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SIU president: $5.1 million funding shift from Carbondale to Edwardsville would reflect long-held operating policy

CARBONDALE — Southern Illinois University System President Randy Dunn says he stands by the recommendation to reallocate $5.1 million in state appropriation funding from SIU Carbondale to SIU Edwardsville because it reflects the system’s operating policy for the last 40 years.

This Thursday, the SIU Board of Trustees will consider a proposal to begin a phased adjustment of the state appropriation allocation to better reflect the enrollment levels at the two campuses.

During a meeting with The Southern Illinoisan’s editorial board Tuesday, Dunn said that the operating policy for the two campuses has dictated a 60/40 percent split in appropriation distribution between SIUC and SIUE since at least as far back as 1979.

Over the years, that split has gotten skewed by virtue of state cuts and loss of certain programs, Dunn said.

According to figures provided by Dunn, the appropriation distribution for Fiscal Year 2018 was $91,287,400 (63.9 percent) to SIUC and $51,565,000 (36.1 percent) to SIUE.

“In making the case for this to go forward for board consideration, and not pull it or table the item at this time, in my thought process … was the fact that the action that’s in front of the board is actually a lesser amount of money than it would take simply to come back to the 60/40, which had been the operating policy for the system going back we think now 40 years,” Dunn said.

To reflect a 60/40 percent split, the adjustment would be about $5.6 million.

He said the board will ultimately decide on the matter, but his role as system president “is to ensure a fidelity to the policy that the board has, and its implementation.”

The proposed $5.1 million comprises about 1.4 percent of the current operating budget for SIUC.

“At some point, as institutions come together in a system, there has to be a sense that all of the partners in the system are going to be treated equitably, that there’s an honest brokering from the system that takes place and a fair shake for the operation of each of the underlying campuses,” Dunn said.

He said that although there are differences between the campuses, particularly in research missions, they are looking more and more like equals.

“If there’s a sense that that isn’t being fulfilled by a system, then it’s probably not surprising that we’re hearing the consternation of SIUE that we are at this point … and I have to be fair to say I understand that frustration,” Dunn said.

Dunn said that the early-phase, $5.1 million adjustment would not be the first step that leads to the reorganization of the system.

“I take the exact opposite view. If this item, based upon the enrollment, doesn’t eventually move forward … I think that calls into question the future of the system and its credibility and legitimacy for those in the Metro East, who I might suggest are watching this just as closely as Carbondale-area residents. And that’s what concerns me about this having the potential of having to wait until the full-blown study is done,” Dunn said.

The proposal calls on Dunn to hire an external consultant to develop a new funding formula. SIU is currently trying to find a consulting firm to take on the project.

Dunn said there’s a narrative in the Carbondale community that he doesn’t care about protecting SIUC, and he called it “the farthest thing from the truth.”

“I want every campus to be successful, to move forward, to reach its highest potential with good leadership being provided at the campus level with the involvement of all the constituencies, all the things that you see in a campus that has great organizational health — I want that for every campus, including Carbondale,” Dunn said. “I spent nearly a decade here as a professor, a faculty member; my home is here, and we made that decision consciously. … I’m all in for Carbondale’s success, but in looking at this, I’m also system president.”

The Board of Trustees has the authority to adjust the reallocation at the board table. It will discuss the matter during Wednesday’s work session and come to a vote at Thursday’s full meeting.

breaking top story
Carbondale independent literature outfit The Bookworm set to close May 5

CARBONDALE — After a few roller-coaster rides in hopes of finding a buyer, The Bookworm has started to liquidate its inventory ahead of a closing date in May.

Bookworm owners Carl and Kelly Rexroad said they had a number of inquiries since the fall and a serious offer just this past month, but it fell through, and Carbondale’s final independent used bookstore will close its doors.

Rexroad said the business will attempt to sell as much product as it can, including the bookshelves, with a target date of May 5 to close. He said the business is a couple months behind because it was hanging on with hopes of a sale.

“I guess I’m more of a book person than I am a businessman,” he said. “I really wanted to see the bookstore continue.”

As for any inventory not sold, Rexroad said he’s talked to various entities in the area, including schools and libraries, about donating or selling. As the closure date moves closer, he said there will be a blowout sale. Any store credit still in the possession of consumers can be used on top of discounts. 

Bookworm will mark 17 years in business this coming May, and Rexroad said he and his wife still enjoy running the business, but they have four young grandchildren, and the desire to spend time with them outweighs the want to run the store.

bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

Kelly and Carl Rexroad, the owners of The Bookworm, plan on closing the bookstore later this year after a potential sale fell through.

“I’ve seen too many people say they are going to do something tomorrow and then they don’t get a chance,” he said.

Even though the bookstore industry has seen many major chains close its doors nationwide and the independent bookstore industry struggle, Rexroad said 2017 saw some of the biggest revenues in the past four years.

“It (closing) wasn’t a decision we made because of financial things,” he said. “We just wanted to be able to do some other things while we are young enough and healthy enough.”

The emergence of electronic reading devices and internet sales made a difference when first introduced, but Rexroad said The Bookworm carved out a market with Southern Illinois-related books and paperbacks that were easier to buy locally than order online and apply shipping.

Running a used bookstore was always something Rexroad wanted to do and he got to live his dream for 17 years. When he was still in his 40s, he left his job as the editor of The Southern Illinoisan, and bought the bookstore, in the same location where it is now.

He said some of the success of the bookstore goes to the university community. He said as students and faculty would leave, they would leave books and literature with the store because they didn’t want to move it. Then, the next wave of students and faculty would repeat the cycle.

bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

Casper, the Rexroad's cat, has been a fixture at The Bookworm for 16 years.

“The university community has been helpful as a source,” Rexroad said. “We get some really interesting and esoteric topics that are different.”

He said he really doesn’t want to give up the store, but the other part of it is being tied to retail hours and the fact that if he needed to leave town and close the store, there was still rent to pay, regardless of whether the store was open or not.

“That was probably the hardest part of it,” he said. “You can’t just walk away on a Saturday and go to your grandkid’s soccer game because Saturday is a big retail day.”

The memories will live with the couple forever and they will continue to be lovers of books and literature.

“It is definitely bittersweet,” Rexroad said. “With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I wish I would have started it earlier. I would be retiring after 30 years instead of 17.”

He said if somebody is still interested in buying the store, they are still willing to listen, but it would have to be a pretty quick transaction. The original sale included the inventory, shelving, signage, the name, and “hopefully 17 years of goodwill,” Rexroad said.

The sale would also include The Bookworm website and social media pages.

Groups of SIUC faculty propose alternative colleges with departments


CARBONDALE — Bucking the chancellor’s directive to eliminate all departments, two groups of Southern Illinois University Carbondale faculty are working on proposals to establish colleges that would retain the traditional university structure.

Jennifer Smith, associate professor of Spanish and interim chair of the Department of Languages, Cultures and International Trade, said she plans to present the proposal for the College of Social Sciences and Humanities to the SIU Board of Trustees on Wednesday and that the plan has already been submitted to the university’s associate provost for academic affairs.

The faculty-led initiative parallels an effort to establish a creative college that is currently being called the College of Communication, Design and the Arts. That proposal is currently in its second round of drafts, according to Jay Needham, professor of radio, television and digital media.

Smith said she and her colleagues believe that in the humanities and social sciences, the departmental structure means something: It suggests an institution’s investment in those programs. Graduate students in English or philosophy are more likely to pursue a Ph.D. program that has its own department, she said.

“Many people have said (the elimination of departments) doesn’t matter, that this is being blown out of proportion, but I think it’s different in different fields,” Smith said. “And particularly I think many of us in the humanities feel threatened by this because we’ve seen sort of a national trend to eliminate humanities programs on campus or merge them into one unit that houses several and essentially downgrade them into an equivalent of what’s offered at a junior college — we offer a little bit of humanities in the core, and that’s it. They’re not legitimate fields in their own right.”

The social sciences and humanities college would include the following departments: Africana Studies; Anthropology; Economics; English; History; Languages, Cultures and International Trade; Linguistics; Philosophy; Political Science; Sociology; and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

The creative college would include the School of Art and Design, School of Architecture, School of Music, Department of Cinema and Photography, Department of Communication Studies, School of Journalism, Department of Theater, and the Department of Radio, Television and Digital Media.

SIUC Chancellor Carlo Montemagno has said that his campus overhaul will increase “synergy” and collaboration among programs.

Smith said she and her colleagues included the creation of interdisciplinary centers in their proposal to address that concern. The interdisciplinary centers would be run by faculty from existing units — who would “be compensated with a course release where needed and feasible,” according to the proposal — and would not incur any major costs.

The proposal also seeks to establish a Council of Social Sciences and Humanities made up of elected student and faculty representatives.

“People who have criticized those of us who don’t want the chancellor’s proposal have often said we aren’t offering any alternatives, but what we’re offering is something that does everything his proposal does, except it retains departments,” Smith said.

The Southern File Photo  

Southern Illinois University President Randy Dunn speaks in his office May 1, 2014, in Carbondale. 

Saline County
Saline County Board votes to pay insurance for employees discharged by county clerk

HARRISBURG — Extra chairs had to be brought into the courtroom for a special meeting of Saline County Board on Tuesday when more people showed up than the courtroom usually seats.

The agenda for the meeting listed three items. Two were listed as old business: action on Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund and action on Social Security.

During a special meeting March 7, Treasurer Jeff Murrie asked the board to make someone in his office the authorized agent for IMRF to make it easier to correct some issues with employee retirement accounts. The board agreed, making Murrie and another employee in his office the authorized IMRF agents for the county.

The question Tuesday night was whether or not to move the accounts to the treasurer’s office.

“We can do the reports, but we cannot pay the bills. The county clerk can pay the bills, but she cannot run the reports,” Murrie explained, asking the board to move the accounts.

A motion was made by Roger Craig to move the accounts to the treasurer’s office. It was seconded by David Phelps. It passed, with Danny Gibbs casting the only dissenting vote.

Craig posed a second motion, this one to transfer the Social Security account to the treasurer’s office. Il was seconded by Joe Jackson. Again, Danny Gibbs cast the lone no vote.

“I attended both of Judge Mark Clarke’s hearings, and I am waiting for him to rule before I vote,” Gibbs said.

The final item on the agenda was a personnel committee item on a grievance filed by employees Kathy Cummins and Julie Dunn against Kim Buichanan, county clerk. Mike McKinnies, chairman of the personnel committee, asked Judy Simpson, field representative for Laborer’s Local 773 to speak about the firings and grievance.

Simpson said the two women were discharged April 5 from their duties in the county clerk’s office. The county clerk is a Republican and the women are both Democrats. Dunn is running for the county clerk in the general election.

Simpson said the grievance asks for the two women be reinstated with full pay, benefits and seniority. She explained that they were willing to go to arbitration which will cost the $10,000 in addition to any back pay or benefits owed to the women.

“This is very serious. This is a travesty,” Simpson said.

Craig said the board was working on moving Cummins and Dunn to other positions within courthouse. For example, an employee in the circuit clerk’s office is retiring, leaving one position open. Another position may be moved or created in the treasurer’s office to help with the extra duties from moving payroll. Craig said the budget and personnel committees, along with the treasurer and circuit clerk, will have to agree with that plan.

“We would not be strapped with arbitration, and these two girls get their full pay and benefits,” Craig said. “This is the best case scenario in my mind.”

The board also discussed paying the health insurance for the employees until the grievance can be settled by arbitration.

Rick Lane pointed out that once the board allocates money to an elected official, the board really has nothing to do with deciding how that money is spent.

“One employee has been there 28 years; one has been there 18 years. Now, we are getting rid of them. That’s retarded!” Lane said.

McKinnies made a motion to call a special meeting of the insurance committee, and would like to keep paying the employee insurance claims until grievance can be sorted out. Karla Carrigan seconded the motion.

During the discussion, someone asked if Cummins and Dunn were being paid until the end of the month.

“I have payroll claims turned in for a full month for both employees,” Jennifer Cain, who processes payroll in the treasurer’s office, said.

After more discussion, Carrigan withdrew her second and Karnes amended the motion to say the motion was pending any agreement that might be reached before the end of the month, making it unnecessary.

The motion passed with Gibbs voting no.

After the meeting, Gibbs explained his votes by saying Judge Clarke made a statement that the board was not following state statutes and the Illinois Constitution and has given the parties until April 26 to show progress toward an agreement. He believes moving the accounts should have waited until then.

“We are presently paying two employees until the end of the month and paying health insurance until the end of the month. How do you vote on a pending agreement?” Gibbs said.

“I hope we can work them in. We do have one person retiring,” Board chairman Jay Williams said. “I’m glad the board voted to help with health insurance. It is very costly.”

Williams said the board is spending a lot of time dealing with issues surrounding the county clerk’s office, but it is time to get down to county business.

“My goal going forward will be to get back to the county’s business,” Williams said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the cost of arbitration and the remedy requested in the grievance.