CARBONDALE — Just minutes before the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees were to meet in the Student Center to discuss reallocation of funds from Carbondale’s campus to Edwardsville’s campus, a group of elected officials, along with business and healthcare professionals, gathered at the Carbondale Civic Center urging the board not to vote on the matter Thursday.
The Board of Trustees is set to take action on a proposal to begin a phased adjustment of the state appropriation allocation to better reflect the enrollment levels at the two campuses.
Typically, the two campuses have seen a 60/40 percent split in state funds since about 1979, but in Fiscal Year 2018, SIUC received about 64 percent while SIUE received the remaining 36 percent, according to figures presented to The Southern on Wednesday by SIU President Randy Dunn.
The proposed $5.1 million comprises about 1.4 percent of the current operating budget for SIUC, according to previous reporting in The Southern.
On Wednesday, Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry said such a decision requires careful consideration and input from the SIUC community, adding that everybody in Southern Illinois is part of that community.
“As mayor of Carbondale, I have concerns with this proposal,” he said. “First of all, why do this now?”
Henry said the shift in funding means little to the Edwardsville campus, but it would have a major impact on the future of the Carbondale campus.
“This will force more layoffs, impact our financial stability, and hinder the chancellor’s organization initiative,” he said. “And the cut in funds would take more than $39 million of economic activity away from Southern Illinois.”
He called for Dunn and the board to rethink its decision to move forward until proper research has been done.
“I believe in our communities in Southern Illinois and I believe in this region,” Henry said. “Acting together we can make SIU, the city of Carbondale and Southern Illinois a place we are proud to call home, but only you can decide what happens next.”
When asked about the changing enrollment between the two campuses, meaning that SIUC’s is declining and SIUE’s is increasing, Henry said there is more involved in the funding situation than just enrollment.
“This is a research university, we have Ph.D. programs, we have a law school — all of these things cost more money,” Henry said. “We are also a campus that has student housing. You can’t compare enrollment. That is one small piece of the pie.”
Henry said his main point was that the reallocation doesn’t need to happen now, and since the board promised to study the problem more closely, it needs to get that input before making a decision.
Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens said there are about 400 people who live in and around his city that work on the SIU campus in Carbondale.
“Anybody in Southern Illinois, as a mayor, a county board member, a commissioner, who doesn’t think it is important to be a champion for this university or the city of Carbondale, is cutting off their nose to spite their face,” he said.
He said it is incredibly important that not just the elected leaders in Southern Illinois be heard on this issue, but that members of the community also need to make their voices heard.
“I would put a call to action to people in Du Quoin, Murphysboro, Harrisburg, Herrin, Carterville — you name the city, or ‘burg or village in Southern Illinois — they need to be picking the phone and calling the Board of Trustee members and letting them know how important it is not just to us — but everyday people in this region,” Stephens said.