Two bills that would drastically restructure Southern Illinois University and its board were introduced this week in the wake of infighting among the board of trustees, the university president and the governor.
State Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, introduced a bill Thursday that would require three of the eight voting trustees to be graduates of SIU Carbondale, while three more members must be graduates of SIU Edwardsville. These are the two main campuses of the SIU system, which also has a dental school in Alton and a medical school in Springfield.
"These two great campuses deserve to have an equal say in their governance," Haine said. "A geographical balance on the board of trustees has been generally accepted by past administrations. This bill simply codifies that balance."
Currently the board is made up of seven trustees appointed by the governor. There are also two student representatives elected by the student body, one from each campus. However, only one student representative is currently permitted to vote. Under Haine's bill, both students would be able to vote.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Belleville, introduced a bill to sever the Edwardsville and Carbondale campuses into separate universities. The Springfield medical school and Alton dental school would stay with the Edwardsville campus, cutting Carbondale off by itself.
Hoffman had proposed similar bills in 2003 and 2005, stating that the Edwardsville campus did not get the resources and attention it needed from the SIU system.
However, the previous bills were withdrawn after students petitioned against the move and the administrators of both campuses testified against it before House committees.
Hoffman said he had withdrawn them after a "gentleman's agreement" that the board would have at least three trustees who were graduates of each school and/or residents of the immediate area to ensure adequate representation of each campus. That has mostly been the case for the last decade, Hoffman said.
"I believe that both the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses have surged over the last 10 years because there were people on the board that had a unique understanding of the individual campuses," Hoffman said. "I believe it is important that the board is made up that way."
Ten years ago, it was estimated that it would cost $2 million to $4 million to duplicate services from the SIU president's office, such as auditing, financial planning, political liaisons and insurance for the two separate universities. However, Hoffman said he "strongly disagreed" with that estimate, believing that the chancellors' offices could have easily absorbed the functions of the president's office. "It might even be a net savings," he said.
Still, Hoffman said he and Haine have been in discussions about their two bills. "We intend to work together on whichever way is the best way to go," Hoffman said. "We have to decide if it makes more sense to be a standalone university, or attempt to codify the gentleman's agreement."
The legislation was spurred by recent infighting among the SIU board of trustees, SIU President Glenn Poshard and Gov. Pat Quinn. Earlier this week, Quinn replaced three trustees whose terms were expiring with three new nominees.
The outgoing trustees -- Mark Hinrichs, John Simmons and Ed Hightower -- were all metro-east residents and graduates of the Edwardsville campus. The three new nominees were all graduates of the Carbondale campus: Sandra Cook, of Collinsville, Lee Milner, of Springfield and Melvin Terrell, of Chicago.
On Wednesday, the state Senate voted against confirming the nominees in a 0-23 vote, with 32 "present" votes. Haine said he voted no because the nominees had not been vetted by a Senate committee and Quinn had not consulted with the Senate about them.
Poshard accused the governor's office of trying last year to influence the trustees to re-elect Roger Herrin as board chairman, with threats of removal from the board if they did not approve Herrin as chairman. The three trustees removed from the board, Hinrichs, Simmons and Hightower, all voted against Herrin, and Simmons replaced him as chairman last year.
Quinn's staffers denied the allegations of political retribution, and said the new nominees deserve a fair hearing before the Senate.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2501.