Five former Southern Illinois University Edwardsville chancellors have penned an open letter calling on the current SIU trustees to reallocate state money between the system's two campuses. If that doesn't happen, the former chancellors say they support a plan to split the two SIU campuses into separate universities.
The former chancellors who signed the letter — Nancy Belck, Julie Furst-Bowe, Stephen Hansen, Vaughn Vandegrift and David Werner — led the Edwardsville campus from 1997 to 2016.
"Trustees are meant to guide the universities to assure that higher education remains responsible to the needs of the public," the former chancellors wrote. "Sometimes changes are necessary in order to better serve the needs of the public."
A proposal to shift $5.1 million in state money from Southern Illinois University Carbondale to SIUE was rejected by the university systems trustees in a 4-3 vote in April. The shift would have worked toward a 60-40 split in state funding, with SIUC still receiving the larger chunk.
Since the trustees' decision, a study to determine a funding formula has been planned.
However some metro-east legislators have called for splitting the two campuses, a 50-50 in split in funding and reconstituting the board of trustees, among other proposals.
The former trustees also expressed support for splitting the two campuses if a funding solution can't be reached.
"We ... believe it is time for the Board of Trustees of the Southern Illinois System to live up to its fiduciary responsibilities by reallocating funds between Carbondale and Edwardsville," the former chancellors wrote. "If it fails to do so, then it is time for the legislature to abolish the System and create a Board of Trustees for each university."
The full letter from the former chancellors
An Open Letter to the Citizens of the State of Illinois and the SIU Board of Trustees:
Universities are managed by boards of trustees. The trustees are representatives of the public and are responsible for a university’s long-term health, strategic direction, educational policy, finances, operations, and mission. Trustees are meant to guide the universities to assure that higher education remains responsible to the needs of the public. Sometimes changes are necessary in order to better serve the needs of the public.
We, the undersigned former chancellors of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, believe it is time for the Board of Trustees of the Southern Illinois System to live up to its fiduciary responsibilities by reallocating funds between Carbondale and Edwardsville. If it fails to do so, then it is time for the legislature to abolish the System and create a Board of Trustees for each university. Such a change is not without precedent. In 1996 the legislature abolished both the Board of Governors and Board of Regents which had together overseen nine universities.
Since 2000, Carbondale has received 64 percent of the SIU System’s appropriation (excluding funding for the System Office and the School of Medicine in Springfield) while Edwardsville has received 36 percent. Since 2000, the enrollment at Carbondale has dropped significantly while that at Edwardsville has increased as has the breadth and level of its programs. In fall 2017, Carbondale had a slightly larger enrollment than Edwardsville; by fall 2018, Edwardsville will likely be larger.
At its meeting on April 12, 2018, the SIU Trustees reviewed a proposal documenting the disparity in funding. Even adjusting for the greater doctoral level work at Carbondale, the analysis underlying the proposal showed that between $17M and $23M needed to be shifted from Carbondale to Edwardsville. The proposal before the Trustees called for a modest shift of $5M, a small step to equitable funding. Yet, even that modest shift failed to achieve Trustee approval.
SIUE at one time benefited from being part of the SIU System, but that is no longer the case. If the Board of Trustees cannot live up to its fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of Illinois and the University at Edwardsville, it is time for a change.
Nancy Belck, Chancellor SIUE, 1994-1997
Julie Furst-Bowe, Chancellor SIUE, 2012-2015
Stephen Hansen, Interim Chancellor SIUE, 2015-2016
Vaughn Vandegrift, Chancellor SIUE, 2004-2012
David Werner, Chancellor SIUE, 1997-2004