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U of I leadership joins supporters for lobby day
Kennedy says event underscores importance of issues facing legislature

May 14, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The University of Illinois Board of Trustees, President Robert Easter and other top administrators joined alumni and supporters at the state Capitol Wednesday to lobby on behalf of the University as the legislature weighs decisions that are critical to its future.

The sixth annual Day at the Capitol, sponsored by the U of I Alumni Association, marked the first time that trustees scheduled their regular board meeting to coincide with the effort to meet face-to-face with lawmakers and advocate for the University’s interests.

Chairman Christopher Kennedy said the presence of University leadership at this year’s lobby day underscores the importance of the issues facing the General Assembly during its spring session, including University funding.

“Legislators need to hear firsthand that the decisions they will make have serious, long-term implications on our ability to maintain our world-class excellence, and our capacity to produce the workforce and innovation that are crucial to the future of our state and nation,” he said.

The University’s lobbying efforts included a push to hold state funding equal to the current fiscal year, providing the dollars to maintain the academic quality that serves the needs of students and the state. This year, the three-campus U of I system has an annual operating budget of $5.6 billion, of which $663.5 million is provided by the state in general revenue funds.

In his fiscal 2015 budget blueprint, Gov. Pat Quinn recommended flat funding for the state’s public universities, based on his proposal to make permanent the temporary increase in the state’s income tax that is set to expire at the end of the year.

Without that revenue, Quinn says deep cuts in state spending would be required, including a 12.5 percent reduction for the University of Illinois. Officials say a reduction of that scale would slash funding by $82.7 million and would be felt in every phase of the University’s operation – student tuition, class sizes, the quality of academic and research programs, the size of its workforce and the ability to deliver the graduates and innovation that help drive progress and economic growth.

The University is also seeking relief from state procurement regulations that create delays and impose additional costs in purchasing goods and services, particularly involving research grants. Officials say reforms would improve efficiency while preserving ethics and fairness, and ensure that the University remains competitive for federal and private research grants that brought more than $1 billion into the state this year.

University supporters also lobbied for capital funding from the state to improve facilities and address a more than $1.6 billion backlog of deferred maintenance projects.

Trustees met in regular session Wednesday on the Springfield campus before joining the Day at the Capitol. The annual event is organized by the Alumni Association’s Illinois Connection, a grassroots network of nearly 13,000 alumni, faculty, staff, students and supporters who advocate on behalf of the University for state and federal support.

The following business was conducted during the regular meeting:

Presidential search

The board awarded a contract to Atlanta-based Parker Executive Search to assist with the search to replace Easter, who will retire when his term ends on June 30, 2015.

Parker, a global search firm that specializes in senior-level searches for higher education institutions, will assist a 19-member search committee appointed last month that includes representatives of all major stakeholders on the University’s three campuses – from students, faculty and staff to alumni and donors.

The search firm will assist with generating a pool of prospects, reviewing their background information and arranging interviews with candidates.

Parker has assisted in various University searches, including a search currently underway to replace UIC Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares when her term ends in January, and searches for a chancellor and provost on the Urbana campus.

The search committee will ultimately present a list of eight to 10 finalists to the board, which hopes to name a new president by January to allow a smooth transition before Easter leaves office.

Appointments

Alfred W. Tatum was appointed dean of the College of Education at UIC, effective May 15. He has served as interim dean since last August, when Victoria Chou retired after 16 years as dean.

Tatum, an expert on the literacy development of African-American boys, joined UIC in 2007 as a professor of curriculum and instruction and chaired the department in 2013. He also has served as a faculty member at Buffalo State College, the University of Maryland and Northern Illinois University, and was a senior research associate for the North Central Regional Education Lab.

He earned his doctorate and master of education degrees from UIC in reading, writing and literacy, and a bachelor’s in elementary education from Northern Illinois.

Trustees also appointed John D. Columbo as interim dean of the College of Law in Urbana, effective June 1. He replaces Bruce Smith, who recently announced he is returning to the law school faculty after five years as dean. A national search will be conducted for a permanent dean.

Columbo joined the law school faculty in 1988, and is an expert in tax law. He served as interim dean in 2002, as acting dean in 1998 and 2001, and as associate dean from 1995-98, 1999-2000, and 2010-12.

He received his bachelor’s a law degrees from the Urbana campus, and has been recognized as a College of Law Distinguished Graduate.

Construction projects

Trustees also approved budget increases for two major construction projects on the Chicago and Springfield campuses.

The board approved a $2.9 million budget increase for a 1,200-seat baseball stadium on the Chicago campus that opened in April and is named in honor of UIC alumnus and New York Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson, who provided funding for the new ballpark.

Costs for Curtis Granderson Stadium increased to $9.9 million to add an earthen berm and fencing around the outfield, along with upgrades to seating and the stadium’s entertainment suite, press box and concession area. The additional costs will be funded through gifts from Granderson and other donors.

The stadium is home to UIC Flames baseball, and also hosts youth league games through partnerships with Major League Baseball, Chicago Public Schools and other organizations that serve Chicago-area youth.

Trustees also approved a $1.5 million budget increase for a new public safety building on the Springfield campus that is scheduled to open in September 2015.

Project costs increased to $5.5 million to provide critical features such as a sally port for police vehicles, communications infrastructure, security cameras and recording equipment.

The state will provide $1.3 million toward the budget increase, on top of $4 million approved earlier for the project, and UIS will contribute the remaining $200,000.

Continuing budget resolution

The board also approved a resolution to keep the University operating legally after its current fiscal year ends June 30. The annual resolution is required to pay bills and maintain operations until the legislature finalizes a new state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The resolution authorizes expenditures based on fiscal 2014 funding levels until the state’s fiscal 2015 budget is signed into law. The University’s total operating budget for fiscal 2014 is $5.6 billion.

The board will consider the University’s operating budget for fiscal 2015 later this year.

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The University of Illinois is a world leader in research and discovery, the largest educational institution in the state with more than 78,000 students, more than 23,000 faculty and staff, and campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The U of I awards more than 20,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees annually.