SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn could have avoided sparking a controversy at two state universities if he’d worked more closely with university officials when picking appointees to university governing boards, retiring Illinois State University President Al Bowman suggested Thursday.
In comments to members of a House appropriations committee, Bowman said universities are often knowledgeable about potential trustees and could help guide a governor in finding suitable candidates “if the governor is open to conversations about potential board members.”
Bowman’s proposal comes as Quinn has caused a stir at ISU and at Southern Illinois University by appointing new trustees.
Earlier this week, for example, the Democrat from Chicago appointed a Bartlett insurance broker to replace a Bloomington businessman on ISU’s board of trustees. He also has not taken action on the expired term of longtime trustee Joanne Maitland.
In February, Quinn removed three members of the SIU board, triggering a major fight with members of the Illinois Senate. The SIU board currently has no chairman.
Bowman’s comments came in response to questions from lawmakers, who wanted to hear his response to the trustee flap.
“We’re going through a shakeup right now,” said state Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington.
The SIU situation spawned legislation in the Senate that would force a governor to appoint an equal number of graduates from the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses in order to ensure geographic balance on the board.
Bowman, however, said the current system in which the governor appoints trustees with the advice and consent of the Senate shouldn’t be changed.
“I think the framework is appropriate and workable,” Bowman said.
Quinn spokesman David Blanchette said the governor considers input from universities as well as from alumni organizations when making trustee appointments.
“He already does that,” Blanchette said.