Timeline of events leading up to proposal to separate SIU campuses
Local state representatives are obviously and justly irate with the Southern Illinois University trustees for failing to do the fair thing and shift $5.1 million from the shrinking Carbondale campus to the growing Edwardsville campus, but there may be compromise in the middle of their cries for secession.
It appears they are playing a version of Let's Make A Deal with three doors.
Door No. 1 holds a chainsaw. Separate the two campuses and give them their own boards.
That option stinks for taxpayers and students paying tuition, because it duplicates a lot of jobs and pensions. It also ensures that any extra money headed to Edwardsville will not be spent on students, but rather on overhead in a state that saw college administration balloon by one-third in a decade.
Door No. 2 holds a dice shaker. Mix up the trustees so they are less biased toward Carbondale — a bias that even extends to the board's official seal carrying the image of the Carbondale campus clock tower.
Surprise! The four "no" votes were the four trustees with Carbondale ties.
So state Rep. Jay Hoffman et al. are offering a bill directing the governor to pick three Edwardsville graduates, three Carbondale graduates and one who did not attend SIU. The student trustees would not get to vote.
Sounds a lot fairer than the current process with seven appointees voting, one student trustee voting and the other student trustee just occupying space for a year. The best Edwardsville ever gets is a 4-4 tie when their student trustee gets the voting power. The next year when the student vote shifts to the Carbondale kid, the vote bias becomes 5-3 for Carbondale.
Edwardsville can't win.
So on to Door No. 3, which holds two coin purses. State lawmakers are looking to tie the $142 million in state funding to enrollment.
Yes. Do it. No more of the traditional 60-40 funding split that favored Carbondale because it was the "main" campus and a research institution. In reality that split drifted a lot closer to 70-30. The $5.1 million transfer would have taken the campuses back to 60-40.
Tax dollars should follow students, and that puts the split at nearly 50-50. A student in Carbondale should not be worth more than a student in Edwardsville.
Carbondale's status as a place to turn out PhD's and conduct research left during the past 15 years when it allowed the undergraduate enrollment to drop by one-third. Better for taxpayers and students to cede the pretension and overhead to the University of Illinois system and focus on degree programs that will land jobs and make it worth traveling from the city at the top of the state to the forest at the bottom of the state.
Or if SIU needs to maintain a research mission, shift it to the Edwardsville campus. This area is a population center of more than 3 million that offers industry, emerging technologies, entrepreneurs, military contractors, bio engineering and a host of partnership opportunities that would flower with a little cash.
The urban-suburban nature of this area is why Edwardsville enrollment grows while Carbondale's lags.
We pick Door No. 2 and Door No. 3. We don't need a chainsaw.