Editor’s note: This is a statement in response to a letter to the editor originally published in The Southern Illinoisan newspaper.
By SIU President Randy Dunn
I want to take this opportunity to respond to the Guest View written by Dr. Kathleen Chwalisz recently published in The Southern Illinoisan which I find to be both misleading and frankly intentionally and grossly misrepresenting the situation.
First, I want to take an opportunity to address what was a mistake on my part in referring to individuals in the Carbondale area who have questioned, as it is their right to do, this process regarding campus budget reallocations with a less than complementary (sic) term. I was wrong to characterize them in that way. Many are friends and colleagues and to them, I apologize for how I characterized those who reflexively refused to discuss the issue or engage in a dialogue about it.
To the other matter at hand, Dr. Chwalisz weaves an interesting story in her attempt to discredit my reputation in our community and I want to respond to her allegations:
Chwalisz Claim: Budget-related documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act show that SIU President Randy Dunn actively concealed from SIUC Chancellor Carlo Montemagno his plan to transfer $5.125 million from the Carbondale to Edwardsville campus.
Chwalisz Claim: Montemagno was never briefed on the reallocation proposal, becoming aware of it with the general public when the April Board of Trustees agenda was posted online on March 30.
Chwalisz Claim: FOIA documents provide evidence that Dunn purposefully kept Montemagno in the dark about the reallocation proposal.
Dunn Response: There was never any concealment from anyone on the Carbondale campus regarding this item for the Board agenda. In fact, there cannot be any concealment because of our Board agenda process. The facts are, campus Chancellors, including Chancellor Montemagno, and senior staff have a conference call that occurs at least three weeks before every Board of Trustees meeting. In this case, for the April 11-12 Board of Trustees meeting, we gathered on March 21 for our usual conference call where we discuss items to be included for discussion at the upcoming Board meeting. Regardless if a Chancellor is present or not on this call (as Chancellor Montemagno was not), his staff was present in my office and on the call and following procedure had background on the items discussed for the upcoming meeting, including the FY 2019 campus budget reallocations.
Additionally, there was another opportunity for the Chancellor to discuss this with me at what has been coined the “Good Friday Ambush.” However the Chancellor cancelled (sic) that meeting and never rescheduled — even up until the time of the board meeting twelve days later. During this time period this matter was publically (sic) posted with all other Board agenda items, the Chancellor did not reach out to me to discuss the reallocation issue or any other posted Board agenda items. However, he saw fit to do a blog post on April 4 protesting the proposed board action.
Chwalisz Claim: Randy Dunn’s email reveals his contempt for the Carbondale campus and community, as he denigrates us for questioning the rationale, process and timing of the proposed reallocation move.
Dunn Response: Contempt for the Carbondale campus and community? I live here. I worked at SIU Carbondale previously. And when I was asked by the Board of Trustees to apply for this job, we were very happy to be able to return to Southern Illinois and home. Contempt? No, not at all. My wife and I own our home here. We are proud and active members of this community. I think if anyone has been denigrated in this situation, it has been me for doing my job and working for the best interests of all the campuses in the SIU System — which I was hired to do. To say that I have contempt for my neighbors, colleagues, friends and co-workers is insulting and is not worthy of being suggested against someone who shares a long history with this institution.
Chwalisz Claim: In emails and meeting notes, it is apparent that Dunn charged SIUE officials to come up with justification for a manufactured dollar amount — and Board of Trustees Chair Amy Sholar was in on the plan.
Dunn Response: The SIUE campus community asked that this item be put on the board agenda, and the Chair of the Board concurred to include the item on the agenda — as required for all board agenda items. In my role as President of the System, it is my responsibility to ensure that if something is going to be discussed, there should be a fair, intelligent, balanced and thorough presentation of the facts in doing so. I charged the SIUE campus officials to come up with a justification, which is my job to do. To not do so would be to waste the time of the board and to not give them a full picture of what was before them. I was doing the job I was hired to do.
Chwalisz Claim: This tells us the $5 million was an arbitrary amount — not based on any data, legitimate funding models, or management principles. Dunn fabricated the number for tactical purposes and to lay the groundwork for the system separation legislation — which was announced by the Edwardsville Chancellor immediately following the April Board of Trustees meeting.
Dunn Response: Clearly, if one took the time to listen to the presentation at the April Board of Trustees meeting on Item GG (the proposed initial funding reallocation to SIUE) or to read it, they would understand where the $5 million amount was determined. To suggest that this was done in an attempt to lay the groundwork for system separation legislation is preposterous. If you track my public statements since coming home to SIU, you’ll know that I have advocated for public policy discussions on numerous items of importance to this and all public universities. If I believed there should be split of the system, believe me, I would come out and say so in a clear and concise manner and not hide behind an alternate item on the Board’s agenda. Neither the Chair or I have the power to write legislation nor demand that legislators introduce it.
Chwalisz Claim: The 60/40 split is an illusion — a lie told so many times, it sounds like truth. How do I know this? During the April 11 board meeting, when questioned by a board member in open session, Dunn admitted there was no documentation that supported the claim of a long-standing 60/40 budget model.
Dunn Response: I have acknowledged there is no written policy directive designating a Carbondale/Edwardsville 60/40 split, but have indicated that it has been an aspirational goal. The point of the matter is that if you look at the historical funding allocation between the two campuses — which when comparing SIU Carbondale and the School of Medicine to SIUE, is actually 70/30 — and look at where those campuses are now in their operations, a huge disparity exists. That is why SIUE and Metro East community has loudly called for a funding allocation change. That is the issue at the heart of this discussion and to ignore it or to take things out of context in an attempt to hold onto an antiquated way of thinking that because we’ve always had it, we should always get it, is both shortsighted and imprudent.
It is past time for a discussion on what is an equitable funding allocation. One campus is thriving and one is not. Why not advance the discussion, not the decision, but the discussion, as was done, of making an initial reallocation to the Edwardsville campus to acknowledge their success. As I stated, this was a decision for the Board and my job was to ensure everyone was prepared to have a full discussion so a fair decision could be made.
Chwalisz Claim: While he publicly projects a neutral stance, these FOIA documents reveal that Dunn directed the reallocation ambush and has at least been privy to the separation efforts. He is therefore responsible for key content and strategy aimed at dismantling the SIU system — the organization that he was hired to promote and build.
Dunn Response: I have taken a neutral stance because the Board has not met in open session to direct me or System staff in taking a position on these legislative proposals. And again, if one took the time to listen to the presentation at the April Board of Trustees meeting on Item GG (the proposed initial funding allocation to SIUE) or to read it, they would understand where the $5 million amount was determined. Again, let me be very clear in restating the following: to suggest that this was done in an attempt to lay the groundwork for system separation legislation is preposterous. If you track my public statements since coming home to SIU, you’ll know that I have advocated for public policy discussions on numerous items of importance. If I believed there should be split of the system, believe me, I would come out and say so in a clear and concise manner and not hide behind an alternate item on the Board’s agenda.
And why would I advocate to eliminate the SIU System which would eliminate the capstone job that the Board of Trustees asked me to come home for? If I want to leave SIU, I’ll resign or retire; it would be ridiculous to make up some elaborate plan to blow up the system as I leave. I love SIU too much to do that.
Chwalisz Claim: As a system, SIU is stronger, has a greater voice, further reach, and a more comprehensive mission. President Dunn and Chairperson Sholar know this, yet they have abused the public’s trust and undermined the system to serve their own interests. SIU and Southern Illinois should not abide such betrayal.
Dunn Response: If SIU is going to be a system, it needs to have a leader who thinks and acts in the best interest of the system and is willing to lead us in discussions on issues that are of importance to each campus — even if one part of the system doesn’t agree.
It is important to remember that Dr. Chwalisz letter is written from the perspective of an SIU Carbondale campus member. What her argument fails to consider, despite the fact that she acknowledges the importance of the SIU System, is that if you claim to be part of that System, you have to have respect for all parts of it. While she and others would have preferred for me to take an SIUC-centric view of this situation, it would have been irresponsible for me to ignore the tremendous pressure that has been building — for years — on the SIUE campus and in the Metro East for a greater share of state dollars for that campus. The fact that for Fall 2018 SIUE is estimated to become the larger campus with more students (and potentially up to one thousand more new students) and the legacy of Carbondale’s need for a $35 million loan from Edwardsville only increased the public pressure to have this discussion. We needed to address it to show a good faith effort — for the very first time — that a Board Chair and President were willing to start the funding reallocation discussion.
Randy Dunn is the Southern Illinois University system president.