The Daily Illini

Editorial: College of Medicine shouldn’t be put on back burner

The University made positive national news last spring when its Board of Trustees approved a new medical school for the Urbana campus.

Former Chancellor Phyllis Wise called the unique school a “game changer” because it would combine engineering with the field of medicine — something few colleges, if any, do.

But that’s the thing; the announcement was more than a year ago.

Not much has been done since the University announced the addition of a new college for the first time in 60 years.

Much has changed on campus during the past year. Wise, who worked tirelessly for years to make the college happen, is no longer here. The new college was one of the topics involved in the private email scandal that forced Wise to resign in August — Wise’s email made it clear that she had to overcome opposition in order to open the new college.

Other departures have occurred within the University: the school’s provost, athletic director and two head football coaches, just to name a few. The school did a diligent job in hiring Josh Whitman as the new athletic director, who off the bat appears to be a home run with his hiring of Lovie Smith.

The Editorial Board also understands it’s difficult to do all of this with so many interim tags. And while we commend the job Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson has done since Wise’s sudden resignation, the new College of Medicine, not to be confused with the one associated with the University’s Chicago campus, should be near the top of the University’s agenda this year.

This new college will boost the University’s already world-renowned status. U.S. News ranked the University’s College of Engineering fifth in 2015 and the College of Business was ranked 15th in 2016 — and the College of Medicine would likely rank among the top schools in its field as well.

The dean search committee, made up of University and Carle Hospital leaders, is currently searching for the college’s first dean. Interviews for the six finalists are scheduled for May.

While this is relatively soon, it’s still quite a departure from the expected timeline for the college’s opening. The original plan was for the first class to be enrolled in the college for the Fall 2017 semester, but it has already been pushed back to 2018.

As disappointing as the extended timeline for the project may be, it’s important for University leaders to not mess this up.

The University has gained some good faith back from the public following its hirings of Whitman and Smith, and it is time to capitalize on that momentum by moving forward diligently with the College of Medicine.

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