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SIU Board of Trustees approves Montemagno as Carbondale chancellor, OKs financial sustainability plan

Carbondale Southern Illinoisan

Friday, July 14, 2017  |  Article  |  K. Janis Esch

Education--Higher (37)

SPRINGFIELD — At its regularly scheduled meeting Thursday, the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees approved the appointment of Carlo Montemagno as the next chancellor of SIU Carbondale and signed off on a financial sustainability plan for the campus.

The new financial strategy calls for a total of $26 million in cuts, with permanent budget reductions totaling $19 million and about $7 million in one-time reductions intended to pay back funds borrowed during the state budget crisis.

The remainder of the payback will take place over the next seven years. The university intends to accrue savings from the permanent reductions and from reducing programs and reorganizing units.

The plan recommends the closure of the following seven programs “based on a significant history of low enrollment and substantially weaker comparative performance on other metrics":

  • BS, Mining Engineering
  • MS, Mining Engineering
  • BA, Business Economics
  • BS, Physical Education Teacher Education
  • BA, Africana Studies
  • MA, Political Science
  • Ph.D., Historical Studies

System President Randy Dunn said those programs have been red-flagged but that no final decisions have been made yet.

“There’s great consternation, I sense, around the identified programs where, by virtue of just enrollment and degree production numbers, it appears there’s a real question of viability. … That doesn’t mean there won’t be a continued discussion on campus about what ultimately happens with them,” Dunn said during a news conference after the meeting.

Units in the colleges of Mass Communication and Media Arts, Liberal Arts, and Applied Sciences and Arts could be reshuffled into a newly formed College of Media, Design and Fine and Performing Arts.

The plan also recommends reducing the number of academic colleges by one. The College of Science could be rolled in to the College of Liberal Arts, or units in the College of Science could be transferred to the colleges of Agricultural Sciences and Engineering.

But the reduction is still up for discussion, Dunn said.

“By this time next year there will be one fewer college,” he said.

All the changes recommended in the plan must be implemented by July 1, 2018.

SIU Carbondale will receive a total of $91.4 million in state appropriations for fiscal year 2018 — 10 percent below the $101.6 million received in FY15, the last normal year before the state budget crisis.

“No one cheers a 10 percent cut, but … we know where we are. It unfreezes things. It’s something we can work with. It’s sustainable. It’s predictable. We can do planning and implementation from that, and we’re appreciative of having it,” Dunn said.

The trustees also approved the appointment of SIUC’s first permanent chancellor in three years.

Carlo Montemagno is a professor of engineering at University of Alberta's Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering and is the founder of the Ingenuity Lab for the Province of Alberta. He will begin as chancellor Aug. 15.

“He is going to be a very strong champion for SIU Carbondale. Obviously, given his background, he wants to strengthen the roots of the university as a national research institution and is already talking about ways to do that, including bringing his own lab to the campus, or as much as we can,” Dunn said.

The board also approved the appointment of former Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell as vice president for academic affairs for the SIU system. His appointment will be effective Monday.

Although the numbers for SIUC’s fall enrollment have not yet been released, Dunn said it would be fair to speculate that the decline will be consistent with last fall’s.

“So we might be looking at a 5 or 6 percent drop overall. But I can tell you the real focus right now is trying to build those first-time freshmen and get them in,” Dunn said.

He added that he anticipates one more year of suppressed numbers stemming from the state budget crisis before enrollment starts to bounce back.

The next regular board of trustees meeting will be Sept. 14 at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Dental Medicine in Alton.