Changes must be made to current board

As the release of the Admissions Review Commission’s recommendation to the governor’s office nears, I thought I would offer up my own thoughts on the topic.

There are several things that should be considered in order for the University to regain its reputation and standing in the eyes of the citizens of the state that it serves.

To begin, a simple reform to the admissions process could help avoid future complications.

By imposing a “zero tolerance” policy towards outside recommendations the potential for powerful individuals outside of the admissions office to exert “pressure” would be eliminated. This would protect the Board of Trustees and University administrators as well as those who answer to them.

Some changes should also be made to restore confidence in the University’s Trustees and administrators.

The current mechanism for choosing trustees— appointment by the governor— should be preserved, as history has taught us that statewide elections are not an effective means for choosing trustees. Instead, an outside committee— possibly consisting of members of the Alumni Association along with other interested parties— should be created to advise the governor on appointments to the board. This system would avoid the potential for corruption in the future.

In addition, the appointments should be made with the intention of attaining a board with the most qualified and diverse membership possible.

Expanding the Board to 12 appointed members and three students would further ensure the representation of a greater spectrum of interests.

While a significant portion of the University’s budget is dedicated to the University Hospital, there is currently only one doctor on the board. Factors such as this should be taken into consideration in making appointments and show the importance of having board members with a variety of professional backgrounds.

Although the underlying problem is the admissions process, the board’s culture allowed the current situation to begin and persist. I agree with President Emeritus Ikenberry that the current board should be removed. The governor should reappoint those whom he deems appropriate, whether it be a majority or just a few. This would not only eliminate board members who had acted improperly, but it would also give those who feel that they did not an opportunity to clear their names. Once this process is complete, the state of Illinois will know that the governor’s office stands behind each member of the board.

Chancellor Herman and President White are qualified for their positions and have done tremendous things for the University of Illinois. Regardless of whether you believe they are at fault, with a cleansing of the board pending, now would be the wrong time for them to leave. The new board, not the current one, should address the issue of whether or not Herman and White should resign. It will be a while before the selection of new board members is finalized and a culture of selfless public service is reestablished on the board. The new board should review the performance of these men with a fresh eye.

With the decision of the Admissions Review Commission approaching, I am excited to see what changes will come as a result of their investigation.

Matt Reschke was sworn in as student trustee in July 2009.