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Board of Trustees meeting

The SIU Board of Trustees discussed a measure to reallocate $5.1 million in state appropriation funding from Carbondale to Edwardsville during their work session Wednesday at the SIUC Student Center.

CARBONDALE — At the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees work session on Wednesday, trustees and representatives of Carbondale and Edwardsville argued over the future of state appropriation distribution between the two campuses.

The issue at hand was a proposal to begin a phased adjustment of the state appropriation funding to allow for differences in enrollment — Carbondale’s enrollment is plunging, while Edwardsville's is on an upward trajectory.

Faculty and staff from both campuses argued for their universities in public comments, and the subsequent discussion revealed a division among trustees.

The proposal calls for an initial shift of $5.1 million in state funding from Carbondale to Edwardsville for Fiscal Year 2019 and anticipants the hiring of an external consultant to determine a new funding formula.

The board will vote on the reallocation at Thursday's full meeting in Carbondale.

At the start of the public-comment period, the chants of about two dozen demonstrators protesting SIUC Chancellor Carlo Montemagno’s restructuring plan just outside the doors of the ballroom stalled the meeting for a few minutes. Board chair Amy Sholar asked the police officers who were present to “move the protesters to another area so we can in fact hear our speakers.”

The demonstrators chanted, “Our education! Our institution!” and “Hey hey, ho ho, Montemagno got to go!”

Ahmad Fakhoury, a representative of the SIUC Faculty Senate, said a hasty reallocation of state funding would weaken the university.

“It would dramatically and negatively affect Southern Illinois,” Fakhoury said. “We, the SIUC Faculty Senate, therefore urge you to deny the reallocation.”

Rod Sievers, chair of the Administrative Professional Staff Council, said there are vast differences between the two campuses, as SIUC is a research university.

“The question is, what’s the hurry? The decision that would give Carbondale only three months to prepare for a $5.1 million cut is hasty at best, perhaps even cruel,” Sievers said.

Anthony Travelstead, president of the SIUC Civil Service Council, said enrollment should not be the primary factor when considering appropriation distribution because the campuses have different missions. He said SIUC is in the middle of a major reorganization to increase enrollment and is facing its budget challenges responsibly.

“Carbondale is proud of the success of Edwardsville, but in one system, one institution should not thrive at the expense of another,” Travelstead said.

Trish McCubbin, a professor in the School of Law, presented a Graduate Council resolution calling for a delay in the decision on the $5.1 million reallocation. She argued that the proposal is based on inaccurate and misleading data and said there should have been consultation with the Carbondale campus.

“We are one system, and the health of one campus affects the health of another campus. We should be working to strengthen resources together as a whole rather than pitting one campus against another,” McCubbin said.

Ian Toberman, an SIUE Staff Senate member and vice president of the SIUE Professional Staff Association, said that when SIUE provided a $35 million loan to Carbondale last year, it was suggested that SIUC needed just one more year to turn things around.

“Here we are again at SIUE being asked to shoulder the burden so another school can find itself, or find more students,” Toberman said.

David Balai, an electrician with SIUE University Housing, said that despite the challenges of the budget crisis, Edwardsville is thriving because of fiscal belt-tightening and because its leaders have made the right decisions.

“We are only asking to not be penalized for making good decisions,” Balai said.

Nicole Klein, an associate professor in SIUE’s School of Education, said she obtained two of her degrees from SIUC and that she grew up in Carbondale. She commended the board for considering the phased-in reallocation.

“Three weeks ago … I needed to split my classroom into two different classes. I called campus scheduling, and on campus there was not one single classroom that could be booked. They were all full. There was no place to move my class to. That’s how carefully we are using our resources,” Klein said.

SIU System President Randy Dunn said that after the March 9 board retreat, there was a request from the Edwardsville campus for a phase-one reallocation driven by enrollment to implement for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Dunn said that based on what other funding formulas from university systems look like, it’s fair to say that enrollment tends to be the largest driver, although other variables like research mission can factor in.

“Given that that enrollment piece tends to be compelling, and the fact that the enrollments between the two institutions are very close, I thought that warranted at least a consideration,” Dunn said.

Bill Winter, SIUE’s chief budget officer, explained that his office used four different methodologies to determine an annual funding gap adjustment target:

  • A simple headcount of students at both campuses.
  • A method that considers student “full-time equivalents,” wherein two half-time students are counted as one student.
  • A method that uses student full-time equivalents but also imposes a weighting factor to recognize the differing missions of the two campuses.
  • A method based on the average appropriation per student full time equivalents.

The $5.125 million figure was determined by averaging the highest and lowest numbers.

SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook said that he understands the pain that would come with reducing SIUC’s budget, as Edwardsville had to cut 12 percent of its state budget during the budget impasse.

Pembrook said that SIUE’s proximity to St. Louis has helped it grow quickly in the last two decades, and that SIUE is currently the least expensive public university in Illinois.

“Additional investment will translate to more growth,” Pembrook said.

Trustee Phil Gilbert questioned why the Phase 1 reallocation was developed prior to the hiring of an external consultant, which the board had discussed at its March 9 retreat.

“I am proud of Edwardsville and what they’ve accomplished … but this is the wrong way to do it,” Gilbert said.

Dunn said it makes sense to do an early adjustment that gets the appropriation distribution closer to a 60/40 split, which has been the operating policy of the board for decades.

“What I’ve pointed to in some of my conversations, is the fact that if you have some kind of insurance coverage on property or your home, and there’s damage that takes place ... you don’t have to wait until the final adjustment to have some sort of good-faith payment that takes place for the need that exists at that immediate point in time,” Dunn said.

Trustee Shirley Portwood said she was pleased to see the proposal because “it offers an opportunity for the board to show good faith toward Edwardsville for the progress they’ve made and the assistance that they have rendered to Carbondale.”

“And along those lines, the discussion, to my knowledge, has never been before this board in 20 years. It’s time for the discussion,” Sholar said.

Trustees Joel Sambursky and Marsha Ryan said that there has not been enough time to analyze the issue.

Montemagno said it was too early to say any additional resources should go to SIUE, and that there are multiple variables to consider.

“Enrollment is one variable associated with the process. Community health is another,” Montemagno said.

The meeting marked the first appearance of trustee Tom Britton, who was appointed by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday. Both Britton and Ryan need to be confirmed by the Senate but have full voting privileges.

janis.esch@thesouthern.com

618-351-5082

On Twitter: @janis_eschSI

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Janis Esch is a reporter covering higher education.

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