CARBONDALE — Southern Illinois University Carbondale faculty, students and staff gathered in Browne Auditorium on Wednesday evening to share concerns about the implications of Chancellor Carlo Montemagno’s plan to restructure the university by eliminating departments.
At the open meeting co-hosted by the SIUC Faculty Association and the Graduate and Professional Student Council, speakers raised doubts about whether the campus-wide shake-up would actually increase enrollment or save the university money.
Attendees were also critical of what they called Montemagno’s top-down approach in preparing and introducing the plan.
The chancellor’s so-called “straw man proposal,” which was fully unveiled at an open forum on campus last week, would reduce the university’s eight colleges to five. Those colleges would house schools, which would in turn house degree programs.
Faculty Association President David Johnson argued that the $2.3 million the plan would reportedly save in administrative costs amounts to just 1.3 percent of the university’s budget — a small sum in the grand scheme of things, he said.
He also disputed the chancellor’s claim that the elimination of departments would allow for greater “synergy” by reducing barriers for interdisciplinary collaboration.
Faculty in the humanities, he said, are largely solo practitioners, “so the language of synergy and collaboration is not as moving to us as it is in other kinds of disciplines.”
“The plan, I think, is receiving a different reception in different parts of campus in part based on disciplinary differences in the way we go about structuring our work lives. In other words, it’s more attractive to people in some areas than others,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the plan, which Montemagno hopes to implement by July 1, 2018, would cause a major disruption, forcing faculty to move and draft new operating papers — energy that professors could otherwise put into classes and research.
Johnson questioned what he saw as Montemagno’s hesitancy to provide models for the new restructuring.
“He hasn’t supplied much evidence that doing this will generate the results that he’s looking for,” he said.
The chancellor has proposed several new programs in applied areas and in STEM fields, adding a new school of Homeland Security, which includes a police academy. Those programs would easily cost more than the $2.3 million the plan would save by eliminating department chairs, Johnson argued.
“I used to teach out of a foreign language department, which is one of the cheapest departments on campus, and our budget was a little less than $1 million at that time,” Johnson said.
He also questioned the optics of eliminating the Africana Studies major while adding a police academy to the university’s course offerings.
“There are politics involved here. Let’s just be frank about it,” Johnson said.
He said that although Montemagno has said that he does not intend to turn SIUC into a polytechnic school, the plan appears to indicate that certain parts of campus will be demoted to service units.
“What he’s going to do, it seems pretty clear, is shift money from the humanities and the social sciences and the arts, to technical applied fields,” Johnson said.
The Faculty Association contract gives faculty the right to propose alternatives to Montemagno’s proposal, and to vote on the proposal, although only in an advisory capacity.
“Votes are public, they’re formal, they’re corporate expressions of what faculty think. But they’re still advisory,” Johnson said.
GPSC President Johnathan Flowers said the proposed orthogonal or horizontal structure has been applied by the National Academies of Sciences, Medicine and Engineering, University of California, Davis and the Rockefeller Institute — but only for STEM fields.
“It does not work in the humanities. There has been no demonstrable evidence that this will provide the same kinds of returns for the humanities that it will for the STEM fields,” Flowers said. “ … This has worked in small STEM situations, not in large institutional contexts like the one we’re doing here.”
Flowers also discussed changes to graduate assistantships — appointments for people who serve in teaching, administrative or research roles while completing post-graduate degrees — including new reliance on grants obtained by faculty to fund GA positions. Although Montemagno intends to increase Ph.D. production, teaching assistants will no longer be instructors of record.
“The intention, then, is to backfill with NTTs (non-tenure-track faculty). I don’t know about you, but I’m not entirely sure we have the financial resources to replace every GA that is not on grant funding with an NTT,” Flowers said.
Flowers said there has been no commitment of year-long funding for international students.
Student Trustee Sam Beard condemned the decision to create a new School of Homeland Security while eliminating the Africana Studies major.
“SIU is a place for knowledge transfer, research and creative thinking. It is not a place to aid our wildly unpopular government in maintaining its control over the populace or expanding its already inflated police force,” Beard said.
He called Montemagno “an outsider who does not understand the dynamics of this school, this place, this people” and said the chancellor’s calls for shared governance rang hollow.
“But this shared governance has revealed itself to be the chancellor making all of the decisions while graciously accepting feedback in the form of email responses from students and faculty. True shared governance would be these decisions being made by the actual stakeholders, not the corporate model of executives calling the shots while eliciting mere suggestions from their employees,” he said.
Beard said constituents must address the model as a whole rather than quibbling over specifics, and he called for the formulation of a counter-proposal.
“If this general model is not what we want, if we find the whole thing to be ill-thought-out, irrational, not in the best interest of the faculty, students or scholastics generally, then I urge the students and faculty to reject it wholeheartedly and not play ball,” Beard said.
Over a dozen faculty, students and community members offered up comments and questions in the subsequent hour.
Segun Ojewuyi, a theater professor, said it was important to look at the “subtext” of the proposal.
“Before this proposal could even mature … we’re already being told that we’re resisting change. That’s a ‘straw man’ argument, because we have not even expressed ourselves yet,” Ojewuyi said.
He said he and others who have been on campus for a long time have seen several attempts to make changes to programs.
“But we have always been told that we needed to count the beans, and every time we did not finish the counting before the bucket was thrown away, and when a new chancellor comes in, we have to start again, and start counting the beans over again,” Ojewuyi said. “… In a university, we advance the education of the mind, beyond just counting beans.”
Mike Sullivan, a mathematics professor, said synergy is important, and that the math department collaborates regularly with departments in other colleges, but reshuffling the placement of programs will come with drawbacks.
“When you move a person from here to here, they’re closer to this person but not to that person anymore, so what synergies are you creating?” he said.
Patrick Dilley, associate professor of higher education, said the administration does not have to pit areas of study against one another.
“I’ve been here 16 ½ years. This is my ninth chancellor. Each chancellor is brought in with a plan to make a plan. They come in, they rebrand, they change the logo, they reformulate the campus, so they have a really nice thing to say when they go out looking for their next job,” Dilley said.
HERRIN — If you pass through the area known as Chittyville in October, you are likely to hear screams coming from Chittyville School. The school is in its 13th year as a haunted house.
The Hauntings at Chittyville include the Chittyville School Haunted House, the Lair and the Escape Rooms at Chittyville. This year, owners Sammy and Michaela King made some changes in order to offer the escape rooms during Halloween season. The school and lair are only open during haunted house season in October.
“An escape room is something you get locked in and have to use your wits to solve puzzles in the room to get out,” Sammy King said.
The three escape rooms at the school are Escape the Classroom, Field Trip to the Museum and Beyond Detention, and are open all year. Beyond Detention incorporates some scares.
“It depends on who’s in the room how much of a scare there is,” said David Pearson, who works at Chittyville.
Pearson admits he was not sold on escape rooms at first, but tried one with some coaching from King on what to expect. After his first experience, Pearson was hooked.
The rooms have been popular this season. King estimates that at least 20 percent of the visitors this year came just for the escape rooms.
The big change in the haunted school this year is that guests take an opposite route through the school. They enter and walk through in a different direction.
Each year, the Kings change about 25 to 35 percent of the haunted school and lair. They have a plan for each room and how long it will be in use. New elements are added every year.
This year, the change in direction has helped the rooms take on a different feel. King said in some places, visitors will go up a set of stairs or ramp when they have gone down in past years.
The Lair, an outdoor haunt devoted to werewolves and vampires, has a new butcher shop, bat cave and big red barn. It’s a short walk from the butcher shop and bat cave to the barn — but watch out for ghosts in the cemetery!
“We actually tore down a barn in the neighborhood and used it to put up the barn façade,” King said.
The annual clown invasion — all actors dress like clowns — was the weekend of Oct. 20. The Hauntings at Chittyville will be open through Nov. 4, with Nov. 3 and Nov. 4 being blackout nights. Guests will walk through the haunts with only the light of a glow stick to aid them.
Annual visitors will see some things that are familiar, like the vortex tunnel and swamp. Pearson was caught recently in the tunnel with a drill while making a minor repair on a busy night. He enjoyed listening to guests try to figure out if he was “real” or fake. When they finally determined he was not real, he answered them and scared them.
“Sometimes the simplest scares are the best,” King said.
King said they have good stories. His favorite are still when a “big, tough guy” throws his 110-pound girlfriend in front of him because he is scared.
King and Pearson say one of the hardest things about running a haunted attraction is trying to keep the groups separated as they go through the school and lair.
“Some people get scared and go fast," King said. "Some get scared and go slow."
“We do our best to control what we can,” Pearson said.
They added that most people realize they will have to wait in line for about an hour on a busy night, but it can be longer. To help alleviate impatience, they offer a speed pass for an additional $5, which gets you bumped to the front of the line.
Tickets are $15 for the school, $15 for the lair or $25 for both. The speed pass works on both attractions. The escape rooms are $18 or $22 per person, depending on the room.
“We’re a haunted house; we scare people," King said. "But, we try not to say ‘boo.'”
“You don’t have to be in a full costume to get a scare,” Pearson said.
The attractions are run by a very small paid staff and 52 volunteer spooks. King’s daughter, Kelsey; wife, Michaela; Haley Kibble, “Miss Chris,” and SIU theater student Patrick Burke handle the makeup.
Not many days are left in the season. The Hauntings at Chittyville will be open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and of course, Halloween night. They are closed Monday, Oct. 30. Nov. 3 and 4 will be blackout nights. The ticket booth opens at 6:30 p.m., followed by the school at 7 p.m. and lair at 7:30 p.m. Escape rooms must be booked in advance.
For more information, visit www.chittyville.com.
NOTE - THIS IS THE FRONT PAGE (A1) STORy
SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois House dealt Gov. Bruce Rauner a series of setbacks Wednesday by overriding vetoes of measures that represented the Republican's political, as well as policy, disputes with Democrats.
Rauner lauded one victory, a failed override of a ban on anti-union "right-to-work" zones.
The lowest point for the governor came when the House voted 112-0 to overturn his veto of a financial reporting measure that had devolved into a political spat with Democratic state Comptroller Susana Mendoza.
The legislation would require state agencies to report to the comptroller monthly on bills they've incurred.
Current law requires once-a-year reporting. Mendoza said that's of little help when the state trying to get ahead of $16.6 billion in overdue bills spawned by a two-year budget stalemate.
"The only way to ... get on a better financial footing is to know the true extent of how bad our finances are," Mendoza said at a Capitol news conference after the vote.
The Associated Press reported this month the most recent data indicates that, as of June 30, $7.5 billion of the backlog had not even been sent to the comptroller for processing.
Rauner complained Mendoza is trying to "micromanage" state spending. The bill's sponsor, Hoffman Estates Democratic Rep. Fred Crespo, said current information "is not even enough to macro-manage."
Rauner, who announced on Monday that he'll seek re-election in 2018, kept a campaign promise alive when the House failed by one vote to overturn his veto of legislation to prohibit local right-to-work zones . The zones allow a worker to hold a job with union protection without joining or paying union dues.
"Local communities should be able to decide how best to compete for jobs ... and give the freedom to individual workers to support a union at their own discretion," Rauner said in a statement.
The House also failed to override Rauner's veto of a plan to set up an independent insurance company to compete for workers' compensation coverage . But it did override Rauner on legislation to prohibit employers from seeking applicants' salary histories and a measure pushed by Democratic Treasurer Michael Frerichs designed to make it easier to claim life insurance benefits when a policyholder dies.
The Senate reversed a veto on Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan's legislation to create safeguards for collegians and others seeking student loans through private companies.
One person suffered minor injuries following a crash on northbound Interstate 57 in Williamson County, at least the fifth such crash in the same area since Friday morning.
According to a news release from Illinois State Police, three semitrailers were towed and one driver was transported to a local hospital for treatment of minor injuries after a crash near a construction zone at milepost 49. Two semitrailers were stopped because of construction, when a third, driven by Calvin G. Wyatt, 59, of Angus, Ohio, struck the rear of one of the semis, forcing that semi to crash into the semi in front of it.
Wyatt was cited for failure to reduce speed to avoid a crash.
The crash happened while an ISP officer was on the scene of yet another crash at milepost 47. No one was injured in that crash.
This past Friday evening, northbound I-57 was closed at Illinois 148 to allow cleanup of a crash that happened there early that morning. Two separate crashes, which both involved semitrailers and happened within four hours of each other on Monday, closed northbound I-57 at Illinois 148 for hours for cleanup. An O'Fallon man died on Oct. 10 after a crash in the same area on northbound I-57.
— The Southern
WEST FRANKFORT — Ashley Crider is a single mother of five. Her kids range in age from toddler to teenager, and her work as a mother got a lot harder this month.
Crider, who until recently worked as a licensed practical nurse for Morthland College Health Services, said her paycheck from Oct. 5 wouldn’t clear. She said MCHS’ bank, People’s National Bank, wouldn’t cash it — she’s tried six times. She said after trying to reach out to Tim Morthland, founder of the Morthland family of businesses, and his right hand Emily Hayes in the time since her employment ended last month, she had no luck in getting the more than $1,000 she was owed by MCHS.
“I sent a message to (Tim) Morthland directly when the check wouldn’t cash and he never responded,” Crider said. She said she was also owed a final check that should have been written Oct. 20.
“They told me that in good faith they couldn’t write me a check that they knew I wouldn’t be able to cash and that they would get back to me when they had it,” she said.
The lack of payment and communication drove her to stand outside the MCHS outpatient clinic Wednesday in West Frankfort with a sign that read, “MCHS Your bad checks don’t feed my 5 children!!!!! Pay me what you owe me.”
The tactic worked. Crider had not been out front more than 30 minutes when a representative came outside telling her that Hayes had asked that Crider meet her at People’s National Bank. They were going to pay her.
When she arrived, Crider waited in the lobby as Hayes met with a bank representative behind a closed glass door — Crider was told it might be a minute.
While she waited in the lobby, Crider said she got a text message from her former supervisor asking her to come to another building to get a check. She was confused.
“Nobody knows what anybody is doing,” she said about the conflicting messages she got from MCHS staff. She decided to stay put.
After being called in, she was told she would be paid in full and was going to be given any missing pay stubs — she spent about 15 minutes waiting for these to print out. She cashed the check the moment she left the office.
Crider told The Southern that she was asked to request that the newspaper drop her story because she had received payment. She said her payment was not hinging on the paper’s agreement with the request.
She said she was happy to be paid, but was still left with a bad taste in her mouth.
“It still makes me angry that they made me wait so long,” Crider said, climbing into her car. “Now I can go pay bills,” she added.
Crider said while she waited with Hayes, she was told that her sign and protest earlier at MCHS was “unnecessary” and that had she just contacted them sooner, they would have helped her out.
When asked for comment on the incident and why Crider’s check had bounced, Hayes replied through media representative Christen Drew by email.
“The signers on the bank account were out of town on college business. The former employee was told she would be paid as of noon on 10/25/17 and she has been paid in full as promised,” the response said.
This was not the first instance of bad checks for Crider though — and she said she knew of other employees who had been in the same situation. She said her first paycheck from last December bounced, as did one from this September. She said there were times, too, when MCHS would tell her up front they didn’t have enough to cover her entire check and would work out a deal to pay part now and part later.
Of the locations listed on its website, MCHS retains only one — its West Frankfort Outpatient Clinic. As of Aug. 31, representatives from both the Harrisburg Medical Center and Marshall Browning Hospital in Du Quoin confirmed they no longer contract with MCHS. The last contractual holdout for MCHS was the Franklin County Jail; however, Sheriff Don Jones said Wednesday their contract with MCHS ended Sept. 26. He said the decision to end the contract was made earlier that month.
Representatives from MCHS failed to comment on whether it had any other contracts.
The Morthland family of business enterprises are structured in a system of “guilds.” According to Morthland College Health Services’ website, the guilds are a network of enterprises “designed to support the mission of Morthland College.” It is unclear the distinction between the Morthland Healthcare Foundation and Morthland College Health Services. Representatives from MCHS failed to comment when asked for clarification. However, according to the Illinois Secretary of State’s corporation database, Morthland Healthcare Foundation, a not-for-profit, as well as Morthland College Specialty Physicians LLC, are listed as “not in good standing,” while Morthland College Health Services LLC is listed as "active."
According to a representative from the Secretary of State's press office, the not in good standing designation can be given if a corporation or not-for-profit does not file an annual report with the secretary of state’s office.
The representative indicated that the foundation’s not-for-profit status will be dissolved in December if its report is not filed. The representative said having an open file with the Secretary of State Department of Business Services may be a requirement for licenses or permits a business may need in order to operate. However, the representative said that on its own, simply having its corporation or nonprofit file dissolved by the SOS does not preclude a business from operating.
According to Judici, the Morthland Healthcare Foundation was recently the defendant in a small claims lawsuit. The court settled against the foundation last Thursday, ordering it to repay $9,327.04 to the plaintiff, who is only identified as JSMA — a Chicago-based medical facility planning and development firm owned by Jeffrey Mark.
Mark said he was doing a planning study for the foundation to develop a new healthcare facility in West Frankfort.
“We explored doing a hospital,” he said, adding that, in the end, it was recommended that, based on state regulations, Tim Morthland pursue a larger outpatient clinic. Mark said he invoiced Morthland twice. The first, he said, was about $15,000 and was paid without incident. The second, which was $9,327.04, went unpaid.
“I tried calling them and emailing them and I never got a response, and that’s what really pissed me off,” Mark said of his three- to four-month stint sending emails, leaving voicemails and sending certified letters to the foundation.
He said during the course of doing business, Morthland and Hayes were his main points of contact. He said both were fairly responsive. However, he said he found it odd that neither had direct lines he could call.
After months of trying to seek payment, he was advised to find a local attorney and take the foundation to court.
“I’ve been a practicing consultant/architect for 40 years and this is the first time I’ve ever sued,” Mark said.
He said no one from the Morthland Healthcare Foundation showed up for court, and the judge ruled in his favor. He said he is still in the process of figuring out what’s next, though he has his doubts about ever seeing his money.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever get paid,” Mark said. However, he said money is only part of the equation to him — he said it’s also “the principle of the thing.”
“You at least expect the courtesy of a response as to what’s going on,” he said, adding that he has worked out payment plans and even renegotiated fees and costs with clients who found themselves short of cash.
Representatives from the guilds did not answer questions regarding why Mark had not been paid for work.
This story has been modified to reflect that Ashley Crider is an licensed practical nurse.