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SIU Carbondale expected to have chancellor by April; nursing program applications sky high

Carbondale Southern Illinoisan

Friday, February 14, 2020  |  Article  |  By GABRIEL NEELY-STREIT The Southern

Education--Higher (37)

CARBONDALE — The Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees hope to hire a new permanent chancellor for the Carbondale campus at its April meeting, said Board Chair Phil Gilbert.

A 23-member search advisory committee including SIU Carbondale students, faculty, alumni and staff have selected semifinalists from the list of applicants, who will be interviewed in the next few weeks, Gilbert said.

After another round of culling, the finalists will be invited to visit the Carbondale campus in late March or early April, Gilbert said.

Incoming SIU President Dan Mahony will take office March 1, in time to weigh in on the process and help make the final selection, Gilbert indicated.

The chosen candidate will replace Interim Chancellor John Dunn, who took over in December 2018, after the untimely death of Chancellor Carlo Montemagno.

Meanwhile, SIUC’s new nursing program is among the top beneficiaries of a major bump in applications at the Carbondale campus, Dunn announced at Thursday’s board of trustees meeting in Edwardsville.

Recruiting for its inaugural freshman cohort, the program has received more than 500 applications for just 50 spaces, Dunn said.

“That’s both good news and also news of concern,” Dunn said. “It may lead to a little bit of distortion in our application numbers overall.”

As of December, the university had received 27.3% more freshman applications than at the same point the year prior, with admissions up 21.3%.

While only 50 applicants will gain admission to nursing at SIUC, the university hopes to route other qualified applicants into pre-nursing courses or other “critically needed health-related fields,” Dunn said, from audiology to speech and language pathology to social work.

Eventually, Dunn added, the program’s cohort sizes will increase.

“But our goal is to be high quality and to get it right out of the chute," he said, "and we’re doing that."

The SIUC academic reorganization has made significant progress since Jan. 1, administrators told the board Thursday.

About two-thirds of all SIUC students are now housed under an academic “school”: a consolidated unit that replaces traditional academic departments. Course offerings remain the same, and no faculty will be laid off in the process, university leaders have said.

The 15 schools now approved on campus coexist with departments that have not yet been reorganized.

Dunn acknowledged that much of the toughest work, including negotiating with disciplines that oppose the changes, is yet to come.

He and Provost Meera Komarraju expressed confidence that more new schools will be formed this semester, but could not say when the process will be finished, nor how many schools will ultimately comprise the university.

“Last week alone we probably spent, in the evenings, about 10 hours over three nights meeting with groups to talk about [reorganizing their programs],” Dunn said. “We’re trying to ... listen to people, to work with them, to think in terms of new directions that maybe we didn’t think about right away and it’s been very good, very productive.”

In the face of criticism from speakers from the Edwardsville campus Thursday, university leaders (including the chancellors of both SIUC and SIUE) reaffirmed their approach to funding the two universities.

Since about 1975, state funds have been allotted on a roughly 64%-36% split between Carbondale and Edwardsville— about $91.4 million and $53.8 million respectively in Fiscal Year 2018.

But calls to invest a greater share in SIUE have intensified as the university equalled, then eclipsed SIUC in enrollment for the first time ever, over the last two school years.

In December, the board approved a statistical methodology to tally the universities’ relative costs, based on Illinois Board of Higher Education data.

That assessment will be reviewed by incoming President Mahony and refined under his guidance, Gilbert indicated.

Eventually, it will be used to recalculate a fair distribution of state money between SIUE and SIUC.

Asked on Thursday, university leaders could not say when the recalculation would occur.

“We want to get the president on board and give him the opportunity to take a look,” said Board Vice Chair Ed Hightower.

A 50-50 split between SIUC and SIUE of all new state funding, approved in the fall, will last three years, providing an initial increase to SIUE as the funding formula is finalized.

The slow action prompted one commenter, SIUE Professor and Faculty Association President Mark Poepsel, to accuse the board of stagnating SIUE’s growth by “subsidizing the status quo in Carbondale.”

However, the chancellors of both campuses and state lawmakers support the board’s slow and deliberate approach, trustees said.

“We’ve met with our legislators to ensure that they were supportive of where we were going, and they are supportive,” Hightower said. “The governor and his representatives are supportive of where we are. We are committed to a pathway of fairness for the system.”