EDWARDSVILLE — The members of SIU’s governing board chose new leadership Thursday, although two of the trustees chosen for leadership positions could soon be removed and replaced by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
The board selected J. Phil Gilbert to be its chairman for the coming year, replacing Alton-based attorney Amy Sholar. Shirley Portwood was elected vice chair and Joel Sambursky was reappointed secretary.
The votes were nearly unanimous, with only Sholar voting against Gilbert's and Sambursky’s appointments.
However, Sambursky's and Portwood’s time in their roles may be limited.
Both have reached the end of their six-year terms as trustees. They and three others on the seven-member board are set to be reappointed or replaced by Gov. Pritzker, actions typically taken soon after a new governor’s inauguration.
Gilbert, meanwhile, is in the middle of his term, having been appointed by Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2015.
Gilbert is a lifelong resident of Carbondale, with a 30-year history of service as a state and federal judge. He has chaired the Illinois State Board of Elections, and is a recipient of the SIU School of Law Founders’ Medal for distinguished service to the law school.
In comments delivered after his appointment, Gilbert promised to prioritize equally the needs of both the SIU Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses, while keeping the focus on students.
“We face many challenges, which include the hiring of a president, a chancellor for the Carbondale campus, filling key administrative and academic positions, and listening to faculty, student and staff concerns and suggestions on moving our university forward,” Gilbert said.
The balance of interests between Carbondale and Edwardsville is being tested already by a proposal to create a nursing school at SIU Carbondale.
The plan has been widely praised by SIUC faculty and administrators, as well as the Southern Illinois medical industry. Southern Illinois Healthcare, the region’s largest health care employer, has promised $1 million to the school, and SIUC has secured another $1.2 million in industry funding.
However, SIU Interim President J. Kevin Dorsey worries the school could replicate the existing SIU Edwardsville School of Nursing.
“I’m concerned about overlap,” Dorsey said after Thursday’s board meeting. “Finances are tight, and we can ill afford to waste a dollar. I’m pro- the program, and anti- wasting money.”
Currently SIUE offers a limited number of nursing degrees at SIUC, with basic science classes taught at Carbondale, and clinical course work at area hospitals.
SIUC is proposing a program that would be several times larger than the current partnership. On the other hand, there are also ways to expand the existing SIUE program in Carbondale, suggested SIUE Provost Denise Cobb.
The SIUC proposal remains on Dorsey's desk, where it arrived in December.
“I think the board would like the president to move on this,” Gilbert said. “Everybody says there’s a need for it. That’s not a question.”
The plan should be on the agenda again for next month’s board meeting, Dorsey indicated.
Also at Thursday's meeting
SIUC’s academic reorganization took a small step forward. The plan, which began under deceased Carbondale Chancellor Carlo Montemagno, seeks to repackage the courses already offered at SIUC under new schools and colleges.
The designs for seven of the expected new schools have been forwarded to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, which will give final approval on them.
However, the major sticking point has not changed: The majority of the proposed schools have not been approved by one or multiple of the key organizations that represent faculty on campus.
University leaders, including new Interim Carbondale Chancellor John Dunn and Dorsey, continue to promise to seek that approval in good faith. However, faculty approval is not strictly required to make changes to SIUC's academic structure.
The SIUC football stadium will soon get a new scoreboard, sponsored primarily by a group of Southern Illinois orthopedic doctors, according to SIUC Athletic Director Jerry Kill. The current sign has technical issues, and its manufacturer is no longer in business. The new scoreboard will cost about $700,000, the university estimates, and will be covered fully by the sponsorship deal.
The SIU University Press is planning to release a book commemorating 150 years of SIU Carbondale. The university celebrates its sesquicentennial this year.