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SIU Chancellor Carlo Montemagno responds to a question during an interview on Aug. 28, 2017.

CARBONDALE — A group that formed in response to Southern Illinois University Carbondale Chancellor Carlo Montemagno’s plan to eliminate the university’s 42 departments has released a survey aimed at gauging public opinion on the proposed restructuring.

The Coordinating Committee for Change, which grew out of an Oct. 25 open meeting about the restructuring plan, says it hopes to gather information about SIU constituents’ perceptions of the proposal and planning process.

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Organizer Natasha Zaretsky, associate professor of history at SIUC, said the group was partially motivated by the “Vision 2025” survey launched by the chancellor’s office in the fall, which focused on the university’s mission statement and broad strategic planning. The results of that survey were released on the chancellor’s website in January.

carlo montemagno mug

Montemagno

The “Vision 2025” survey wasn’t designed to address issues related to the restructuring; it launched before the chancellor unveiled his proposal at the State of the University address in September.

“We’re more interested in finding out, OK, how do different groups on campus and in the larger community feel about this restructuring proposal itself and the process — do people feel like they’ve been getting a sufficient chance to provide input?” Zaretsky said.

The CCC has been vocal in its criticism of the restructuring plan, which would eliminate department chairs and reshuffle programs into new colleges and schools for enhanced “synergy.” But Zaretsky rejected the term “opposition group,” noting that some members approve of select aspects of the chancellor’s plan.

“However, everyone associated with the CCC or involved in the CCC really cares about the process, that they proceed in a way that is consistent with principles of shared governance,” she said.

The chancellor has publicly remarked on multiple occasions that about 70 percent of people he encounters are in favor of the restructuring.

“First of all, we can’t verify that … and it’s not a very meaningful statistic, because you have to be very specific about which constituency groups you’re talking about,” Zaretsky said.

Zaretsky said the group has tried to circulate the survey as widely as possible but acknowledged that a majority of respondents might find the survey through the CCC, skewing the results.

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“There’s not that much we can do about that. I’ve had dialogs with people who support the plan and have told me so, and I have urged them to take the survey. I want to get as accurate a picture — if a majority of people support the restructuring plan, I think we need to know that as well,” Zaretsky said.

In the survey, participants are asked to indicate their level of agreement with the following statements:

  • "I was given opportunities to participate in the chancellor’s reorganization planning.
  • "I have received the information I need to understand the chancellor’s reorganization plan and its impact on both SIU Carbondale and the people associated with it.
  • "I support the chancellor’s plan for the organizational restructuring of the university.
  • "I support the chancellor’s plan for the elimination of academic departments and department chairs.
  • "The chancellor’s planned reorganization will improve student enrollment at SIU Carbondale.
  • "The chancellor’s planned reorganization will save SIU Carbondale money.
  • "Feedback about the chancellor's reorganization plan, including any concerns, has been considered and adequately addressed by the chancellor’s office.
  • "Nothing I can do will impact the details or implementation of the chancellor’s reorganization plan.
  • "I trust Chancellor Montemagno to act in the best interests of SIU Carbondale and the people associated with the university."

She said the group plans to publicize the results of the survey after its completion.

“We’re hoping that the findings can be incorporated into the conversation about what the next steps can be in terms of restructuring, but that depends on what the leadership decides they want to do with the findings,” Zaretsky said.

Rae Goldsmith, chief marketing and communications officer at SIU, declined to comment on the matter Wednesday afternoon.

The survey can be found through the CCC’s website, www.cccsiuc.blogspot.com. It will be available until Feb. 11.

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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