Two county chairmen have appealed to Gov. Pat Quinn to reconsider booting three metro-east trustees off the board for Southern Illinois University.
Madison County Chairman Alan Dunstan and St. Clair County Chairman Mark Kern sent an open letter to Quinn on Wednesday appealing his decision to remove John Simmons, Mark Hinrichs and Ed Hightower from the SIU board of trustees.
Calling them "outstanding citizens" and leaders in their fields, Dunstan and Kern wrote that removal of the three was an affront not only to them, but to the entire region.
"(SIUE) is the 'crown jewel' of our area's educational network and is the second-largest employer in the metro-east region," the letter read. "As such, elected officials and community leaders pay particular attention to developments at the university, especially those which are disruptive and create negative impressions, as is the case with this issue."
Last week, Quinn removed the three trustees and replaced them with Sandra Cook, of Collinsville, Lee Milner, of Springfield, and Melvin Terrell, of Chicago. All three were graduates of SIU Carbondale, so the new board would not have included any Edwardsville graduates. Only two trustees would have been residents of the metro-east, plus the one student representative.
The day before the new trustees were to attend their first meeting, the state Senate voted to not confirm them. The letter from Dunstan and Kern asked Quinn to reconsider his decision, and to meet with the legislative delegation from Madison and St. Clair counties to ensure "effective representation from our area" on the board of trustees.
However, Quinn spokesman Brooke Anderson said they want the Senate to reconsider and give Cook, Milner and Terrell "a fair hearing."
"Gov. Quinn appointed three stellar SIU graduates to the board with the goal of increasing enrollment and advancing academic achievement," Anderson said. "The governor's priority is to build SIU into a world-class institution."
Two of the area's legislators last week sponsored bills to restructure the board entirely. State Sen. Bill Haine proposed requiring that three of the trustees be graduates of Edwardsville and three graduates of Carbondale. In addition, the bill proposes that both students serving on the board -- one from each campus -- be voting members. Currently, only one of the two student representatives can vote.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Belleville, proposed splitting the campuses entirely into two separate universities. He has said he and Haine will work together to find the best solution for SIU.
"Our counties have been supportive of you during your tenure as governor," read the letter from Dunstan and Kern, asking Quinn to resolve the issue in a manner that ensures effective representation, "effectively avoiding additional confrontations that are detrimental to our university and our area."
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2501.