So are we to now expect Southern Illinois University’s entrenched constituencies and wounded feelings to all fall away as they join hands and sing “Kumbaya?”
SIU President Randy Dunn fell on his sword — with his crash softened by a $215,000 6-month severance cushion and a $100,000 “retirement” job next year at the Edwardsville campus. (What, no visiting lectures among the restless “Carbondale bitchers?”)
In his parting note, Dunn said: “In my role, I had become a polarizing figure, so my retirement, along with the new leadership of an outstanding interim president, can allow healing to begin across all parts of the organization and advance important decisions that will need to be made for the future.”
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They found themselves a neutral guy, without apparent Carbondale or Edwardville ties, by going to the SIU School of Medicine’s Dr. J. Kevin Dorsey. Now Mr. Neutral gets to forge a peace treaty between two campuses at a fever pitch of disdain and distrust, each believing the other is selfish and uncaring.
It almost makes you think state Rep. Jay Hoffman had it right with his plans to split up the campuses. That, of course, is a taxpayer nightmare that should be off the table.
But here’s what should be on the table:
• Start with fairness. Fix the problem that started this mess by immediately tying state money to enrollment.
• A new board. Everybody resign, and go with the idea of three Carbondale grads, three Edwardsville grads and one from elsewhere so there is no longer a 4-4 split of allegiances to the two campuses. This current crew cannot get along well enough to fix the rift.
• Make or implement a Carbondale Plan. They’ve got to fix the enrollment decline so they aren’t fighting over scarce resources. Figure out how to make the Carbondale chancellor’s plan happen, or figure out another plan — quickly. Urgency is needed because Carbondale is suffering major blood loss and acting like they just have a flesh wound. Modernize the academics to attract students and give them hope for a rewarding career.
• Cut the president’s salary. Really? They can’t find someone qualified and happy to do the job for less than $430K? This won’t heal anything, but it gives them more money for academics and could be the start of rolling back the rampant growth of administrative overhead.
It was great of Dunn to be so magnanimous, but nothing will change until SIU changes the funding, trustees and SIUC enrollment decline.