New Illinois president takes office

By Courtney Klemm

B. Joseph White, the new University President, paused and looked down at Lauren Clayton, who was sitting on a couch at the Illini Union.

“How was your break?” he asked the freshman in LAS. “It was long, wasn’t it?”

White spent his first day as University president introducing himself to students and discussing the future of the school and the impact he hopes to have.

“During the first week, I want to set a tone of pride we all feel and instill confidence in the political leaders of the state, and the faculty, students, staff and alumni,” White said at a press conference Monday morning. “I have a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and pride for the University of Illinois.”

White said his biggest challenge is that he is “brand-new” to the position. He met with outgoing president James Stukel before his departure, who briefed him on different aspects of the University.

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    White also spoke about the Board of Trustees’ decision earlier this month to increase tuition.

    “I expect the University will support the Board’s increase,” he said. “We have the responsibility to maintain a great university. The leadership needs to make very tough decisions to allocate resources.”

    White said he had just started to meet with state political leaders, including Gov. Rod Blagojevich, but there had been no substantive discussions yet.

    One of the things White said he was anticipating was leading a guest lecture at all three of the University’s campuses. He said he plans to lecture in an area of leadership, organization or management. Last semester, White taught a business school course at the University of Michigan, where he served as interim president in 2002.

    When asked about his position on Chief Illiniwek, White said, “I (believe) that the Board of Trustees has a good active process from dealing with this.”

    White said he has an opinion about the Chief and that he will share his views on the controversy at a later time.

    White said he moved into the president’s house, 711 W. Florida Ave. in Urbana, 10 days ago with his wife, Mary, and their dog, Webster. He said his time on campus has been a pleasure so far.

    “On Saturday, I felt like we had a taste of opportunity, going to see the nation’s greatest basketball team and celebrating 100 years of Illini basketball,” he said. After the game, White said, he and his wife attended a recital by the Julliard String Quartet at the Krannert Center.

    After the press conference, White walked through the Illini Union, taking the chance to meet with different students and ask their opinions on University issues. White asked Chloe Caudillo, senior in LAS, what she would like to see improved on campus.

    “Probably more allocations to cultural houses. They’ve been neglected,” Caudillo said.

    White also spoke to Hassen Al-Shawaf, junior in business, about his concerns for the future.

    “I guess we need more money (from the state), but you already know that,” Al-Shawaf, a Student Senator, answered.

    White said he plans to interact with as many people as he can over the course of his time as president.

    “I intend to be engaged with the students. I make it a habit to meet regularly with student leaders,” he said. “I love the faculty and students. For me, that’s life-giving. It’s how I keep in touch with life at the University.”