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March 28, 2005

University of Illinois
Urbana-Champaign Senate

HE.05.09 Report on the IBHE Faculty Advisory Council Meeting, February 25, 2005.

The FAC met at Western Illinois University.  President Al Goldfarb welcomed the Council to the campus, noting his concern about potential alterations to the pension system as having a negative impact on recruiting new faculty and staff and the great urgency of having a capital budget.  Enrollment is up with some new programs.  A new freshman year program will start next fall giving each person one small class section (22 students) of regularly scheduled courses.  Courses will still have other sections with larger class sizes.

State Senator John Sullivan, Democrat, 47th District, met with the Council for 110 minutes. First elected in 2002, he represents the largest geographical district in the state, chairs the agriculture committee and is vice-chair of the newly created Senate Higher Education Committee, meeting the first time the week of March 7. He devoted much of time to pension issues. He sees the governor as backing off on changes for current employees but anticipates some changes for new hires. He acknowledged that the legislature had failed to fund pensions properly. He said the state is running out of one-time fixes on the budget and the deficit remains.  He opposes a cigarette tax increase to provide for the capital budget.  Many in his district already travel to Iowa and Missouri to buy cheaper cigarettes and gas and fears that will intensify hurting local businesses.  One possibility is increasing gambling revenues with three new Chicago casinos being discussed to yield a one-time infusion of $1B+ from sales of licensees and $700M+ annual revenues. 

He sees the chances of HB/SB750 becoming law are slim due to the governor’s opposition and Speaker Madigan’s favorable reaction to the budget message.  He is interested in Rick Winkel’s possible adjustments to HB/SB750 to add funds for higher education but needs more information.  The bills fail to address the urgent need for school consolidations in areas such as in his district.  Giving more money will enable schools to remain open that should be consolidated to provide a quality education. The Council stressed the impact of previous cuts on higher education.  He concluded by saying he learned a good deal from the discussion about specific issues in pensions including the existence of self-managed plans.  People lobbying the legislature are essential as he must deal with so many issues and needs the information and background brought to him by those lobbying.

FAC Chair Karnes noted the BHE met with public university legislative representatives to discuss strategy.  Agreements included supporting the BHE budget while capital issues will be supported in terms of individual projects by institutions.  Efforts will be made to unite with labor and students to push in a unified manner for the budget.

Textbook pricing issues were discussed because the BHE asked the FAC to report on the issue.  While most public universities do not have a formal policy on textbook selection, leaving that to the professor, they do have a conflict of interest policy relative to professors using textbooks they author.  While course packets costs came in for particular criticism at the last BHE meeting from one BHE member, the Council believes that such packets typically provide greater flexibility, rapid updating, and cost savings for students.

The Council received reports from its various committees.  The Quality Committee focused on the report of Subcommittee B of Priorities, Productive and Accountability.  The report was largely endorsed in recognizing the need for legislation to effect several reporting changes and requirements that are burdensome and needless.  The group applauded the suggestion to remove the Capital Development Board from the supervision of building projects as saving money. It questioned the desirability of eliminating the post graduation surveys.  It urged faculty be involved in planning the BHE’s projected fall conference on the “general topic of public expectations and goals for Illinois’ system of higher education and setting and action agenda” in terms of The Illinois Commitment. A letter will be forwarded to BHE Interim Director Lamont setting forth these concerns.

The Committee on public outreach is planning a half-day conference in Peoria on May 9, involving up to 60 students, faculty, administrators, legislators, and representatives of the public to secure ideas about improving the quality of higher education.  It was agreed background materials should be shared in advance of the Conference including the one-page summary of The Illinois Commitment and a brief history of recent legislative appropriations.

The budget committee is developing a letter to legislators on the budget proposals and arrangements are being made to arrange for testimony for the legislative budget hearings.  An effort will be made to develop specific statements from individual faculty and students to give to legislators.

(Copies of the remarks made by Professor Belden Fields at the February 14 UIUC Senate meeting were distributed to Council members during this session.)

Ken Andersen
UIUC Senate FAC Representative