UI to consolidate Chicago College of Medicine regional program in Urbana

By Maggie Sullivan

The Board of Trustees Academic and Student Affairs committee met Wednesday to discuss what committee chair, Karen Hasara, said will be a challenging year ahead.

“This board is being asked to make decisions that no Board of Trustees ever has before,” Hasara said. “We’re extremely concerned about how we’re going to do that.”

Logistical questions about the new Carle-Illinois College of Medicine were a major discussion topic.

B. Joseph White, president emeritus, spoke as the leader of the task force appointed by President Easter to solve three major concerns about the new college. Three main concerns discussed were the future of the medical scholars program, the future of the regional College of Medicine program in Urbana and the plans for governance between the current College of Medicine in Chicago and the new Carle-Illinois College of Medicine in Urbana.

With the help of Dimitri Azar, the dean of the Urbana campus regional College of Medicine, White said the task force concluded the Chicago campus College of Medicine’s regional program in Urbana should be consolidated into the Chicago, Rockford and Peoria programs to make way for the Carle-Illinois College of Medicine.

“In no case do we have multiple versions of the same professional school on any of our campuses,” White said. “And we don’t think we should.”

White said the process of consolidation will take a while, due to the medical scholars program, which lasts eight years. He said the University has a “moral obligation” to keep the current regional program operating for seven more years to accommodate medical scholar students who planned on finishing their medical degrees at the Urbana regional campus. The task force proposed the medical scholars program go on hiatus until 2018 the Urbana regional College of Medicine cease operation in 2021 to 2022.

“(This schedule) gives you time to watch the new Carle-Illinois College of Medicine develop while retaining the existing College of Medicine in operation on the Urbana campus, and I think that’s good,” White said.

Under the recommendation, non-medical scholar students admitted for the 2016-17 academic year can complete their first year of education in Urbana but would then have to transfer to the Peoria or Rockford regional campus. White said in the long run, this will be a big improvement over the current arrangement for students studying medicine at the University.

White said the administration is committed to honoring tenured and contractual rights of the faculty and staff currently employed at the regional campus.

“I think we all understand that a very easy way to sour this experience would be to not treat well the people who have been doing a good job all these years,” White said.

White said faculty and staff will be represented in the transition team the task force will recommend overseeing the process. He said the transition team will be responsible for ensuring there is an agreed plan, adequate resources, smooth communication and swift execution with regards to the transition process.

The University also still needs to tackle Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget cut of 31.5 percent in state appropriations to the University. The committee heard academic unit review reports from each of the three campuses in order to best determine how to prepare for the cuts.

Provost Adesida said the Urbana campus’ main strategy has been a combination of attempting to increase revenue while also cutting back where necessary. For example, the law program was cut by 20 percent this year and more online courses were offered for students off campus.

Hasara said the Board will need more detailed information in order to make the best decisions regarding which programs to cut or decrease funding. She said she hopes the three campuses can provide more information by the September Board of Trustees meeting.

“I understand that we’re asking a lot and it will take a lot of time,” she said. “But I know we will be glad to assist you with any questions or any detail with any information you might need.”

The committee also approved recommendations for appointments to the faculty, administrative, professional and intercollegiate athletic staffs, as well as the appointments to faculty fellows to the Institute for Humanities at the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences in Chicago. Additionally, it recommended the establishment of a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry in the College of LAS in Springfield.

While the committee was able to recommend a variety of appointments, it also had to decide where to recommend cuts for certain programs. The committee recommended the elimination of the bachelor of science in horticulture in Urbana’s College of ACES. It also recommended the elimination of the Bachelor of Science in teaching of chemistry in the College of LAS in Chicago.

“Instead of eliminating the degree completely, now we have a concentration on horticultural food systems in bachelors of crop science,” said Provost Ilesanmi Adesida. “This is a department we’re trying to grow.”

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