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CARBONDALE — A Southern Illinois University Carbondale group says the findings of a recent survey demonstrate the controversial nature of Chancellor Carlo Montemagno’s proposed restructuring plan.

The Coordinating Committee for Change — a group of students, faculty and community members that formed after an Oct. 25 open meeting about the restructuring plan — conducted an online poll between Dec. 11, 2017, and Feb. 11, 2018, to assess stakeholder reactions to the proposal and overall planning process.

The survey found that 56.1 percent of stakeholders do not support the chancellor’s plan for reorganization, according to a report released Friday on the CCC’s website.

The plan would eliminate the university's 42 departments and arrange degree programs by newly established colleges and schools. 

1,156 people participated in the survey: 270 SIUC alumni, 214 tenured or tenure-track faculty, 146 graduate or professional students, 94 undergraduate students, 75 civil service employees, 68 Carbondale community members, 69 administrative professionals, 46 friends or relatives of SIUC students or employees, 35 Southern Illinois residents and 32 non-tenure-track faculty members. 32 are listed as “other” and 75 did not choose a category.

Organizer Natasha Zaretsky, associate professor of history, said the CCC was pleased with the number of respondents.

“In many ways, the findings affirm what we already knew: just how controversial this proposal is,” Zaretsky said in an email.

She said recent votes among constituency groups, including resolutions passed by the Faculty Senate and the Graduate and Professional Student Council opposing the unilateral elimination of departments, already demonstrated mixed levels of support for the plan on campus.

“But the survey makes clear that the concerns shared by SIUC faculty and students extend to other constituencies, as well, including alumni who appear to oppose the plan by a sizable margin,” Zaretsky said.

About one-third of respondents said they support the organizational restructuring (35.6 percent) and elimination of departments (32.1 percent).

65.7 percent of participants disagreed that the plan accounts for the needs of all the people it affects. 55.7 percent agreed that they are unable to do anything to impact the implementation of the plan, and 59.2 percent disagreed with the statement that they were given opportunities to participate in the planning process.

Some participants did not respond to every statement. The survey’s website did not permit repeat participation.

The SIU Carbondale Human Subjects Committee reviewed and approved the survey’s research protocol before polling began, according to the report.

Earlier this month, Zaretsky said the CCC was working to circulate the survey widely to ensure fairness. Although Zaretsky has said the CCC is not an opposition group, its members have been critical of the restructuring. 

“I cannot speak to the validity or potential bias of the survey, including how it was distributed and who was directly invited to participate,” Montemagno said in a statement. “For this reason, I won’t comment on specific findings but will consider them among the other significant input we have received through multiple meetings, individual conversations, and written outreach from faculty, staff, students, alumni and other stakeholders. I’m grateful that so many people have taken advantage of the many opportunities to participate in the reorganization planning.

“I continue to believe that academic reorganization is essential to the university’s future success and presents exciting opportunities for our faculty and future students. I also believe that lack of action will continue to negatively impact the needs of all who are affiliated with our university as well as the needs of our region and state.”

Zaretsky said the group has had no communication with the administration about the results.

“We sincerely hope that they will take the survey findings seriously and use them to chart a path forward for SIUC that relies on principles of shared governance and a genuine spirit of collaboration,” she said.

The full report is available on the CCC’s website, cccsiuc.blogspot.com.

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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