Killeen: Lack of budget is causing reputational, operational damage to UI

By Samantha Joes Toal

The state budget impasse was President Timothy Killeen’s focus at his annual “special meeting” with the Senate Executive Committee on Monday.

“We still don’t have a budget, as you know, and we are well into the fiscal year,” Killeen said. “It is causing damage — both operational and reputational.”

While Killeen said parents, students and the community are “all singing from the the same song sheets to advocate for public education,” he also said the time table is not optimal for the University.

“We’re still waiting to hear the State of the State Address,” he said.

In light of the University’s current issues with the state, Killeen spoke of the University’s 2021 initiative, which outlines a new relationship with the state.

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As part of the initiative, the University will demonstrate what it offers the state, in terms of graduation rates, enrollment and performance.SO In return, for achievements in these fields, the University will be given a more predictable budgetary environment, Killeen said.

Gay Miller, Senate Executive Committee chair, questioned the proposed relationship between the University and the state, as well as how the factors the initiative would reward would be measured.

“In essence, we will be signing up for performance. It has to do with student graduation and educational products,” Killeen said. “These metrics and relationship with the state will have a very modern outlook — world-class, accessible, affordable.”

Killeen also mentioned the Feb. 5 meeting with the University of Illinois Caucus Bipartisan group, which will include conversations about the budget with members of the state legislature.SO

“We’re very hopeful that the impasse will be solved,” he said. “We want our world-class product to not just be great but also within the purchasing power of middle class families.”

Until then, Killeen said all the presidents of Illinois’ public universities have cosigned a series of letters to send to government officials.SO

“Now is the time to hold our heads up high and talk about the value of what we do, for the state and for the taxpayers,” he said.

Killeen said despite budgetary concerns, enrollment for the spring semester shows no decrease in the rate of applicants.SO

“We still have a product that is very much in demand,” he said.

However, Killeen said he’s worried about the recruitment and retention of “world-class” faculty.

Sam LeRoy, SEC undergraduate student representative questioned how the University would make administration more efficient while still obtaining top-tier faculty.

“We need top administrators who are appropriately compensated for work they do. And we can do all of that,” Killeen said. “There is no such thing as perfection in institutional bureaucracies.”

Anita Mixon, SEC graduate student representative, asked about the diversity coming from outside the state of Illinois.

In response, Killeen mentioned a possible tuition break for adjacent out-of-state students in the future.

“We need to serve people of Illinois, and in doing so, we can add lots of diversity of out-of-state students,” he said.

Killeen said the University strives to make everyone feel welcome on campus because everyone has something to offer the University.

“If you’re an out-of-state student, we love you to death,” he said. “Our students are our students.”

Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson mentioned a resolution that would require all students to take a U.S. Minority course, which was discussed at the Academic Senate Educational Policy committee’s meeting Monday.SO

“In terms of diversity, we’ve been doing a lot of meeting,” Wilson said. “I’ve met at least once a month with different groups of students.”

Wilson said the University is spending “a lot” on diversity on campus.

“We have to ask if we are getting an impact from all those dollars,” she said.

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