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April 28, 2008

University of Illinois
Urbana-Champaign Senate

HE.08.11. Report on the Illinois Board of Higher Education Meeting, April 1, 2008.*

Items relative to UIUC:
Master of Science in Technology Management approved.
Vice President Meena Rao confirmed as member of the Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois (DFI) Board
$1.8M approved for playing field artificial turf

The BHE meeting at ISU opened with Chairwoman Hightman noting the loss of student lives at NIU. President Al Bowman of ISU welcomed the group.  He said ISU is on its way to becoming a highly selective public institution ivy school, now being ranked in the top 100 universities nationally and with the second highest graduation rate of Illinois public universities.

NIU President John Peters presented a heartfelt report on how NIU handled the tragic loss of 5 student lives and 18 seriously wounded students.  How do you pursue freedom of inquiry in such an atmosphere?  He stressed the need to tell parents about the security measures at an institution. NIU police are trained in life-saving procedures and he believes some lives were saved due to that training.  NIU is creating a review team including mental health professionals and hopes to identify best practices to advise others.  He stressed the urgent need for redundancy in communication systems both for response and alert purposes.

An extended presentation was made by a panel drawn from the Campus Security Task Force established after the Virginia Tech killings.  Their work involved three subcommittees on topics of response, mental health, and legal issues.  Their report will be made public in April.  Among other items it will stress the urgent necessity of redundancy in communication systems, note there are exceptions to the commonly understood views concerning the impact of the federal laws on privacy.  There has been a dramatic increase in of mental health problems appearing on campuses across the nation.  Students are at a time of life when mental problems are very likely to emerge.  (The University of Illinois was identified as having a good emergency plan.)

Director Erwin noted the governor has ordered all grant funds to be held so the Work Study Grants announcement was withdrawn.

Dennis Jones discussed “A Public Agenda for College and Career Success.”  He noted five areas of needs or concerns for Illinois:

  1. Reducing the disparity of whites and minorities in college attendance and graduation.
  2. Ensuring affordability and keeping more students attending instate colleges.
  3. Overcoming geographical disparities in college attendance.
  4. Overcoming the lag in production of bachelor’s degrees vs. other states.  (More than most states, Illinois depends on community colleges—must increase the flow of students to four-year colleges.
  5. Need to link needs of the state and higher education to respond to unmet needs. The state ranks high in research funding but this does not result in new jobs and businesses in the state.  We need partnerships—higher ed cannot do it by itself.

A report is expected at the August IBHE meeting.

The various advisory committees reported with several expressing appreciation for the apparent effort of the BHE to become more of an advocate for higher education given the new budget strategy.  Terry Bruce reporting for the community colleges demonstrated the shortfall in state funding that should be flowing to community colleges resulting in higher tuition.  He concluded, “The state is not fulfilling its duty.”

A major power-point presentation by the Faculty Advisory Committee stressed the impact of the rise in tuition due to the decline in state support.  It drew upon recent research including that of UIUC Emeritus Professor Walter McMahon to demonstrate that investment in higher education has a very high net return, particularly over the long term in many elements of life in addition to monetary return to the individual and the state and nation.

Ken Andersen
UIUC Senate FAC Representative