CARBONDALE — A clean slate for the SIU Board of Trustees? That’s what one Metro East lawmaker suggests and says he’ll file legislation in Springfield to make it happen.
State Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, says his bill would remove all current SIU trustees and ask Gov. Pat Quinn to replace the lot with a fresh set of appointments.
Haine appears to be gunning for Harrisburg trustee Roger Herrin. The senator alleges Herrin wanted a vote on board officers during a failed board meeting Wednesday even though the group is awaiting appointments for three empty seats simply to get himself elected chairman.
“I find it to be disturbing, and I find it to be an insult to the senate and to SIU itself, that he would attempt, with a rump board, to ensconce himself as chair of the board, rather than wait for the constitutional process to work through, and the negotiations between Metro East legislators and the governor’s office to conclude,” Haine told the Belleville News-Democrat.
Herrin: It’s just hearsay
The problem with Haine’s accusation, Herrin said, is it is pure hearsay.
Herrin told The Southern Illinoisan Thursday he didn’t go to Wednesday’s board meeting under the assumption he would be elected chairman. The bylaws of the board of trustees, he added, dictated it was time for the group to decide on a slate of officers.
“We were simply following the bylaws. The bylaws are clear,” Herrin said. “I have no idea who they were going to elect as chairman. I didn’t try to get appointed; I showed up for a meeting.”
Belleville trustee Marquita Wiley and SIU Edwardsville student trustee David Hamilton protested a full election of officers Wednesday and instead moved to elect officers on a temporary basis.
When Herrin and fellow trustees, Don Lowery of Golconda and Donna Manering of Makanda, opted to move forward with a full vote, Wiley and Hamilton left the meeting, leaving the board without a quorum and unable to conduct business.
It was the second time Wiley’s absence has left the board unable to legally meet, Herrin said, adding the accusation that SIU President Glenn Poshard is orchestrating such maneuvers with like-minded trustees.
Poshard: Not my fight
Poshard said Wednesday after the meeting that this fight was not his but the result of Gov. Quinn angering the Metro East by removing three longtime trustees from the area from board service – John Simmons of East Alton, Ed Hightower of Edwardsville and Mark Hinrichs of O’Fallon.
Metro East legislators led a state senate revolt in February, resulting in the rejection of three new appointees Quinn had made to replace the outgoing board members. Haine’s current proposal is one of a few pieces of legislation aimed at retooling SIU governance in light of the controversy.
Wiley said Wednesday she believes the board shouldn’t decide on officers permanently until all seats are filled.
Herrin: I don’t buy it
“Let me put it in proper perspective…the bully pulpit of the [president’s office] does a masterful job of getting their word out to the media. If there is one thing I think they do well, it would be that,” Herrin said.
“I would hope above all hope that the governor and the senate would get together and come up with some trustees,” he continued. “This is a travesty for people to manipulate this as anti-Roger Herrin, make me the lightning rod and have their own self-serving interests usurp the business of the university.”
Herrin was not re-elected as SIU board chairman last March after some trustees and Poshard outlined alleged problems with his style of leadership. Poshard maintains they removed Herrin against the governor’s wishes and that Quinn might retaliate by removing board members when their terms expired.
For now university business is going on, Poshard said, but trustees are scheduled to vote on whether or not to approve a roughly 5 percent tuition increase, as well as a number of fee hikes, for students in the fall at the board’s May meeting.
Herrin said he intends to start the next meeting with a vote on board officers, as stated in the bylaws, regardless of whether or not the state can appoint, approve and seat the three individuals SIU needs to make a full board.
Southern Illinois legislators say the situation is serious, but they’re uncertain whether Haine’s bill is the answer.
“My problem with that bill – and I think even (Haine) understands this – it sets a precedent I’m not even sure the legislature wants to go down,” state Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville said. “What I mean by that, if you can do that at SIU Carbondale, then any legislator in the future, who is unhappy with what is going on at their university, would have the right to do what they think ought to be done.”
State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, said he’d have to talk more with Haine before making a decision on it, but expressed some concerns about singling out SIU’s governance with a piece of legislation.
State Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, said the SIU board’s problem is a result of politics in the system. You don’t solve that, he added, by introducing more politics.
“The reality is it shouldn’t be about the politics…it should be about the betterment for the students and the system as a whole,” Bost said. “We’ve been drawn into a fight that goes way beyond SIU.”
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