Statehouse passes legislation approving election of UI Board members

By Amanda Graf

Often the center of major decisions made on campus, the University Board of Trustees is now the focus of a decision being made by the state legislature.

In a 113-1 decision, the Illinois House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday that could affect the selection of Board of Trustee members for the University. The bill was filed with the House clerk on Feb. 26, ten days after the Board of Trustees announced the retirement of Chief Illiniwek.

Currently the Board, which “exercises final authority over the University,” consists of nine members who are appointed by the governor and then approved by the Senate. Under the new bill, the Board would consist of seven trustees elected by the residents of state judicial districts.

In addition to the nine appointed trustees the Board also includes the governor and three student trustees, one from each of the University’s three campuses. Currently only one of the student trustees has a legally binding vote – that student is selected by the governor. Under the new bill, the three student trustees would decide which of them has the power of a legally binding vote. If they fail to select a student trustee to possess the power to vote, none of the student trustees may possess a vote for the remainder of their term.

The passage of this bill through the House comes on the heels of controversy in the Senate last week over the Board of Trustees. Lawrence C. Eppley, Robert F. Vickrey and James D. Montgomery were approved by the Senate executive appointment committee on Friday and then the entire Senate on Tuesday.

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Before their appointment was confirmed, Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, requested the trustees be present at the committee’s session.

Traditionally, trustees do not attend the Senate committee hearing concerning their approval. Sen. Righter said he wanted an opportunity to question the trustees about a number of issues, but specifically about decisions made last February concerning the retirement of Chief Illiniwek.

Righter’s request was denied by committee chair Sen. Rickey Hendon, D-Chicago, and the trustees were confirmed.

“For 140 years the University has had trustees who were either elected or appointed by the governor as it is now,” said Tom Hardy, University spokesperson. “Whichever process is approved by the legislative body in Springfield is what we will work with.”

The bill is now being considered by the Rules Committee in the state Senate.