Metro-East News

SIUC hires new chancellor’s family members amid controversy

Dr. Carlo Montemagno, chancellor of Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Dr. Carlo Montemagno, chancellor of Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Southern Illinois University has hired the Carbondale chancellor’s daughter and son-in-law for newly-created jobs while the troubled campus fights a reorganization battle amid falling enrollment, according to an investigation by the Daily Egyptian.

The SIUC student newspaper obtained documents that reportedly show the new Chancellor Carlo Montemagno’s daughter and son-in-law, Melissa and Jeffrey Germain, were hired for university jobs that they never applied for and that were never advertised.

This was intentional, according to a statement from spokesman Rae Goldsmith that said the verbal agreement between Montemagno and SIU President Randy Dunn to help his family find jobs was “not unusual,” just part of the negotiations to bring in a new chancellor.

But Faculty Association President Dave Johnson told the Daily Egyptian that the ethics test all state employees must pass says you can’t just hire people because they’re family members.

“They have to be the best people for the position,” he said.

Montemagno was hired on July 13. Melissa Germain was hired on July 24 as assistant director of university communications, assigned to promote the arts. She makes $52,000 a year, which is comparable to similar jobs at the university, according to the Daily Egyptian.

Jeff Germain was hired as a civil service “extra help” position assisting the interim vice chancellor for research with daily tasks, taking the place of an associate vice chancellor position that has been vacant since 2013. He is paid $45 an hour, which is double the pay of other “extra help” positions in the last 10 years, according to the Daily Egyptian. The extra pay is to remain competitive with the higher salary he was making in his previous position at Ingenuity Lab, according to SIUC administrators.

Both the Germains previously worked at Ingenuity Lab, which Montemagno founded and served as executive director from 2012 to April 2017 in Alberta, Canada.

“Positions for my daughter and son-in-law were part of the negotiations of my employment,” Montemagno said in a written statement. “I have not had and will have no role in hiring or supervising them, or in the determination of their compensation.”

Meanwhile, Montemagno has proposed a drastic reorganization of SIUC that eliminates all department chairmen and consolidating eight colleges into five and 42 departments into 20 schools. The proposal would not necessarily save money, according to Montemagno, but would make the structure more “flexible and responsive.” It has been met with significant resistance from the university faculty and students, as the campus also grapples with financial problems and declining enrollment.

Montemagno recently caused controversy with a presentation to the board of trustees in which he showed a slide of a shiny sports car representing the value an SIU degree once had, comparing it to a beat-up and rusted car representing its current value.

The presentation angered faculty and students, who spoke at a December board meeting to protest. Johnson told the board to take note of how many students and faculty attended the meeting during finals week. “Ask SIU students if their education here is Yugo level, ask faculty if their research is substandard, ask department chairs if their work is standing in the way of progress, and ask for evidence for what they say,” Johnson said.

Montemagno has also proposed eliminating graduate student instructors, which has concerned grad students who depend on teaching assistantships for experience and funding.

SIUC has also been dealing with accusations that the campus is unwelcoming to black students and faculty, as its overall student population is declining. This year’s freshman class dropped to 1,319 — 478 fewer than the 1,797 freshman class for its sister campus in Edwardsville — and is projected to drop yet again to 918 this fall.

The total Carbondale campus enrollment is 14,554, nearly 10 percent lower than 2016 and less than 1,000 higher than Edwardsville. Enrollment in Carbondale has only increased twice — both fewer than 1-percent increases — in the past 14 years.

Montemagno is the fourth chancellor in the past five years at SIUC. Former chancellor Rita Cheng left in 2014 to become president of Northern Arizona University, replaced by interim chancellor Paul Sarvela until his death Nov. 9, 2014. He was replaced by interim chancellor Brad Colwell, who served 2015 to 2017, and was succeeded by Montemagno.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald