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.
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.