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February 14, 2005

University of Illinois
Urbana-Champaign Senate

HE.05.07 Report on the IBHE Faculty Advisory Council Meeting, January 21, 2005.

The FAC met at Governors State University.  The meeting began with presentations by President Stuart Fagan and a welcome to the campus by Provost Paul Keys.  The President called for the Board of Higher Education (BHE), the Council of University Presidents and the FAC and faculty to speak with a common voice in the upcoming budget battle with the Governor and the Legislature.  He sees the call for increased productivity as a code word for cutting faculty.  We need to get across to the legislature that cuts will result in a brain drain as the best and brightest students go out of state for their education and do not return.  Higher education is not a priority of the Governor or the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and may become a target for cuts.  Must work to make it clear that education is a whole system, not just K through 12.  We need to support and strengthen the entire system.

Higher education has remained accessible and affordable and worked hard to retain quality.  He thanked faculty for making that possible.  He is concerned that we have not been able to convince the legislature of the relation of quality to the students we graduate.  The legislature needs to understand the real impact of the cuts.  It takes a long time to educate legislators and the top leaders exert such great control in the legislature.  We have not been successful in building relationships with Governor.  There is no way out of the state’s financial problems without a tax increase, but the Governor opposes a tax increase.

Provost Keys reinforced the need for statewide coalition and cooperation to identify a specific, clear message so that all of higher education speaks with one voice.  If competing messages are heard, legislators use that as an excuse to take no action.   He particularly stressed the need to organize students, our most effective advocates, and utilize the press via letters to the editor.

The BHE will adopt its higher education budget on February 1. The Governor’s budget is expected on February 18.  In a discussion, Don Sevener, BHE Director of External Relations and Ed Duffy, BHE Legislative Consultant, said that together with Interim BHE Director Tom Lamont they are working on strategy for the legislative session. A meeting will be held with the legislative liaisons of the universities to develop the strongest messages possible and a unified approach. Similar meetings will be held with student leaders to enable them to become more effective advocates.  Since legislators listen more attentively to students than to administrative presentations extensive student involvement in the legislative effort is essential.

Themes to be stressed include the role of higher education in economic development, a quality educational system - kindergarten through graduate school - as essential for the state’s future welfare, and higher education’s role in workforce development. Duffy said we have an enormously difficult task ahead: we don’t have people lining up to support higher ed the way they do for elementary and secondary education.  He also stressed the importance of speaking with a single voice in understandable, simple themes.  The greater the complexity of the presentation, the less it is heard. While the legislature must identify new sources of revenue this session, where will they get it and how will it be used?  Higher education could become a target. Cuts in higher ed do not produce an immediate impact: the impact takes at least 3 to 5 years to show.  Urgent that we explain the work of the faculty.  We are being beat up for teaching only 12 or 15 hours a week and for raising tuition.

We have not done well in educating legislators, according to Duffy.  Legislators should be contacted in their individual districts, far more effective than lobbying in Springfield.  Since reelection is the number one priority of legislators; the closer to home you reach them the better.  Past underfunding of pensions and Medicare is the major factor driving the budget.  Of estimated $450M new money, those two alone take 150% of that.  We need local people, alumni, employers, and major corporations pushing for support of higher education. Higher education has always been defensive; we need to go on the offense in a multiyear effort.  We need to develop a vision of where Illinois higher education should be in 2010.

District 30 Representative William Davis, a member of the House Higher Education Appropriations Committee, met with the FAC after lunch. The committee chair has not been named; the former chair was defeated in the last election. The major concern he hears from his constituents is affordability.  He lauded the Joyce bill on the 4-year tuition guarantees. He reinforced the view that students (and their parents) are our most effective advocates.  He supports HB750 to be reintroduced this session and believes that a further amendment should be added to mandate money to go to higher education, not just K-12. Since the Governor pledges not to raise taxes, a veto-proof majority would be needed to pass the bill. He supports using the three themes of economic development, quality education and workforce development.

During the discussion Davis defended the Governor in that the problems with pensions and Medicare were not something he created, but inherited. The Governor does not see a public demanding support for higher education as they do for K-12.  Davis said he did not detect a great deal of concern about faculty workload on his committee.

The remainder of the session was spent in planning a response to the forthcoming budget recommendations, discussion of means to achieve greater press coverage of higher education needs, committee meetings, hearing reports and dispatching routine business items.  A resolution of appreciation to Associate BHE Director Dan Layzell, who is leaving the BHE, was adopted.

Ken Andersen
UIUC Senate FAC Representative