I’m writing this because of my concern over the current public perception of Southern Illinois University Carbondale. The information provided to the public through various sources makes it appear as though the current administration is at odds with the entire faculty and student body regarding proposed changes to the university structure.
Although there are clearly differences of opinion on how the academic programs should be structured in the future, and it is important that all opinions are heard, it seems that those opinions that differ from Chancellor Carlo Montemagno’s are the only voices widely reported on.
I have no data at my disposal, but based on the numerous conversations I’ve had with colleagues across campus, a large proportion, if not the majority of faculty members, support the chancellor’s proposed structural changes, at least to some degree. While there is certainly interest in gaining a better understanding of the details about how the programs would be administered and how administrative responsibilities would be distributed between the program directors, school directors and deans, many of us feel the proposed changes provide a better opportunity to not only update current academic programs, but to develop new, cross-disciplinary programs that will be of interest to both prospective students and their future employers.
I would also like to address the accusations that the chancellor is not listening to or addressing faculty concerns. Of course, I can only speak from my own experience, but when faculty members from my department voiced concern over the chancellor’s original proposal, he scheduled a meeting to discuss our issues and when presented with rational arguments, he made changes.
We recently had a second, very productive meeting with administrators from the offices of the provost and vice chancellor of research to discuss potential structural and programmatic changes. Again, when presented with rational arguments and suggestions, the administrators listened and appear to appreciate our input.
As evidenced by our recent declines in enrollment, the public perception of SIUC — whether that perception is deserved or not — is that SIUC does not provide a competitive educational experience and changes are needed. Many faculty members agree with the chancellor’s proposed changes and recognize a true leader leads by example. Leaders develop new approaches to achieve objectives whether it’s new artistic and creative techniques, technological advancements, scientific discoveries, or academic administrative structures. Sometimes leading requires one to develop new paths, and not always follow the path others have taken.
Be assured, the vast majority of faculty members I have interacted with, although potentially a little apprehensive of such large-scale changes, are excited to work with the administration to help develop academic programming and an administrative structure that positions SIUC as an innovative leader in higher education.