Proposed online educational program faces opposition, concerns in University Senate

By Mike Kelly

The University Board of Trustees’ Global Campus Initiative, which has proposed an online educational program, is beginning to turn heads at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Senate.

The UCS met on Monday to discuss several items, including the Global Campus Initiative. The initiative proposes the establishment of a new part of the University, an online university, that would be organized as a for-profit limited liability corporation.

According to the University Global Campus Initiative Final Report, the goal of the initiative is to “provide greater access to higher education for nontraditional learners” and “generate new revenues for the benefit of University academic activities.”

The report is derived from recent strategic meetings that were initiated by President B. Joseph White. At this time, the Board of Trustees has not taken action on the proposal, but it may at its next meeting in November.

However, the proposal recently met opposition led by Terry Bodenhorn, associate professor and chair for the UCS. In a letter to President White and his special assistant, Chester Gardner, Bodenhorn articulated some of the UCS’s concerns about the Global Campus Initiative. Concerns include the lack of a solid academic plan, an absence of a real faculty and the possibility that the value of traditional University degrees may be diluted and diminished by the existence of the program.

According to Bodenhorn’s letter, “the UCS considers the implementation of the proposed ‘Global Campus Initiative’ to be appropriate, however, only to the extent that this can be done in a manner which guarantees long-term academic and educational quality, and with due regard from its impact on the character and quality of the rest of this institution.”

There are different opinions regarding the merit of this program between University students and administrators.

“[The Global Campus Inititiative] will make the education we have to offer, with the quality we have to offer, more accessible,” said Chancellor Richard Herman.

Ryan Ruzic, president of the Illinois Student Senate, warns that if successful, the initiative will devalue current students’ degrees; and if a failure, it will cost the University and, ultimately, the student body, money.

In light of sharply contrasting opinions on the matter, the initiative has been brought before the UCS as a topic of discussion. Herman invites all members of the University to “contribute in serious debate over defining the future of this university.”

Other important items discussed in the meeting were the plan to convert Orchard Downs into a retirement community.

Herman also voiced a goal to increase the percentage of students who come to the University from the top 10 percent of their class from its current 52 percent to 62 percent.