As spring finals approach and important decisions for the coming year loom, SIU is effectively without governance.
The university’s board of trustees, with only four gubernatorial appointees and one voting student member left, has not yet shown it can gather a quorum and make binding decisions.
Gov. Pat Quinn, this happened on your watch. Every trustee involved, minus student trustees, is your appointee or re-appointee.
There are three empty seats because your recent appointees gathered zero votes in the state senate, which must approve trustees. Did you do no homework with the Senate, sir?
The paralysis is not sudden; it is the result of two long, painful years of infighting. Undoubtedly, mystery surrounds some of the events, but here’s what we can see (and say) with confidence.
In April 2011, Gov. Pat Quinn made three new appointments to the SIU board and reappointed Trustee Marquita Wiley of Belle-ville. A month earlier, he had appointed Donna Manering of Makanda.
With Senate approval coming quickly, the board was at its full complement: seven members appointed by either former Gov. Rod Blagojevich or Gov. Quinn, and two student members, one each from SIUC and SIUE. One student per year holds a voting post and the other holds a non-voting post.
In May 2011, Quinn appointee and new board member Roger Herrin of Harrisburg won unanimous election as board president. There was some behind-the-scenes grumbling among some members that Herrin was the governor’s hand-picked choice. They felt the board, not the governor, should choose the board president.
However, with SIU President Glenn Poshard easing the way, the less-than-thrilled members chose peace and supported Herrin.
In March 2012, the board declined to elect Herrin to another term as chairman, instead choosing John Simmons of East Alton. The decision was 4-2, with Manering and Don Lowery of Pope County supporting Herrin, who abstained from voting.
Quickly, a public verbal brawl between Herrin and Poshard took center stage. Poshard also publicly called out the governor. But Quinn remained tucked behind his staff.
Herrin and Lowery, for the most part, argued SIU needed new direction. They cited declining enrollment, poor faculty relations and what they considered a weak marketing strategy, as well as other factors. Lowery publicly called for Poshard’s resignation. Manering, although less vocal, occasionally added her vote to those of Herrin and Lowery.
The opposite faction seemed to be board veterans Ed Hightower, Simmons and Wiley, plus newcomer Mark Hinrichs.
That’s where it stood until earlier this year.
Quinn let expire the terms of Simmons of East Alton, Hightower of Edwardsville and Hinrichs of O’Fallon. Simmons had been on the board since 2004, Hightower since 2001 and Hinrichs was appointed in 2011 to replace Stephen Wigginton, who left to become a U.S. attorney.
The governor then got caught flat-footed when the state Senate, without one vote to support Quinn, rejected his new SIU board nominees.
Metro East legislators were especially peeved. One called for the split of SIUC and SIUE. Another proposed making three of the board seats mandatory SIUE/Metro East posts.
Meanwhile, the current board sputtered and stalled. This month, with Herrin in the chair, the board called for a vote on officers although three seats were empty. Those wanting a vote said it was within the bylaws.
Wiley and SIU Edwardsville student trustee David Hamilton disagreed, saying a full board should choose its officers, not as few as three members of five holding seats.
Rather than vote, Wiley and Hamilton departed. That left the board without a quorum and unable to move forward.
A lot was left hanging, including proposed tuition and fee increases for the coming academic year. The next meeting is scheduled for May 9. Three seats remain empty, and no one knows what the board can, or will, do.
Fingers have been pointed and accusations made on how the board became such a mess. Some believe Quinn, through Herrin, tried to micromanage SIU. Other says Poshard had too much influence on his employer, the board.
There’s only one person who can untangle this, and it is the governor. Quinn must gather key legislators, especially from the Metro East area, and find three nominees who are not only capable of serving but acceptable to the Senate.
The short version: Governor, you made the mess. You clean it up.