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U of I trustees in the news again

Wednesday, Apr 25, 2007

This article is really two articles. First, the excerpts from the Senate action…

The Illinois Senate approved new six-year terms for three University of Illinois Board of Trustees members Tuesday despite complaints that senators were denied a chance to quiz them about the controversial retirement of Chief Illiniwek. […]

Many Republicans said they voted “no” to protest Sen. Rickey Hendon’s decision to prevent the trustees from testifying before a Senate committee hearing on Friday.

The four GOP members of the Senate Executive Appointments committee requested that Eppley, Montgomery and Vickrey appear at Friday’s hearing. But Hendon, a Chicago Democrat who chairs the committee, said he rejected the request because the senators wanted only to grill the trustees about the Chief.

Senate President Emil Jones is quoted in the story calling the Republican complaints and “No” votes on the trustees “silly political games.” He apparently said that without any irony.

And here’s the other story, from the House…

Also Tuesday, the House voted almost unanimously to have U of I board members elected publicly, rather than appointed by the governor. […]

Seven members would be elected from the state’s four judicial districts; the other three would be student trustees elected by students from the U of I’s three campuses in Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The three student trustees would have one binding vote between them.

You already know how I feel about the now-defunct makeup-wearing dancing white guy, but I don’t think I have a solid opinion about electing the trustees again. I’m curious if you do.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - anon - Wednesday, Apr 25, 07 @ 9:49 am:

    I never had a clue who I was voting for when we use to elect them. It is usually so far down the totem pole that nobody pays attention to who is running. Especially to the non-alumni or those who have children that go elsewhere. That brings up the question of why we have different boards running each university and not just one that covers them all.

  2. - the Other Anonymous - Wednesday, Apr 25, 07 @ 9:57 am:

    I’m not a big fan of reforming government by electing even more officials. In Cook County, how many voters elect judges simply by their last names with no knowledge of their qualifications? How about Metropolitan Water Reclamation Commissioners?

    If the purpose is to create more accountability — as opposed to, say, scoring political points about the retirement of the Chief — this is not the optimal solution. When trustees were elected, no one knew who they were; there’s no reason to believe that would change under this new law.

    I’m also not certain it’s in the best interest of the universities to subject their governing bodies to the type of issues that may arise in a general election. Elections can easily degenerate into single issues — the Chief most obviously, but also (let’s say) providing contraceptives on campus. These issues are not the most important ones to run a first-class university.

  3. - Crimefighter - Wednesday, Apr 25, 07 @ 10:12 am:

    They should be elected, so when the members engage in BS political games they can be voted out and not be kept in there by a corrupt government.

  4. - Jeff Trigg - Wednesday, Apr 25, 07 @ 10:26 am:

    Bonus question. What happened in 1994 that motivated Gov. Edgar to switch them to being appointed in the first place? The politically correct answer isn’t right either.

  5. - PalosParkBob - Wednesday, Apr 25, 07 @ 12:10 pm:

    As a UIUC grad and a close personal aquaintance of someone appointed to that Board, I can tell you that it’s all about the bucks.

    UI is one of the most patronage driven University systems in the country. The Guv and legislature appropriate ridiculously high capital funds for the campuses, and there’s a “patronage army” hired in virtually every department.

    Duplication of responsiblities and waste are rampant, and certain vendors and contractors “mysteriously” seem to get projects when they want them.

    Administrators are generally hired for their political positions, rather than ability to efficiently and effectively manage programs and operations.

    The operation at UIUC has the other public Big Ten Universities shaking their heads and asking , “How do they get away with that?”

    This is a non-partisan problem, in that the abuses occur under both parties.

    The relationship is simple; Guv appoints Trustees, Trustees give contracts and jobs to whoever the Guv wants, Trustees get political “perks” and get “taken care of” when they leave as part of the “machine rewards system”.

    It doesn’t make a difference if the position is elected or appointed, except that if it becomes an elected position the “Friends of Rod” will have to ante up for additional campaign contributions.

  6. - Reddbyrd - Wednesday, Apr 25, 07 @ 12:24 pm:

    This will unravel one of Blinky Jim Edgar’s greatest scams. the change in 1994 gave BJ total control of the patronage in three parts of state. We know the media spends zero time covering this part of the higher ed scene.
    And of course the Blinkster got a sweet perch in Chambana.
    Best bill of the year.

  7. - PalosParkBob - Wednesday, Apr 25, 07 @ 4:20 pm:

    I’d forgotten about the sweetheart “Visiting Professor” deal Edgar got after leaving his Guv job.

    I wonder. Does the guy actually teach classes, or does he just stand up at the podium and give old political speeches?

    Maybe he does a seminar, “Destroying the GOP from Inside, or How to Feather Your Nest Giving Patronage to Opponents”

    I’d sign up for that one!

  8. - Skirmisher - Wednesday, Apr 25, 07 @ 4:21 pm:

    To add my comments to Reddbyrd’s, in my state government career I worked for 6 governors. I thought that the most corrupt of the lot in terms of shameless abuse of patronage was “Squeaky Clean” Edgar. The man was a phony in my opinion, perhaps even more than the current Guv.

  9. - Keyser Soze - Wednesday, Apr 25, 07 @ 5:36 pm:

    I agree with the others that voting for trustees is less than ideal. However, in this instance I would have relished the opportunity to vote out “Benedict” Eppley for what I believe to be a cynical and disgraceful handling of the Chief issue. I suspect that a majority of my fellow alums share that sentiment and are more than a little put out over the quid pro quo with the Leader.

  10. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Apr 25, 07 @ 5:42 pm:

    It was so well known that people who had no idea who they were voting for in these races when it was elected that people putting together re-districting always used the UofI vote as a proxy for party affiliation. If you wanted a district to be 55% Dem, for example, you drew it to include precincts totalling 55% Dem votes in the UofI race. As for being a patronage cesspool, that existed before the change. It’s just that the patronage was available to EVERYONE - the Speaker, the Senate President and the Governor.

  11. - Team Sleep - Wednesday, Apr 25, 07 @ 8:54 pm:

    They lay down too much for the governor. This will not change when Blago leaves, either. They are supposed to stand up for securing more money for the school while also taking a valid interest in the students at UIUC, yet I don’t see the current crop doing that. It’s interesting that they have a board when President White pretty much makes all the major decisions and does almost all of the lobbying. President Stukel once told me at a gathering at UIS that Blago and the board were terrible for the school. He was honestly afraid that raising tuition to sky-high rates was the only way to keep UIUC as a world class learning institution. That is a sad state of affairs. Remember: higher education is just as important as preschool and K-4.

  12. - Country lawyer - Wednesday, Apr 25, 07 @ 9:31 pm:

    I saw Rep. Rose on the news a couple night ago discussing this legislation. He stated something along the lines of being tired of the trustees playing politics (undoubtedly to do away with the chief). Isn’t his statement a tad bit hypocritical? After all, isn’t his desire to basically get the elected trustees to vote to reinstate the chief. Isn’t this politcal, Rep. Rose?

  13. - chad - Thursday, Apr 26, 07 @ 6:21 am:

    Before the higher education reorganization bill passed (which merged Sangamon into U of I and gave all state universities their own appointed boards), Edgar demanded that the U of I board become appointed as well. This was a result of many Edgar friends having given him advice through the years that appointment would somehow remove the “politics” from the board. People like Sam Gove and Jane Hayes Rayder. I’m sure Edgar relished the ability to pass around all those appointments as well. Well, Edgar has admitted openly that he made a mistake, and that the appointments by Ryan and Blago have been disasterous for the University. If the trustees are elected, they at least have some degree of independance from the Governor. Anything is better than the current circimstance — another gift from Edgar that keeps on giving!

  14. - Bill - Thursday, Apr 26, 07 @ 7:32 am:

    Higher education in this state is more than just the UofI. U of I sucks up much of the ever dwindling higher ed budget while all of the other institutions of higher learning in Illinois bear the brunt and must raise tuition just to survive. There is no institutional accountability tied to their funding. They have the worst 5 year graduation rate in the state despite rejection of much more than half of the Illinois students who apply.
    There are quite a few institutions in the state who are much better at educating undergraduates than UofI which excells in mostly in making multi-millionaires of athletic directors,coaches ,chancellors, presidents, etc.,while most of their undergraduate students are taught by grossly underpaid graduate students and part-timers.
    How the Trustees are selected is irrevalent since they themselves are irrevalent. Rose should be a little less concerned about the Chief and a little more concerned about providing the revenue streams necessary to adequatly fund higher ed in the rest of the state.

  15. - Dooley Dudright - Thursday, Apr 26, 07 @ 8:01 am:

    Under present election law, a “new party” becomes established if it can garner 5%.

    U of I trustee would, of course, be a statewide office.

    So say I start the “Let’s Have A” Party.

    And say I run for U of I trustee.

    And say I get 5%.

    Then yippie!, my new party becomes established. STATEWIDE. Imagine that!

    Dems and Repubs don’t want to imagine that, much less deal with it.

    Which is why I, for one, think the U of I trustees became appointed.

    Excuse my cynicism: the bigs didn’t want to deal with the risk of new parties “sneaking” onto the ballot statewide through a ho-hum way-down-the-ballot race.

    Ooops. Outta here. I’m late. Time to party!

  16. - Anon - Thursday, Apr 26, 07 @ 9:46 am:

    Is it constitutional to require UI Trustees to be elected but to still allow SIU Trustees to be appointed? It seems like UI would have a case against this bill, just like Ameren has a case against the rollback bill if ComEd isn’t on it.

    Of course, I’m not an attorney, so I’m looking for insight here.

  17. - anon - Thursday, Apr 26, 07 @ 12:09 pm:

    The new proposal would elect Board of Trustee’s in each of the Supreme Court Districts not state wide.

  18. - Dooley Dudright - Thursday, Apr 26, 07 @ 2:11 pm:

    Anon 12:09 –

    You’re quite right. My bad. It USED to be statewide election.

    But having districts (as proposed) actually plays to my cynicism.

    We wouldn’t DARE go back to having statewide elections for U of I trustees, now, would we?, for the very reason that the Libertarians or Socialists or Constitutionalists might somehow “sneak in” with 5%+ and become established all over Illinois.

  19. - Illini Bob - Thursday, May 3, 07 @ 4:36 pm:

    PalosParkBob called Edgar a visiting professor. Not true. Edgar has a permanent slot as a “distinguished fellow” at the UI Institute of Government. A permanent job. He draws a big, permanent state salary in addition to his pension. No teaching at all. No nothing at all, really. He does volunteer, for one week a year, to come and spend an hour in some classes faculty teach. (We get this email announcing his generosity once a year.)

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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