SIU President Randy Dunn may be fighting for his job on Friday, as the board of trustees decides whether to place him on administrative leave.
Board secretary Joel Sambursky called for a special meeting of the executive committee due to “additional information” he said the board received after its meeting last week. The agenda for the special meeting, scheduled for Friday, includes “administrative leave of president” and “appointment of acting president.”
The notice indicated Sambursky would not give further comment.
The executive committee is comprised of board Chairwoman Amy Sholar, Vice Chairman J. Phil Gilbert and Sambursky. Both Gilbert and Sambursky have Carbondale ties; Sholar is a graduate of SIUE. The committee has authority to act on routine business during the board’s recess and respond to emergencies.
Dunn could not be immediately reached for comment, but he told the Chicago Tribune that he did not request any such leave and he was not informed in advance that the meeting would be called. “At this point I don’t know any more information than you do,” Dunn told the Tribune. “I’ll be talking to my representation and seeing what I can find out beyond that. I’m trying to get some information myself on what’s planned with it.”
Dunn has been under fire after an email was made public in which he referenced “bitchers from Carbondale,” referring to people opposed to discussing a shift of funding from Carbondale to Edwardsville.
Dunn apologized for his choice of words, but said he did not apologize for bringing to light the issue of funding disparity between the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses. State funding is currently divided about 64 to 36 percent between the campuses, but Carbondale’s enrollment has dropped while Edwardsville’s has grown. The Edwardsville campus is expected to exceed Carbondale’s enrollment this fall.
In April, the board of trustees voted down a proposal to divide funding 60-40 between the campuses. This led to a series of bills in the state Legislature to divide the campuses into two universities, to equally divide the funding, and to create an independent study of the best way to allocate funding.
In response to Dunn’s comment, two state lawmakers from the Carbondale area called for his resignation.
SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook said in an interview that he thinks removing the university president “seems to go beyond” what the executive committee was created to do.
“If this is an outcome of asking the allocation question, I just don’t think it is a just use of the bylaws,” Pembrook said. He acknowledged that Dunn’s use of the term “bitchers” in the email “ratcheted up the heat” in the conversation about how the university system distributes its state cash.
But Pembrook said Dunn and Sholar have “provided good leadership” in the last year. He is concerned that the conversation might not continue if Dunn is gone.
“He has been a champion of that question in a way that previous presidents have not,” Pembrook said.
The board will meet at 1:30 p.m. Friday in Ballroom A of the Carbondale student center. It is the third meeting out of four that has taken place in Carbondale; the board has not met in Edwardsville since Feb. 8 and will not return until September.
Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes