Trustees OK gender confirmation surgery coverage

Editor’s note: This page will be updated throughout the March 6 Board of Trustees meeting in Urbana.

(2:30 p.m.)- The University Board of Trustees approved a plan for the development of a search committee that will assist in selecting a new University president.

According to a press release, the committee will include 19 stakeholders from across all three University campuses. The committee will be in charge of defining job expectations for the next president, who would potentially replace University President Robert Easter when he retires on June 30, 2015. Committee members would also screen and select the potential candidates for the position.

“This is truly one of the world’s premier universities with a long history of excellence in education, research discovery and service to our state and nation,” said board chairman Christopher Kennedy in the press release. “Our next president will advance our rich legacy and our commitment to producing the 21st century workforce and innovation that are the keys to progress and economic growth.”

According to the press release, the committee will be made up of three trustees; eight faculty members from the University’s three campuses; a student from each campus; a representative from the University of Illinois Alumni Association; a representative from the University of Illinois Foundation; an administrative officer; an academic professional; and a civil service representative.

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    The Board of Trustees will decide on the next president by January 2015.

    Trustees will appoint members to the Search Committee to Assist in the selection of the President based on recommendations from faculty senate and student governments at each campus. These positions will be filled by May.

    Once appointed, committee members will work to develop an outline of challenges, expectations and qualifications for the next president, which in the past has included stipulations such as ability to manage a large academic institution, agreement with the mission of the University of Illinois and ability to adapt to evolving fiscal environments.

    ***

    (1:50 p.m.)- The Board of Trustees approved adding gender confirmation surgery to the new health insurance plan for students on the Urbana campus, though trustee Timothy Koritz and Urbana student trustee Mike Cunningham voted in opposition.

    “This is a massive step for the University, this is a huge victory for the trans* community, for the LGBTQ community at UIUC and hopefully for the system and the country as a whole,” said Stephanie Skora, trans* junior in LAS. “We had international attention on this University, and I’m really glad we didn’t let them down.”

    Trustee Patricia Holmes said this treatment is between the individual and his or her physician, and trustee Pam Strobel said she does not believe trustees should vote based on their own personal moral beliefs.

    Danielle Leibowitz, Chicago student trustee, said that even though there was little prior discussion, she still supports the addition.

    “We’re trying to balance our own personal points of view.. while also representing the taxpayers and the people of our state,” said board chairman Christopher Kennedy.

    Cunningham voiced concerns against the addition because he was only made aware of the proposal 17 days ago. He voted in opposition of adding the surgery; however, Kennedy said typically the student trustee vote represents the majority opinion of the three students, even though only one of them votes at each meeting.  

    “I don’t think that this is critical to this vote, but I think it is critical to our process of creating a collegial environment,” Kennedy said, adding that the trustees may revisit that issue at a later time.

    ***

    (12:30 p.m.)- University Comptroller Walter Knorr said there has been a roughly 15 percent increase in endowments this year, amounting to about $1.9 billion.

    In fiscal year 2014, the state appropriation totals $647 million, and the state currently owes the University $326 million, Knorr said. But he added that though the state still owes money, it has improved since fiscal year 2013.

    “We are fully billed for the year to the state,” Knorr said. “The good news is, we are not going to see last year’s record breaking $507 million receivable.”

    For fiscal year 2014, the University of Illinois received a credit rating of Aa3, four levels above the statewide credit rating. Knorr said some issues still need to be worked out with the state in order to secure a better credit rating.

    “The thing that basically also has to be brought out is basically we still have a number of things that we are working through with the state regarding supplemental pension appropriation,” Knorr said. “All those things, along with all the other things that are going on are some of the key challenges of grading universities.”

    ***

    (12:15 p.m.)- The trustees reviewed the Audit, Budget, Finance and Facilities meeting notes.

    Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Renee Romano briefed the board on how the insurance package was created.

    Five years ago, the University formed a student insurance committee after predicting health care costs would rise due to the Affordable Care Act.

    Romano said students on this committee began to question if the Urbana campus could add gender confirmation surgery to the healthcare plan after it was approved for the Chicago campus in May 2013.

    An annual town hall meeting was held last Wednesday, where no opposition was made towards the surgery, Romano said.

    She added that an online petition was created by student senator Justin Ostrowski, senior in LAS, and over 6,000 signatures were collected.

    ***

    The Board of Trustees will vote on the student health insurance rates for the Urbana, Chicago and Springfield campuses for the 2014-15 academic year at its meeting Thursday on the Urbana campus.

    If approved, the health insurance rates for students on the Urbana campus would increase 15 percent, a cost which includes the addition of gender confirmation surgery coverage. The proposed health insurance plan was passed on to the board by the Audit, Budget, Finance and Facilities Committee at its meeting on Feb. 24, but several committee members raised concerns and said they were sending it forward “with reservations.”

    Megan and MaryCate can be reached at [email protected].