Chancellor addresses campus issues in State of the University Address

By Sana Khadilkar, Staff Writer

Students, faculty and staff were invited to attend to hear Chancellor Robert Jones and Andreas Cangellaris, vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost, discuss administrative challenges and initiatives planned for this academic year.

“It’s an event that’s really important to the chancellor,” said Robin Kaler, associate chancellor for public affairs. “When he came here, he said he wanted to have two opportunities throughout the year to bring the entire campus community together to update people on what’s happening, answer questions they might have.”

The State of the University Address occurs in the fall and a similar event, called the Conversation with Senior Leaders, occurs in the spring of each year, Kaler said.

Jones addressed some of the challenges the University is facing, such as sexual misconduct on campus, during his speech.

“It is unacceptable and alarming to me that members of our community do not feel empowered to report such instances or they have reason to believe that their concerns of such a serious nature would not be addressed,” Jones said. “I’m sorry that individuals have had their lives disrupted. I am sorry and I am angry.”

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Jones said the University had a window of opportunity to write its own future last year and has gained momentum this year.

“Last year we saw the number of faculty choosing to take competitive offers and leave us drop significantly,” Jones said. “As did the overall number of retention cases sent to the provost’s office.”

The number of faculty members leaving the University for other career opportunities has decreased in the past year.

The University has added a $50 million hiring plan to bring in new faculty across all career levels to make the University a popular employer for the most talented professors, Jones said.

In order to make the University more accessible to students, applicants with families earning an annual income of $61,000 or less will be offered free tuition for four years. The University is also supporting the state’s new merit scholarship program, AIM HIGH, which will offer financial aid to students from families of incomes within six times the national poverty rate in an effort to attract in-state students, Jones said.

“What about the stories we keep reading about the state of Illinois losing too much talent to other states? The so-called brain drain. The brain drain is absolutely, I believe, the greatest long-term threat to our state,” Jones said.

Jones said the University has raised more than 60 percent of its goal of $2.25 billion and that the University is raising money at record levels.

“We raised more than $415 million last year, folks. This is the most successful year of fundraising in the history of this institution and I think that deserves a round of applause,” Jones said.

Other concerns include fostering a tolerant community, dealing with decreases in funding, and making sure the University prioritizes research investments as it brings in significant funding.

Jones said the problems the University faces cannot be solved with technology, as they are human-scale problems. He said we must creatively think of solutions to these problems, not use innovation to combat them.

As the chancellor brought the State of the University Address to a close, he spoke of how the University can be a positive place that can make a difference in the world, considering the University’s accomplishments of the last few months, Jones said.

He listed successes such as the fact that the University brings $9 million worth of impact to Illinois, the 50th anniversary of Project 500 and the launching “Coursera for Illinois,” which gives free access to online courses to students, faculty, and staff.

Kayla Santucci, junior in Business, attended the address and thought the chancellor’s presentation was positive and inspiring, underscoring his theme of momentum throughout.

“I chose U of I for a reason, and I’m a student who loves this school and to see an event centered around promoting the University that we love is an inspiring thing and would be very encouraging for a lot of people to see,” Santucci said.

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