SIUC chancellor responds to faculty vote on reorganization - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

SIUC chancellor responds to faculty vote on reorganization

SIUC Chancellor Carlo Montemagno responded to a recent faculty poll. (Source: KFVS) SIUC Chancellor Carlo Montemagno responded to a recent faculty poll. (Source: KFVS)
CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) -

A war of words over proposed changes at Southern Illinois University.The faculty union says a majority of faculty members do not support SIU's Chancellor Carlo Montemagno's restructuring plan, but the Chancellor says this is not true.

Union Higher Ed Director Bret Seferian says, "The real problem you see in this is that no matter how you try and spin it, it's clear a lot of faculty at the very least are not enthusiastic about this."

Seferian says his job is to protect the voices of the tenured track professors. "All we're doing is broadcasting votes the faculty has taken…we didn't organize those votes, we didn't tell people how to vote…we reported what the votes were," he says.

According to the Illinois Education Association-NEA, votes from faculty at SIUC showed that the majority of tenured and tenure-track faculty oppose Chancellor Carlo Montemagno's restructuring plan.

The Southern Illinois University Carbondale chancellor responded to a recent release about a faculty vote against reorganization.

The IEA-NEA went on to say as part of the contractual review process, faculty had the right to vote to speed up or slow down the process. According to the group, Chancellor Montemagno urged faculty to vote to speed up the process, but 75 percent of faculty have voted to extend the deadlines for reviewing the plan or to not advance it.

Additionally, the group said more departments have taken "straw polls" on the merits of the chancellor's plan and 79 percent of faculty voting were against the proposal in their area. This allegedly included "overwhelming margins of votes" cast in the proposed schools of Engineering, Physical Science and Humanities.

Chancellor Montemagno released a statement on Tuesday, March 27.

"The faculty association's continued efforts to mislead our community by misrepresenting information is a disservice to everyone who cares about the future of SIU," he said.

He then provided areas where he said the information provided by IEA-NEA was misrepresented.

"Faculty votes to extend the time for dialogue are just that – a vote to create time for more information and discussion as allowed in our collective bargaining agreement. These votes do not reflect either positive or negative perspectives.

"Straw polls are a normal part of the negotiation process among faculty to assess where they are starting from. They are not final votes, and many have been positive. In fact, the only final vote to date was unanimously in favor of creating a School of Computing.

"Based on the comments of a number of individuals, including faculty, it appears that the referenced survey by the Coordinating Committee for Change was distributed selectively; many have indicated that they were never aware of it.

"Averaging the enrollment of existing schools hides the fact that two schools in high demand fields – allied health and architecture – had more students in 2017 than in 2012 in spite of an overall campus enrollment decline. In both schools the most significant growth was in graduate enrollment. The total undergraduate and graduate enrollment increase from 2012 to 2017 for allied health was 11.6 percent, and the total for architecture was 20 percent. There are a number of factors that affect a school’s enrollment beyond the structure itself. It’s also important to know that the school structure, if implemented effectively, creates administrative efficiencies that can support the growth of programs within the school.

"While my goal was indeed to have a finalized plan to the Board of Trustees in April, it was always dependent upon the speed with which our faculty reviewed and responded to proposals. I fully support and respect that some faculty want to take the time for discussion allowed in the process. Meanwhile, I have updated our trustees on the plan and its status.

"It is highly inaccurate to state that there will be no major improvements until July 1, 2019. As I stated in a recent blog post, we will move forward as things are approved through the process."

The chancellor said his office continues to keep track of input reported in multiple ways, such as from meetings, in emails an in individual conversations.

"This feedback has led to more than 100 changes from the original proposals," Montemagno said. "Faculty are engaged in the process and influencing significant change.

He went on to say, "It is unfortunate that the union, rather than contributing to the discussion by forwarding constructive alternatives, chooses to misrepresent the process with misleading rhetoric. I support our collective bargaining agreement and continue to hope that we can move forward collaboratively rather than divisively."

However, Seferian says, "No matter what the evidence is…he constantly insist there is support…the message we are trying to get out is that there is not support."

Even on campus...Some students DON'T agree with the plan, like Jacqui Zeng,Creative Writing Grad Student. "The pieces of the restructing plan that I disagree with is the elimination of Africana studies and the elimination of some other humanities majors not to mention it's very difficult for university to function without departments," she says.

While some students like Anthony Barbato do agree with the changes, "We finally have the chancellor that's willing to take the initiative to make some changes at SIU, something that we have needed for a while…enrollment has been going down."

No matter what, students say they hope the administration come to a decision that works."Hope that SIU survives this...and continues to be a functioning university," Zeng concludes.

Another survey done by the Coordinating Committee for Change at SIU included responses from 246 faculty members, both non-tenure track and tenured/tenure track faculty, and showed that 39 percent supported the chancellor's plan.

In the fall of 2017, the chancellor announced his plan to present the Board of Trustees with a comprehensive proposal to reorganize the Carbondale campus for their approval at their meeting on April 12.

On February 9, the SIU Board of Trustees approved tuition hikes for the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses.

In March, SIUC announced it would consolidate housing on the west side of the campus to increase student engagement. At the time, Chancellor Montemagno said his goal was to continue to build a "tightly knit, engaged community."

On March 19, the chancellor gave a status report on his academic reorganization plan.

He said the process continues to move forward and they were finalizing and distributing program change plans that take into account feedback from stakeholders.

You can click here to read more from the status report.

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