University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Senate

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November 5, 2007

University of Illinois
Urbana-Champaign Senate

HE.08.03 Report on the IBHE Faculty Advisory Council Meeting, October 19, 2007.

The FAC met here at the Beckman Institute. Ken Andersen welcomed the Council to the campus and introduced U of I’s Executive Director of Legislative Relations, Rick Schoell, to review the recent legislative session and future prospects.  He believes the legislature will be in Springfield next month to deal with the Chicago transit issues; i.e., the legislative session is not over.

Compared to previous years, higher education did fairly well with a modest increase in operating funds and full funding of the pension system thanks to a strong coalition with labor and extensive work to reach the legislature.  Revenue or the lack thereof is the big issue.  We are in the fifth year without a capital budget.  One is urgently needed to catch up on renovations, deferred maintenance and new facilities.  The problem is how to finance it and the leaders in Springfield are not in agreement.  The economic forecast for the state is less positive.

The major questions raised by legislators concern accountability, access, and affordability.  The move to a P-20 focus is important: we need to link to K-12 so they lobby for us. We need an integrated message and a united front on behalf of higher ed but this is hard to achieve as individual institutions argue for their individual needs.  We need corporate leaders and labor groups making the case for higher ed.  Governor is giving great emphasis to teacher preparation and health care so we need to be responsive in those areas.

Concerns:  higher ed is not held in the high esteem it once was.  As money got tight and there was a race to excellence, institutions began to chase dollars in ways that were not always helpful. The loan system scandals (not here) hurt.  Must be careful we do not lose our internal compass as to what we are

Questions ranged widely from prospects for the coming year—admittedly to be a tough one—to ways faculty and the FAC can be more helpful.   Schoell stressed the importance of continued contacts with legislators and the need to build a long-term relationship with them.

State Representative Naomi Jakobsson met with the group.  She stressed her commitment to education at all levels--pre-kindergarten thru graduate work. The legislature did accomplish some things such as fully funding the pension system and an increase in funds for higher ed.  She is very concerned that we get a capital budget given the campus and state-wide needs.  The new supercomputer coming to the University will require markedly increased power to operate it.  The state is expanding pre-kindergarten but needs facilities designed for that purpose.  She noted the value of adopting a legislator and spending a day in Springfield with that legislator and that legislator spending a day on campus.

The discussion ranged widely with some focus on concerns about the dysfunctional climate in Springfield and the inability to make much headway on many issues.  The need to view education K-20 as a linked system was stressed.  She noted that while the leaders appear to hold so much power, individual legislators and caucuses have a lot of input, particularly if they are insistent and persistent.  She repeatedly stressed the importance of being in contact with legislators.

Gary Alexander, IBHE liaison, noted that the Governor had not released the money for the Higher Education Master Planning project.  He hopes its members focus broadly on all of education including graduate education. All elements in the education system must cooperate to achieve common objectives.  The governor tends to play divide and conquer, playing one group or segment against another.   Education focuses upon long-term goals, politicians tend to have a short-term focus. He reiterated that the governor’s focus is on critical shortage areas of health care and teacher education.

The remainder of the meeting was spent discussing possible projects including preparation for a major presentation to the BHE. Efforts will be made to continue to highlight the papers presented last year since those issues remain important.  A paper will be developed for members of the FAC to use with their Senates and other groups as one part of the effort to assure adequate funding for higher ed in next year’s budget.  A possible approach is to stress the urgency of enhancing the intellectual infrastructure of the state since some companies leave Illinois because the needed workforce quality is not available.

Another idea was “a day without higher education” modeled on a day without art.  What would be the impact of a day of no public radio and TV, no cooperative education work, no lectures or classes, libraries not open, no programs at Krannert, etc.?  While it could not be totally implemented for practical reasons, it should have an impact.

The next meeting will be at Lakeland College on November 16.

Ken Andersen
UIUC Senate FAC Representative