New bill will give faculty a voice on the Board of Trustees if passed

A bill introduced to the state House of Representatives could increase faculty representation on the University’s Board of Trustees.

State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-103, introduced House Bill 4688 on Nov. 23, which will increase the Board of Trustees’ members from 12 to 15.

The Campus Faculty Association (CFA) drafted the proposal. It would add one faculty member each from the Springfield, Urbana-Champaign and Chicago campuses, said Al Kagan, Campus Faculty Association executive member.

Ricky Baldwin, faculty association coordinator, said the Board of Trustees needs to be reformed.

“We were working on this proposal long before the scandal broke,” Baldwin said. “Many of the former trustees were appointed because they had ties with the alumni and couldn’t really run higher education.”

Stephen Kaufman, faculty association executive member, said the state is only responsible for 17 percent of the University budget.

“The knowledge of the campus and how it works is primary,” Kaufman said. “That’s one reason why we have student trustees.”

Kaufman said the faculty association met with Jakobsson and gained her support.

“She’s a strong proponent of the University and thought it would be a step in the right direction,” Kaufman said.

The bill will also create the Trustees Selection Task Force that will advise the governor in selecting trustees. The trustees selection group will be comprised of one faculty member from each of the three campuses, three academic professionals from outside the University selected by the governor and four additional members selected by the governor, said Mark Leff, Campus Faculty Association executive member.

“This will be a group of people who actually know something about education,” Leff said. “They will give good advice to the governor on who should be selected.”

The bill also contains language that will reduce conflicts of interest when selecting trustee members.

“We must have clear conflict-of-interest standards,” Leff said. “We want people who really value what the University provides.”

Kaufman said when CFA members were drafting the proposal they looked at what other state universities were doing that worked well.

“They were vetting their trustees and forming committees, which made recommendations,” Kaufman said. “Very few of them used their alumni association.”

After the faculty association drafted a proposal, they sent it to Jakobsson, who drafted the bill.

“We have to recognize that this bill has to go through the Senate and House committees,” Leff said. “It is not a finished product.”

The power to appoint trustees is completely in the hands of the governor.

“If you get a corrupt governor in the office, as we have had, that can be harmful,” Kagan said.

The bill will also establish term limits for Board of Trustees members: two years for faculty trustees and six years for other trustees.

Baldwin said the faculty association had tried to promote Board of Trustees elections in the past. The problem that arose was trustee candidates were fairly unknown and came from all across the state so it was hard to hold meaningful elections.

“Although the members who were replaced during the clout scandal were not ideal … this isn’t a critique on the Board of Trustees we have now,” Leff added.