can support the growth of programs within the school.
  • While my goal was indeed to have a finalized plan to the Board of Trustees in April, it was always dependent upon the speed with which our faculty reviewed and responded to proposals. I fully support and respect that some faculty want to take the time for discussion allowed in the process. Meanwhile, I have updated our trustees on the plan and its status.
  • It is highly inaccurate to state that there will be no major improvements until July 1, 2019. As I stated in a recent blog post, we will move forward as things are approved through the process.

The chancellor’s office continues to be attuned to input reported in multiple ways – in meetings, in emails and in individual conversations – and stands by its assessment of the feedback it has received. This feedback has led to more than 100 changes from the original proposals. Faculty are engaged in the process and influencing significant change.

It is unfortunate that the union, rather than contributing to the discussion by forwarding constructive alternatives, chooses to misrepresent the process with misleading rhetoric. I support our collective bargaining agreement and continue to hope that we can move forward collaboratively rather than divisively.

Defining what makes us remarkable

Seth Godin, in his book “Purple Cow,” notes that the phrase “you can’t out Amazon Amazon” was once posted on a banner in Walmart headquarters as the company was deciding whether to venture into online retail business. The point was that the company should find its own path rather than emulate – and lose to – its competitors.

While an institution of higher education is not a retailer, and SIU is certainly not Amazon or Walmart or any of their competitors, we can think about this message within our own context. We are not the major research university to the north of us, and we are not the regional university to the south. We shouldn’t try to be either.

We are SIU, and we need to define and communicate what makes us remarkable if we are to stand out to prospective students. We need to ensure that people perceive us not as just another university, but as an exciting, forward-looking academic community.

Claiming our niche

Solar Charging Station located near the west end of Morris Library.We can start by embracing our strengths. We are a research university that is small enough to provide personal, hands-on experiences yet offer a breadth of comprehensive programs.

We provide every student – not only a few – with outstanding opportunities for experiential learning, from research to creative activities to community service to leadership. And we provide these opportunities early in a student’s academic career.

We can emphasize these strengths by further building extraordinary opportunities for personal growth through expanded focus on experiential learning and a robust campus life.

The role of academic reorganization

Academic reorganization can create further distinctiveness. We can deliver an educational experience outside the lane through innovative academic offerings. Our goal should be to prepare students for the challenges of tomorrow and a fulfilling 40-year career.

Our focus on updating the core curriculum will focus on growing the whole person – communication skills, people skills, cultural competency and personal development. Our graduates will stand out not only because of what they know, but also because of who they are.

Creating community

Even as we grow enrollment, targeting an optimal size of 18,300 by 2025, we can maintain a personalized approach that makes every student feel like a valued member of our community.

This sense of being a Saluki, part of a family, is an SIU trademark that we should cherish even as we improve upon it through strong student services and positive, meaningful interaction with faculty members. Every student should be treated as a member of a tight-knit community in every engagement – from the first email, phone call or visit through graduation and beyond.

Making it happen

As we embrace our strengths and revitalize our academic programs and student services, we can stand out as an institution that provides an elite, private university experience with a public university cost, a breadth of comprehensive programs that can be matched by few private institutions, and a remarkable student experience that leads to well-rounded graduates prepared to become 21st century leaders.

We are on our way. I welcome all you do to help shape our remarkable future.

Retention is magic

Growing enrollment isn’t only about recruiting new students. It’s about retaining those we have.

Enrollment growth on the recruitment side of the equation will take time as we revitalize SIU, so it’s critically important that we also immediately focus on retention.

A number of factors contribute to student persistence: the quality of our academic programs, mentoring by faculty members, strong advising, and the quality of campus life.

We can ensure every student has the support needed – through strong academic advising and faculty mentoring – to ensure that they will stay in school and graduate.

Retention plan

Several years ago, the university developed a retention plan that appeared to have some success in its first year. Unfortunately, the plan began to gather dust and we have lost our way.

I have asked the provost’s office to work with deans and others to revisit the plan, identifying what worked, what didn’t, what we might revive and what we want to add. I hope the campus community will engage in the effort.

Longer-term retention will also be positively affected by our revitalized academic programs, a revised core curriculum, and our attention to student life and the total SIU experience.

The retention cycle

Retention cycle chartThe retention cycle is indeed magic. If we focus on quality education and support, our students have greater success, which drives greater retention, allowing us to have larger classes of juniors and seniors, generating more resources that we can reinvest in our programs.

Currently, 27 percent of the freshmen who enroll at SIU graduate in four years, while 44 percent graduate in six years. If we dedicate ourselves to the magic of retention, we can change these rates to 55 percent for all students in four years and 65 percent in six years by 2025. I believe we can do it with the commitment of every faculty and staff member. Please join me in making that commitment.