University positions remain vacant, not permanently filled

While the University lacks permanent replacements at the top administrative level, other positions on campus either remain vacant or are filled by people holding an interim title as well.

Positions that are vacant at the University include the director of the Institute of Aviation and the director of Minority Student Affairs, according the University Web site. Spots held by interims include the dean for the College of ACES, dean for the College of Media, vice chancellor of Public Engagement, vice chancellor of Research and director of the Beckman Institute.

Searches for higher administrative positions like the vice chancellors are directly affected by the lack of a permanent University president, said Robin Kaler, University spokeswoman.

“It’s kind of hard to take those positions on campus when you don’t know who your boss is,” she said.

Vice Chancellor for Public Engagement Steve Sonka said his position was vacant for about a year when he became interim in June of 2007. He said he thought if the position was still vacant, it would remain that way until the searches for a president and chancellor concluded.

The searches are also affected because the University is reviewing units and departments in lieu of financial constraints.

Kaler said that several units, including the Institute of Aviation and vice chancellor for Public Engagement, are participating in project reviews as part of “Stewarding Excellence at Illinois.” This effort involves evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of particular units or departments and determining if the University’s resources are being used adequately in the current financial climate. It is headed by Interim Chancellor and Provost Robert Easter and Interim Chancellor and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Richard Wheeler.

The Institute of Aviation and the Office of Vice Chancellor for Public Engagement are two of the first four projects that the Steering Committee – which is part of “Stewarding Excellence” – initiated.

“The campus overall has put everything on the table and is looking at everything for cost savings and possible consolidations, reductions, et cetera,” said Tom W. Emanuel, director of academic affairs at the Institute of Aviation. “And while our unit is under that review process, it wouldn’t seem appropriate to me to start a search for a permanent director in that sort of a situation.”

Even without permanent administrators in place, units and departments continue to function with either vacancies or interims.

Emanuel said that even before the review was taking place, there was no “pressing need” to find a replacement, which is part of the reason why there has been no permanent director of aviation for three years.

“We’ve been conducting business as usual ever since it started,” he said. “The only effect one would have is it’s a little more difficult to make long-range plans for a unit when you’re not quite sure who will be at the helm X years or X months down the road.”

There is no tentative date for when these searches will be completed, Sonka and Emanuel said.