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SIU Board approves 2 percent tuition hike for Carbondale amid debate over restructuring

EDWARDSVILLE — The Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees on Thursday approved a 2 percent tuition increase for the Carbondale campus after a lengthy public-comment period in which faculty members and constituency group heads debated the merits of the proposed SIUC restructuring plan.

The board voted unanimously to raise tuition to an annual rate of $9,637.50 for undergraduates and $11,268 for graduates, based on 15 credit hours per semester, for the 2018-19 school year.

Tuition increases only affect incoming students, as previous classes are locked in at their first-year rates by law.

In December, the board reviewed a proposed increase of 8.5 percent for graduate and School of Law students; that hike was reduced to 2 percent.

“We decided that given the envelope of money we had to support the graduate students, that we wanted to make it as affordable as possible for graduate students to come, and we made a decision at this point in time that the revenue it would generate wouldn’t be worth the impact it may have on allowance of graduate students to attend,” SIUC Chancellor Carlo Montemagno said during a news conference after the board meeting.

The board also voted to consolidate student fees, previously an assortment of several different charges, into one general fee of $117 per credit hour.

“Right now when a student gets a bursar bill, there’s a whole bunch of different fees listed on it, and the decision was made to put them all together and have one fee item which they would see,” Montemagno said.

The streamlined system is bad news for some students — the previous grouping of fees was capped at 12 credit hours, and the new general fee is uncapped.



SIU System President Randy Dunn said streamlined fees are gaining popularity at universities.

“SIU Carbondale, Edwardsville are not the only schools looking at this type of thing. It’s getting much more common around the country,” Dunn said.

Comments on restructuring

The public-comment period of Thursday’s full meeting featured a heated back-and-forth between opponents and supporters of Montemagno’s proposed restructuring plan, which would eliminate the university’s 42 departments and reorganize programs by newly established schools and colleges.

Seven spoke in favor of the restructuring, 10 spoke against and two spoke about issues not related to the plan.

Faculty Senate President Kathleen Chwalisz said the chancellor’s proposed schools will make better homes for programs than departments.

“We simply have too many departments to support as independent academic units at this time. We don’t have the money, faculty lines and staff positions to support departments in the way they need to be supported to thrive,” Chwalisz said.

Faculty Association President Dave Johnson said the debate about SIUC’s future boils down to whether the campus can trust Montemagno to restructure the university without academic departments, and he pointed to recent allegations that the chancellor had positions created for his daughter and son-in-law.

“The simple truth is that many students, faculty and staff have lost trust in Dr. Montemagno. I do not know what future Dr. Montemagno will have at SIUC, but I do know that the time for blind trust in this leader, or any single leader, must be over. No savior can remake SIUC for us,” Johnson said.

The Civil Service Council presented a resolution to the board, passed by a 10-3 vote, approving of the reorganization. (Other constituency groups, including the Faculty Senate, Graduate and Professional Student Council and Undergraduate Student Government, have adopted resolutions opposing the unilateral elimination of departments.)

Rod Sievers, chair of the Administrative Professional Staff Council, said the group is in support of “what appears to be a long-overdue effort to turn the tide at SIUC.”

“Take a drive around Carbondale. Businesses that thrived for years are now closed. You’ll see a lot of for-sale signs in residential neighborhoods — it seems like half the town is for sale. … The chancellor has met with various constituency groups, including AP staff, and he’s asked the entire campus community for input, and he’s indicated that his plan will not lead to job losses. He has repeatedly stressed shared governance and has demonstrated his sincerity with action. There’s no reason to believe he’s trying to play hide-the-ball with this stuff,” Sievers said.

Lauran Schafer, a representative of the Graduate Assistants Union, said Montemagno has created a “culture of intimidation” on campus.

“While I understand that you may all enjoy a cordial, comfortable and respectful demeanor from the chancellor, I think it is important that you know that it is not the man that we all experience when you are not present,” Schafer said to the trustees.

Johnathan Flowers, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council, said the GPSC had on Tuesday passed a 23-1 vote of no confidence in Montemagno.

Flowers said that by taking the vote, the GPSC was making clear that it had “no confidence in the abilities of the chancellor to successfully execute the duties of the office of the chancellor." He added that GPSC has not been a part of the chancellor's meetings with constituency groups.

“To be clear, in the face of threats to our faculty, our departments and our institution, the Graduate and Professional Student Council will not yield, not to this chancellor, not to this board, not now and not ever,” Flowers said.

‘I am not rude’


Speaking with reporters after the meeting, Montemagno said the reorganization plan is “progressing very well.”

“People are engaged, people are working hard on it, there are still things that are being fine-tuned and changed … I’m talking to the faculty, we’re making changes, as they identify places to improve I improve it, where they see that there’s better places for synergy, I move programs or we create new schools. So this has been a very collaborative and deliberative process,” he said.

Asked to respond to the GAU representative’s comments about his having created a “culture of intimidation,” Montemagno called the remarks “inconsistent.”

“I treat our faculty with respect; I treat everybody with respect. I am not rude, I’m not abrasive, and those statements, I think, are not reflective of the actual truth of the matter,” Montemagno said.

Regarding the GPSC’s vote of no confidence, Montemagno said: “I don’t have any real response. I’m disappointed that they would take that position, and I look forward to continuing to work with them.”

Sholar appointed board chair

In other business, the board appointed Trustee Amy Sholar as chair. Trustee Randal Thomas, who has served as chair since May 2013, submitted her nomination.

Upon accepting the chair position, Sholar thanked Thomas for his service.

“He has served our system diligently and faithfully through some difficult times,” Sholar said.

The next SIU Board of Trustees meeting will be held April 12 at the Carbondale campus.

A previous version of this story stated that the board of trustees approved a 6 percent increase for residence hall housing, a 3 percent increase for on-campus apartments and a 1.8 percent increase for the dining hall meal plan. Those changes were implemented for the university system's Fiscal Year 2018; housing and meal plans will not increase next year. 

The original version also erroneously reported that new tuition rates would be capped at 15 credit hours per semester. This is inaccurate. The annual costs are based on 15 credit hours. The Southern regrets the errors. 

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Jackson County Health Department | Fighting HIV
Jackson County Health Department provides daily drug in statewide effort to 'get to zero' new HIV cases

MURPHYSBORO — The Jackson County Health Department is doing its part in fighting the amount of new HIV cases in the lower 19 counties of Illinois.

The state has launched a campaign titled “Getting to Zero,” meaning the state would like to see zero new HIV cases. New HIV cases have dropped by 28 percent from 2006 to 2015, mother-to-child HIV transmission has been nearly eliminated, and there are fewer than 1,000 cases a year in Chicago for the first time in two decades.

Jackson County’s health department has a drug for HIV-negative individuals who are at risk of contracting the disease that could significantly decrease that risk.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a once-a-day pill that, when used consistently, can prevent at-risk people from getting infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. A person with HIV can be virally suppressed, meaning individuals have a lower amount of the virus in the body and therefore a much lower chance of transmission. They also live healthier lives.

Some who would benefit from the drug are people with an HIV-positive partner. Paula Clark, director of HIV Services at the health department, said individuals should always practice safe sex even on PrEP, but sometimes accidents happen, like a condom breaking.

Others who could benefit from the drug are people with multiple partners, people who are pregnant with a positive partner, or people who are not in monogamous relationships.

The drug doesn’t allow the HIV virus to get enough strength to attack a person’s cells. Clark said the drug surrounds the cells and infiltrates the cell and replicates until that cell explodes, and those particles transfer to other cells. The process then repeats.

Clark said there are doctors who believe a person who is virally suppressed has a zero percent chance of passing on the virus to a person who is taking PrEP daily.

“The state feels if we can increase the uptake of PrEP for those who are at risk and keep those who know they are HIV-positive virally suppressed, they feel like in 10 years we can get to zero new cases,” she said.

PrEP is more than 90 percent effective for sexual transmission and 70 percent for needle transmission. PrEP alone will only reduce a person’s chance of contracting HIV. It will not reduce a person’s chance of contracting other sexually transmitted diseases, Clark said.

If a person wants to obtain PrEP, they first visit the health department for a risk assessment. That includes lab work, making sure the patient has healthy kidneys, an HIV test, and STD testing. Those costs are covered by the health department. The patient will then be scheduled into an once-a-month clinic where a physician will review the labs and then write a prescription. Afterward, the patient is seen quarterly, in which the labs are repeated.

Clark said the drug can be expensive — a couple thousand dollars — but Medicare and most private insurances cover the drug. While she acknowledges the expense of the drug, Clark says it’s much cheaper on the front end.

“Prevention is way cheaper than taking care of the disease after you get it,” she said.

Alex Davenport, SIU graduate student and PrEP user, said he didn’t begin to use the drug until fall of 2015 because his previous insurance didn’t cover it.

“When PrEP initially came out I was interested by it but wasn’t sure if it was the best choice,” he said. “After seeing the research and results, though, I felt like it would be worth trying to get on it in order to reduce my risk.”

Clark said the lower 19 counties see about 26 new cases a year. However, she said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that health departments should take the number they have for cases and multiply it by at least nine. That is because there are large amounts of people who don’t get tested or don’t know they have the virus.

For more information, contact the health department at 618-684-3143 or visit

Senate votes to reopen government, passes budget deal

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted early this morning to reopen the government and pass a $400 billion budget deal, handing the measure off to the House for a pre-dawn debate where success is not assured.

The vote was the first big step in a rush to pick up the pieces of a budget and spending plan that had seemed on track hours earlier. But the government stumbled into the shutdown, the second in three weeks, at midnight after a single senator mounted a protest over the budget-busting deal and refused to give in.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul put the brakes on Senate leaders' plan to drive the agreement quickly through the Senate, repeatedly blocking a Thursday vote and provoking colleagues' frustration. The budget agreement is married to a six-week temporary funding bill needed to keep the government operating and to provide time to implement the budget pact. Paul brushed off the pressure.

"I didn't come up here to be part of somebody's club. I didn't come up here to be liked," he said.

Once Paul time was up, the measure, backed by the Senate's top leaders, sailed through the chamber by a 71-28 vote. House leaders signaled that chamber would immediately take it up, though the situation was trickier there after liberal Democrats and tea party conservatives both swung into opposition.

The underlying bill includes huge spending increases sought by Republicans for the Pentagon along with a big boost demanded by Democrats for domestic agencies. Both sides pressed for $89 billion for disaster relief, extending a host of health care provisions, and extending a slew of smaller tax breaks.

It also would increase the government's debt cap, preventing a first-ever default on U.S. obligations that looms in just a few weeks. Such debt limit votes are usually enormous headaches for GOP leaders, but the increase means another vote won't occur before March 2019.

House leaders hustled to move before federal employees were due back at work, hoping to minimize the disruption. A shutdown essentially cuts the federal workforce in half, with those dubbed non-essential not allowed to work. Military and essential workers would remain on the job regardless.

The Trump administration signaled it expected the shutdown to be short, calling it a "lapse."

As the clock hit midnight, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney immediately issued an order to close non-essential government operations.

Mulvaney told federal agencies they should execute their contingency plans and instructed federal employees to report to work Friday to "undertake orderly shutdown activities."

At the White House, there appeared to be little sense of concern. Aides closed shop early Thursday night, with no comment on the display on the Hill. The president did not tweet. Vice President Mike Pence, in South Korea for the Winter Olympics, said the administration was "hopeful" the shutdown would not last long.

But frustrations were clear in both sides of the Capitol, where just hours earlier leaders had been optimistic that the budget deal was a sign they had left behind some of their chronic dysfunction. Senate Democrats sparked a three-day partial government shutdown last month by filibustering a spending bill, seeking relief for "Dreamer" immigrants who've lived in the country illegally since they were children.

House GOP leaders said they were confident they had shored up support among conservatives for the measure, which would shower the Pentagon with money but add hundreds of billions of dollars to the nation's $20 trillion-plus debt.

House Democratic leaders opposed the measure — arguing it should resolve the plight of Dreamers — but not with all their might. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., asked Speaker Paul Ryan in a Thursday night letter to promise he would bring an immigration measure sponsored by Reps. Will Hurd, R-Texas, and Pete Aguilar, D-Texas, up for a vote.

Ryan didn't immediately respond. He said again Thursday he was determined to bring an immigration bill to the floor this year — albeit only one that has President Donald Trump's blessing.

At a late afternoon meeting of House Democrats, Pelosi made it plain she wasn't pressuring her colleagues to kill the bill, which is packed with money for party priorities like infrastructure, combating opioid abuse and helping college students.

Still, it represented a bitter defeat for Democrats who followed a risky strategy to use the party's leverage on the budget to address immigration and ended up scalded by last month's shutdown. Protection for the Dreamers under former President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, expires next month.

Republicans were sheepish about the bushels of dollars for Democratic priorities and the return next year of $1 trillion-plus deficits. But they pointed to money they have long sought for the Pentagon, which they say needs huge sums for readiness, training and weapons modernization.

"It provides what the Pentagon needs to restore our military's edge for years to come," said Ryan.

Beyond $300 billion worth of increases for the military and domestic programs, the agreement adds $89 billion in overdue disaster aid for hurricane-slammed Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, a politically charged increase in the government's borrowing cap and a grab bag of health and tax provisions. There's also $16 billion to renew a slew of expired tax breaks that Congress seems unable to kill.