Carbondale wants SIU chief gone for trying to be fair to Edwardsville campus

SIU trustees get blasted by both campuses

Southern Illinois University trustees hear from Edwardsville and Carbondale students and faculty about fair financing and splitting the two campuses.
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Southern Illinois University trustees hear from Edwardsville and Carbondale students and faculty about fair financing and splitting the two campuses.

Southern Illinois University President Randy Dunn is under fire after a Carbondale campus professor obtained e-mails revealing his moves to try to get the Edwardsville campus a fairer cut of state dollars. The Carbondale paper wants him ousted, as do several Carbondale area lawmakers.

Rather than be fired for the sin of trying to be fair, Dunn's performance should be commended. He tried to fix the massive financial favoritism the Carbondale campus enjoyed for decades. The fact that he used language that violated the Carbondale elite's "safe space" does little to convince us he is anything other than the right person to lead the system.

Here's how SIUC psychology professor Kathleen Chwalisz opened her guest opinion: "After Southern Illinois University Carbondale and the rest of the region were blindsided last month by a $5 million reallocation threat to campus and the associated $39 million threat to the region, the SIUC community has been wondering, 'How did we get here?'”

Right there is the problem. Carbondale has no clue how it got there. They view any effort to get less than 64 percent of the state funding as a threat to the Carbondale economy.

Let's educate the professor, et al.

They got there by allowing enrollment to drop by one-third in only 15 years. They got there by supporting an archaic, arcane academic structure that their new chancellor immediately saw need to reform. They got there by deciding their mission was to support the Carbondale economy rather than to be relevant to students building careers.

Their biggest complaint with Dunn is that he sent an e-mail stating that the tradition of a 60-40 state funding split between Carbondale and Edwardsville was being invoked "simply to shut up the bitchers from Carbondale who are saying loudly we shouldn't even be doing the $5.125 million at this time."

He apologized for the language. He should have no apology for the truth behind it.

The split formula is not a fiction. Just because it isn't in writing, doesn't mean it wasn't the traditional practice. If Dunn made moves that were hidden from some of his staff, so what? That's an internal, tactical matter that has little to do with the real issue of equity.

Bringing Edwardsville up to 60-40 would be less of a shock than truly doing what is fair. Fair would be moving right now to make each campus' share of public dollars equal to how many members of the public choose to attend each campus. Fair would be a 50-50 split based on enrollment.

On Wednesday the SIU Board correctly did nothing regarding Dunn, correctly voted against a campus split but then squandered another opportunity to do something about the funding inequity.

The most interesting thing was that among the parade of Carbondale staffers trying to protect their wallets, SIUC doctoral graduate Jonathan Flowers talked about the hypocrisy. As a graduate student leader he'd been called some rotten, racial things as well as "too loud, too angry, too aggressive" in front of staff and administration, but no one protested or called for any resignations then.

Flowers said Carbondale has been too busy blaming Edwardsville and Dunn rather than implementing a plan for a comprehensive overhaul of enrollment and recruitment that could fix the ailing campus. Instead he said the infighting brings SIU to the brink of dissolution. He apologized to Edwardsville on behalf of his alma mater.

Sounds to us like Flowers wasn't loud, angry or aggressive enough. Trustees still don't get the hypocrisy as they fail to fix the inequity.