University hopes to secure state funding

By Megan Jones , Staff Writer

As UI President Timothy Killeen prepares to roll out a resolution he hopes will commit the state to funding the University, members of the Senate Executive Committee posed many questions about what the legislation would entail.

The bill, Investment Performance and Accountability Commitment, would exchange funding for reaching certain metrics in order to ensure stable funding from the state. The bill will be rolled out at Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting and trustees will vote on a resolution in support of the bill. The bill is expected to be filled on Nov. 10.

Metrics have been discussed across all three campuses, and will use basic metrics such as enrollment, accessibility, graduation rates and more, said University Chancellor Robert Jones.

“It will give us a five year period that will give us predictability about our revenue streams, predictability about tuition and hold us accountable,” he said. “Personally, I think it’s the right thing to do.”

Funding halts for teaching awards with recurring funds

Interim Provost Ed Feser informed Senate Executive Committee members Monday that teaching awards will not receive any recurring monetary awards this year. Faculty who receive the awards will still maintain cash awards, but not any recurring salary increments or recurring funding.

“We will try to bring them back and we will try to keep the cash awards for that program and then we will revisit all of these to try and make it more consistent,” he said. “This is a budgetary action and we’ve suspended lots of programs, particularly when they involve recurring spending so we are preserving as much recurring dollars as we have.”

He said with retention dollars the University is trying to retain faculty as best as they can and it is part of the reason why other programs are being suspended to try to keep those funds.

Kim Graber, vice-chair of the Senate Executive Committee, said she is really concerned about the backlash that might come from this because she believes there is already a perception on campus that there is not a lot of money put into teaching.

“I’m not sure that the benefit to saving some recurring dollars is worth the cost we might occur in terms of morale and keeping people,” she said.

Feser said while he appreciates that, there isn’t a program on campus that isn’t being strained.

Ongoing healthcare concerns

With concerns about University faculty health care continuing, some members of the Senate Executive Committee met with University administration to learn more. Since February 2015, there have been threats of Illinois increasing state employees’ health care costs or not providing as much medical coverage. And since the budget impasse, the state has not reimbursed health care providers.

The University’s administration is not at the bargaining table. Instead, the state’s largest government-worker union negotiates health insurance plans for all state employees. It represents 38,000 state employees including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 union, which has been in negotiations with Rauner’s administration since February 2015.

Miller said stalled payments started back in the 2000s and a draft report on the topic is being compiled by Walter Knorr, UI vice president and chief financial officer.

But, Miller said they do not believe an open forum would be helpful at this time. Instead, they are considering using a website to use for advocacy purposes where people can ask questions and write concerns or their own personal experiences.

“University administration knows the concerns faculty and staff have because they are personally facing the same circumstances,” she said. “They are aware that the circumstances and the unknowns about the situation can be unsettling, challenging and demoralizing.”

Jones meets with business leaders

Last week, Jones met with around 140 business leaders from Champaign-Urbana at the iHotel. Jones said it was a great opportunity to interact with them and provide perspective about who he is and to share observations from the last six weeks as chancellor.

“There was great interest in bringing further clarity on how this University and Robert Jones as a chancellor needs to work more to form deeper reciprocal relationships with our business community,” he said.

He said each community has similar objectives and could help each other, such as having business leaders serve as advocates with the state legislators.

Within the next few months, he will be meeting with local businesses to think of the best structure to form a coalition to benefit from their knowledge and help each other.

“We also need these folks to step up and advocate for our community as well because many have important connections,” he said.

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